From the FanPosts -- JD
Last season, the Chiefs had 52 sacks -- with the two of them combining for 22 of them. And the Chiefs still had a terrible defense! Without them, will they get worse?
But looking at the tape from Steve Spagnuolo's New York Giants showed me different things, and I now have a different perspective on the situation. I understand the concerns, but analyzing the tape shows that the Chiefs can still create pressure -- but in a new and more modern way.
I watched five games from each season for the 2016 and 2017 Giants -- some against high passing attacks and some against teams emphasizing the run -- to understand what a game plan would look like against different styles. And let me say this: it is the polar opposite of Bob Sutton.
While watching the tape, I charted three types of pressure: blitzes, stunts, and regular four-man rushes. There was some overlap -- for example, stunts were generally run from a four-man rush. Anything else was either a three or four-man rush. What I found was interesting.
Blitzes - 2016 Giants
Blitzes - 2017 Giants
The 2016 Giants went 11-5. The defense was ranked 10th in yards, and second in points allowed. The 2017 Giants went 3-13, ranking 31st in yards and 27th in points.
After analyzing the tape, there were a lot of reasons for that drop in production (mainly coverage related -- stay tuned!) but the drop in blitzing definitely was a major factor.
To put it simply, the 2017 Giants just didn't blitz much -- especially as the season went on. Maybe it was due to the terrible coverage, but they weren't aggressive enough. This allowed many more big plays -- and when more big plays are given up, the worse your defense is.
While blitzing is a common way to get pressure, you can't blitz one guy and expect to get pressure. Spagnuolo said it once: the more guys you send to rush, the more windows there are to throw from. So you have to get creative about when (and how) to blitz.
So when Spagnuolo blitzed, was it effective?
Giants Blitz vs. Pressure 2016-17
Now... you can't use these numbers to simply say that more blitzing gives you a higher pressure percentage; coverage shells and personnel matter. But as I showed in my personnel article, the personnel was similar. So while there are other factors involved, you can clearly see something: as long as he had a good secondary, the more Spagnuolo blitzed, the more pressure he created.
When studying tape, I slowly gravitated towards blitzing. If you only send the same front four -- which is what the Chiefs have done for six years -- opposing teams can take those guys away. That's what New England did. This allowed them to shuffle between two plays -- based on the personnel on the field -- and destroy the Chiefs defense.
Blitzing is not perfect. It leaves fewer guys in coverage. But the NFL is changing. You can't be stagnant. I think Andy Reid knows this, and this is why he hired Spagnuolo. He is nowhere close to perfect -- in fact, he has had multiple bad seasons. But he will try anything.A nd with an offense like the Chiefs possesses, that is a formula to win.
I'm not going to dive too deeply into stunts, but here are some basic numbers.
Giants Stunts vs. Pressure 2016-17
I charted 18 stunts in 2016, and 12 in 2017. So Spagnuolo didn't run them often. I think part of the reason why is that he had Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul on the edge, so he could win with four rushers. But in Kansas City -- without elite edge rushers -- scheming pressure will probably yield more results than rushing four.
So I feel that is one thing that will change with the Chiefs. With Brendan Daly as defensive line coach, I think he will bring more stunts that he did with the New England Patriots -- perhaps 15-20% of the time instead of 10%.
This is a small sample size, but I find it encouraging. New Chiefs defensive ends Alex Okafor and Emmanuel Ogbah don't have many moves when they rush forward, but they perform well laterally -- which means they will be able to perform well in any stunts that are called.
How creative can Spagnuolo get with his blitzes, and which ones are effective?
I chose many different examples -- none that are the same -- to show how creative Spagnuolo can get in his pressure packages.
3rd and 14, GB 41. Spags gets creative with JPP out. He lines SAM on edge, has Wynn (DE) kick inside to 1 tech, slants and pushes to C Gap, SAM loops into A Gap. Coverage sack, but shows willingness for guys to move around. Expect a lot of this with our DES on our roster. pic.twitter.com/o9UKLNWuR7— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 10, 2019
When it gets to third and long, Spagnuolo loves to get smaller. Without strong-side defensive end Pierre-Paul, Spagnuolo decides to get smaller in his front and run a well-executed stunt to create havoc on Aaron Rodgers. He puts Sam linebacker Devon Kennard at EDGE, and moves rotational end Shane Wynn inside to 1-technique. He slants into the right C gap, while Kennard loops into the right A gap. While Spagnuolo doesn't run many stunts, when he does they are very effective.
Typical blitz in Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. 2nd and 11 from NYG 31, NB comes from B Gap left. Will have more examples, but Spags LOVES corner blitzes, don’t be surprised if Kendall Fuller has 2-3 sacks next year. Also loves sending NBS from C gap pic.twitter.com/JWJsVdpUdp— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 10, 2019
Spagnuolo loves corner blitzes -- especially from his nickel corners. It is a major tendency for him. Here on second-and-11, he sends the corner to get pressure, and it works well. I expect Kendall Fuller to blitz a decent amount this season, and if it goes right, he could have two or three sacks -- which would help alleviate some of the Chiefs' pass rush problems.
3rd and 8. GB 37. Spags sends a blitz. SAM (lined up over guard) and 1 tech drop into zone. NB comes B gap delayed, Collins as box safety comes b gap, MIKE A gap. Overload left side blitz happens a lot, Spags loves to overload one side in a blitz, drop other side pic.twitter.com/Bni8Oe8NVg— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 10, 2019
Spagnuolo also likes to send two defensive backs on the same side -- an overload blitz. He'll make the protection shift one way and then blitz the other side -- which confuses the offensive line's gap assignments. Here on a third-and-8, the box safety Landon Collins blitzes to occupy the left guard, while the nickel back comes on a delay in the same gap.
3rd and 9, NYG 35. Down 11, Spags sends 7. Not gonna go through gap alignments but shows willingness to do anything to win a game, unlike some other Defensive Coordinator I know...want to take a guess who? pic.twitter.com/ELZgtF9zRK— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 10, 2019
I loved this play. Spagnuolo will do anything to win a football game; he isn't afraid to try anything -- unlike some defensive coordinators, I know. Yes, they give up the play, but this play sent a message.
3rd and 11, NYG 49. Spags loves getting smaller in his fronts. He keeps traditional DES on outside, but takes Shane Wynn, an end, and pushes him inside, along with the SAM. This is referred to as the NASCAR package, which we will see a lot. Jones, Okafor, Ogbah and draft pick? pic.twitter.com/jRrw9KL74S— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 11, 2019
Here's a good example of a NASCAR package. Spagnuolo puts four defensive ends on the line. They can all stand up or put their hands in the dirt. This is something that has carried with him forever, and that won't go away this season. For the Chiefs, these packages might include Ogbah, Okafor, Chris Jones and Tanoh Kpassagnon (or a draft pick).
3rd and 7, NYG 20, down 14. Spags sends 7, but all LBS. SAM and MIKE come up the middle. WILL is on edge though, as Vernon, who was a LEO, kicks inside to 5 tech. I call this the overload LB blitz, I don’t expect to see this much, but expect Hitchens and DOD to blitz a ton pic.twitter.com/XL7RRZ2mwn— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 11, 2019
I loved this blitz when I was watching that game; I literally watched it five or six times. Spagnuolo blitzed all three linebackers -- something I have never witnessed. Vernon -- the Leo -- kicks inside to 5-technique, which helps hold against the run. While I don't expect many three linebacker blitzes this year, be prepared to see Dorian O'Daniel and Anthony Hitchens to blitz a lot -- especially Hitchens -- to mask deficiencies in coverage.
3rd and 9, BAL 26. Only 1 down lineman, 5 standing at line of scrimmage. NB and 5 tech drop. S and CB Blitz B gap left, MIKE A Gap left, NT loops to C Gao right, LEO loops into A Gap right. A lot is going on. Also, Landon Collins is terrible in coverage. Mathieu > Collins pic.twitter.com/O1Q8HmhAKA— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 11, 2019
This stunt/blitz was interesting, as there is only one down lineman. The nickel back and 5-technique end both show blitz, but drop into coverage. This makes the line shift to the right, but when those guys aren't there, they can't react to what is happening on the other side. The overload blitz confuses the offensive line, and I love it. The Baltimore Ravens under Don Martindale did this a lot to confuse Mahomes, and it was widely effective. (I am so glad we didn't pay Landon Collins that contract).
Something I noticed a lot watching Spags, they used a lot of 5 Man fronts. This is expected in 4-3 under. The problem for KC right now is we don’t have that guy. Will cover in SAM usage article. Maybe Attochu can fill that role, but this is a major need in draft. Brian Burns?? pic.twitter.com/owWWYjKCCy— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 11, 2019
One thing I saw frequently is the use of a five-man front. While it isn't the traditional five-man front like in the 3-4, the Sam linebacker lines up on the line -- either to rush or to drop into coverage. The Chiefs desperately need a player who can do this; Jeremiah Attaochu and Damien Wilson don't have the skills to rush or drop consistently. I haven't analyzed Sam tape from the college level, but Brian Burns would be a player that could fulfill this role. While I wouldn't ask him to drop a lot, he can play that Sam linebacker spot on occasion, which would diversify the Chiefs' fronts.
3rd and 10, NYG 47. 8 man Pressure! Yes, I get Vernon dropped late, but still nuts. The double B gap Right blitz is nuts, completely confused that side of the OLINE. Spags gets very aggressive, clearly shows willingness to try anything. This may be my favorite play charted so far pic.twitter.com/cu2w50xffV— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 12, 2019
My eyes opened so wide when I saw this, and I loved it! Eight-man blitz?! That is unheard of. And yes, I am aware that Vernon dropped into coverage, but he showed rush first. Watch how Baltimore has no idea how to block it. The running back gets lost trying to block Vernon wide, and leaves two people to go in the B gap. While there won't be many of these blitzes this season, I hope to see this at least once to make me happy inside.
3rd and 3, DAL 25. Spags sends his MIKE and WILL by sending WILL to get C off guard, then MIKE after. Dallas blocks it well, but I expect a lot of Hitchens and DOD blitzing next year, and I could see this being one possible way to get Hitchens going downhill pic.twitter.com/Jlz1SHHNbN— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 12, 2019
I liked this blitz. I called it the Cross Linebacker Blitz. Like I said, Hitchens and O'Daniel are going to blitz a lot this year. This is one way to do it. Will linebacker Jonathan Casillas gets the center off-guard, and the Mike linebacker comes on a delay. While Dallas blocked this well, I liked the idea of O'Daniel sprinting into a gap quickly and Hitchens moving downhill -- where he is much more effective.
I liked this stunt a lot. The defensive end loops inside after the two other lineman slant to get blockers out of the way. Stunts take a while to execute, but if you can make the quarterback hold on the ball for a second longer, it makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of the stunt.
3rd and 10, NYG 22. Spags only has 3 Man front, but has SAM, MIKE, and two safeties come. Not gonna get into blitz alignments, but the two safeties come on one side, LBS the other. I only saw this once, but I liked it. Forced Wentz to not be able to step up, which is always good pic.twitter.com/MUTBJhyWhL— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 12, 2019
Even though it was only a three-man front, the double linebacker blitz on the right side -- then the double defensive back blitz on the left -- makes it so someone is rushing free. When that happens, the quarterback can't step up, which makes him lose his momentum throwing the ball -- which in this case, leads to a near-interception. Any time you can force a quarterback to throw on his heels, it is easier to create turnovers.
Nothing special here, but wanted to point out when watching KC and WAS tape against Spags, he tended to only send 3 man rushes. Wanted to stop the short zones, which is a potential tendency. Spags blitzed on 3 of 45 dropbacks in this game, yet rattled the team a lot pic.twitter.com/rFHaocOHRW— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 15, 2019
When watching this game (a terrible game by Alex Smith), I noticed a lot of three-man pressures. In fact, in 45 dropbacks, the Giants only sent three blitzes. They sent many three-man rushes, which forced Smith -- who likes to dump the ball to the flat -- to force balls into windows. This could be a strategy against a quarterback like Derek Carr, who does similar things.
3rd and 10, LA 48. Interesting front by having 3 guys align far right. 1 tech loops wide, edge loops to B gap, SDE pushes into C gap right, SAM loops. This is something Pats did a lot last year, and with Daly on board, this is a way to get Ogbah and Okafor to move laterally more pic.twitter.com/sArFcZcJFP— Nate Christensen (@NateCh479) April 15, 2019
This stunt was interesting to me. With three linemen lined up far right -- and only one left -- there is more freedom of movement up the middle. Since protection shifts wider right, they can loop into the middle with more space to win. This was the only time I saw this, but I liked it, and I wondered if we'll see something similar this year.
Is blitzing effective? Can the Chiefs win without great pass rushers on the edge?
I say yes.
I understand the Chiefs under Spagnuolo won't always win, but pressure is a complex mix; you have to be able to draw up many plays to get pressure. It will be interesting to see how creative Spagnuolo and Daly can be in drawing up pressure -- but without Ford and Houston, they will have to.
If I were Brett Veach, I'd draft an edge rusher early. I understand that stunts and blitzes can work, but you still need guys on the edge. For as much those Giants teams blitzed, they also had two elite edges in Paul-Pierre and Vernon. While this team is different, you still need a guy to win off the edge. We don't need Frank Clark, but we need a guy like Clelin Ferrell -- a guy who can play all three downs, and who has powerful hands and agility.
This defense will be different. We won't have as many good pass rushers any more, but with the change to more power and agility, expect better results against the run and in batting balls down. Given our playoff failures against the run, shouldn't we all want that? It could make the difference in finally getting the Lombardi Trophy.
Thanks for reading. A shout out to Daniel Harms for helping me with getting the plays on Twitter. Follow @Natech479 for more film reviews, and please comment with your ideas on other reviews of players or schemes.
And finally... GO CHIEFS!