2012 Denver Broncos Season Review: Covering the TE Part 1

Scott Cunningham

One hot topic issue throughout the season and again this offseason has been the Broncos defense and their approach and successes/failures in coverage against TE's. In this series, I am going to examine every target an opposing TE received and analyze the results.

A few things to note. I am not examining every coverage play to see how the Broncos fared, I am only examining when an opposing TE was targeted. I am also going to break down the information by individual and their role on that play. There are two options here---is the defender playing zone or man? This is not indicative of the coverage scheme of the entire defense as a whole, rather for that one specific individual. I hope that by breaking things up in this way, we can identify the strengths and weaknesses of a particular player.

This series is going to be broken into quarter seasons, but the results from the previous games will be included in subsequent posts in order to see any trends and patterns. Finally, I will go through game by game, target by target, and give specific information and analysis about each play.

Game 1 Pittsburgh Steelers

TE

Coverage

Down

Result

Analysis

H. Miller

Brooking

(Man)

2-Goal

Incomplete

Gets a jam, forces TE further outside. TE makes catch out of bounds.

H. Miller

Busted

(Man)

3-Goal

Incomplete

Porter/Woodyard are confused, both take same receiver in rub route, Miller is wide open in the end zone. Porter leaps and tips the pass incomplete.

H. Miller

Mays

(Zone)

3-Goal

4 yd TD

Miller runs stop/go route over the middle. Mays overpursues initial cut.

H. Miller

Busted

2-5

15 yd rec

Broncos bring corner blitz. Miller is the hot read and catches the ball in vacated part of defense. Woodyard comes from other side of formation to make tackle. Good recognition by Roethlisberger.

H. Miller

Woodyard

(Man)

3-18

23 yd rec

Cover 2 Man, Miller runs double move (out and go). Woodyard bites on the out. Tactical mistake as the Steelers needed 18 yards not 10, have to understand the situation.

H. Miller

Adams

(Zone)

3-7

8 yd rec

Chris Harris gets a chip on Miller as he releases from the line. Broncos seem to be in a 4 man shell at the 1st down boundary. Miller runs a short cross and Adams is slow to react.

H. Miller

Porter

(Man)

3-3

Incomplete

Broncos bring another corner blitz. Porter plays outside leverage. Miller is running a deep cross, pressure makes the throw a bit late, Porter breaks on the ball and nearly intercepts it.

Miller was lined up both outside and off tackle. The linebackers at this point seem susceptible to double moves. Just using the eyeball test, Woodyard was the only one capable running with Miller from the linebacking corps. Outside, Porter was more than capable in coverage. Mike Adams showed poor recognition breaking late on Miller over the middle, he was the only route in that area. Brooking showed good technique, but both him and Mays are not fast enough to stay with their man. The Broncos did not bracket Miller in coverage this game.

Game 2 Atlanta Falcons

TE

Coverage

Down

Result

Analysis

T. Gonzalez

Adams

(Zone)

2-14

15 yd rec

Gonzales runs a post. Adams reacts slowly, Gonzales is wide open.

T. Gonzalez

Carter

(Man)

3-3

Incomplete

Tony Carter opens his hips at the snap and is parallel to the sideline. Gonzalez runs a quick slant but drops the ball. Bad leverage---had safety over the top, needed to protect short route not deep.

T. Gonzalez

Woodyard

(Man)

1-15

Incomplete

Woodyard protects the inside, gets his hands on Gonzales and shows good recognition on the short out. He is a step behind though and if not for an errant throw, this is a short completion. Rahim Moore breaks on the play early and nearly intercepts a deflected ball.

T. Gonzalez

Moore/Adams

(Zone)

2-15

16 yd rec

Broncos bring corner blitz. Two man route with Moore's man cutting underneath and Gonzalez continuing upfield on a post. Both Moore and Adams get fooled into protecting the seam. Both are in poor position to prevent catch. Good design overall.

T. Gonzalez

None

2-4

2 yd rec

Gonzalez stays in to block initially. As Ryan is flushed from pocket, Gonzalez releases his block and goes short to help his QB. Woodyard makes a very good tackle coming from his coverage. Good defense, smart play by Gonzalez.

T. Gonzalez

Moore

(Man)

1-10

15 yd rec

Gonzalez runs a double move (out/post) and Moore jumps the initial cut.

T. Gonzalez

Busted

(None)

1-Goal

1yd TD

Brooking, Mays and Adams all bite on playaction. Gonzalez runs wide open to middle of endzone.

T. Gonzalez

Adams

(Man)

3-7

9 yd rec

Adams shows blitz but stops right at snap. He jams Gonzalez, Gonzales uses his body and hand placement to gain a bit of separation. He keeps good position and stays with Gonzalez step for step, well placed ball and good catch. Initial technique by Gonzalez is what made this play.

T. Gonzalez

Woodyard

(Man)

1-10

12 yd rec

Falcons show trips left, run playaction. Woodyard quickly diagnoses and looks behind to find the receiver. He locks on Gonzalez, Ryan throws it a bit outside and he pulls it in.

T. Gonzalez

Porter

(Man)

2-8

Incomplete

Blitz, quick throw, Porter jumps the route and deflects the pass.

Overall, the safeties had a tough time this game. The number one issue they had was with reading and reacting to the play. Too often they broke late on the route. Though Woodyard was beaten a couple times for catches, he played well. Ryan took advantage of Gonzalez' size advantage and threw some balls only he could go and get. Tony Carter had yet to crack the starting lineup and in his only target against Gonzalez, he showed poor situational understanding. Tracy Porter diagnosed the route on his only target beautifully and made a good play on the ball. Broncos have yet to bracket the TE.

Game 3 Houston Texans

TE

Coverage

Down

Result

Analysis

O. Daniels

Brooking/Adams

(Zone)

2-6

2 yd rec

Three defenders play zone. Adams takes over the top in case Daniels breaks downfield, Brooking takes him on underneath. First bracket I've seen. Well played by both.

G. Graham

Busted

1-10

27 yd rec

Graham releases down the seam. Broncos bring a corner blitz. Brooking fails to trail him, Moore is forced to choose between him and another receiver, both are open. Busted coverage. Brooking is playing a short zone so the miscommunication is on the back end somewhere.

G. Graham

Dumervil

2-9

Incomplete

Doom gets bad leverage, Graham has a step on him but Bannen deflects the ball at LOS.

O. Daniels

Adams

(Man)

3-9

Incomplete

Adams gets a bump, stays with him step for step. The coverage causes an errant throw, well played.

G. Graham

None

2-9

12 yd rec

Well designed screen, Graham holds his block and releases at the last instant.

O. Daniels

Adams

(zone)

2-8

Incomplete

Adams is playing centerfield. Doom is playing zone underneath, this is important because Daniels releases from trips on this side. He runs freely down the field and Adams diagnoses play late. Errant throw prevents deep gain. Seems like failure by Adams to understand the coverage-he should be looking to this side of the field with the overload of receivers.

O. Daniels

Adams

(Man)

3-8

10 yd rec

Adams has good tight coverage, gets hands on him as Daniels crosses the field. Schaub puts the ball high and outside, Daniels goes and gets it.

O. Daniels

Woodyard

(zone)

3-9

INT

Woodyard sits in zone and ID's the crosser. Good coverage but Schaub is late on the throw, Woodyard leaps and grabs the pass.

O. Daniels

Miller

(Man)

2-10

14 yd TD

Daniels gives a nice shoulder fake to the outside before cutting across. Makes Von hesitate.

G. Graham

Mays

(Man)

1-10

Incomplete

Mays has great recognition from the snap, stays with Graham step by step and has inside leverage on the post. Moore sees it and is there to make a big hit if necessary. Schaub throws ball away in essence.

For as much as the Texans use their TE's off playaction, the Broncos did ok this game covering them. What sticks out to me now is that with how athletic and fast Von Miller is, he still is susceptible against stronger TE's. His closing speed hasn't stood out yet. Adams seems to play a bit better when he mans up on his receiver. Both Safeties to this point have shown poor recognition and play from zone.

Game 4 Oakland Raiders

TE

Coverage

Down

Result

Analysis

B. Myers

Miller

(zone)

2-8

22 yd rec

This is a screen. Von crashes inside, floats to his right in zone, and misdiagnoses play.

B. Myers

Adams

(zone)

3-14

Incomplete

Myers gets behind the coverage, Adams reads Palmer and almost INT an underthrown ball.

D. Ausberry

Miller

(man)

3-10

9 yd rec

Miller gets a jam, but the stronger TE shoves and gets separation.

B. Myers

Adams

(man)

1-10

Incomplete

Late in game, lazy coverage. Was open, pressure forces bad throw.

We will see if Von improves but thus far he is a liability in coverage.

Now that you have the analysis, here are the raw numbers:

Position Group

Targets

Receptions

Targets/Zone

Targets/Man

Rec/Zone

Rec/Man

Linebackers

Woodyard

4

2-35

1

3

0

2

Mays

2

1-4 TD

1

1

1 (TD)

0

Brooking

2

1-2

1

1

1

0

Miller

3

3-45 TD

1

2

1

2

Totals

11

7-86 2TD

4

7

3 (TD)

4

Corners

Carter

1

0

0

1

0

0

Porter

2

0

0

2

0

0

Totals

3

0

0

3

0

0

Safeties

Adams

10

5-52

6

4

3

2

Moore

2

2-31

1

1

1

1

Totals

12

7-83

7

5

4

3

Linemen

Dumervil

1

0

1

1

0

0

Totals

27

14-169 2TD

12

15

7

7

- From the LB's, Wesley Woodyard showed the most promise in coverage. Everytime Von Miller was targeted, he gave up a reception.

- Skipping the corners and linemen for now, Mike Adams had a tough time in coverage. Though the eyeball test tells me he handles a TE better when in Man coverage, he gave up the same percentage of receptions per target in both.

- Don't get too caught up in the fact that LB's/S were targeted more, this is just the way the game works.

So now that you have the information in front of your eyes, what do you think about games 1-4 MHR, and what trends to you see developing and continuing? Part 2 is coming tomorrow!

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