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Expect more tweaks on defense

The new defensive system implemented by Defensive Coach Bates is a good one. I've written before that I personaly don't care for it, but that is beside the point. When properly run it is an effective system.

The factors against Denver's defense

Working against Denver this year have been several factors. First, the change in scheme itself. There are many systems out there, but few require as much adjustment as switching between man, zone, or containment sytems. Switches within one of those three can be diffucult, but not so much as one to the other two.

Second was the influx of many new personel (and a major change from OLB to MLB for Williams). Team work takes a beating when this happens.

Third was the injuries. Lynch has missed some games, Bailey, Moss to IR, etc.

Last, we just had some weakness at positions (namely at DT. We also had failed experiments like Rice at DE, and Webster at OLB).

For this reason, Bates has been making tweaks to the system, and will make some more. This is a good thing. It shows that the man is willing to adapt to change, something that former Def coordiantor Coyer couldn't do in his man/show blitz system.

The old Coyer system (man / show-blitz)

Coyer's system was based on several elements. It included a full rush front four. It also included an alignment of LBs and the occassional safety near the scrimmage. Many times multiple blitzers would come in from many directions, and other times players would drop back into coverage. Oddly enough, this scheme typicaly employs zones, but Coyer loved the speed we had at LB and kept players on man even after they backed off the line at the snap of the ball. (Other wise the system would be the more common, but still unusual "zone / show-blitz"). In fact, The system played out like one might expect most 3-4s to be run, not the Denver 4-3 allignment.

Coyer was a genius, and I still continue to like him as a coordinator. His only weakness was a big one though. He didn't make adjustments needed during the game to account for opponents adjustments. I've seen many high school and middle school coaches with the same problem. They are great in game prep, great with teaching the players, but can't adjust during the game.

We all have weaknesses. Mine was the same as Coyers. At least I recognized it, and I would assign a couple of position coaches to watch for unfavorable match-ups on the line and scheme adjustments on the part of the opponent so that I could focus on playcalling and substitutions. The position coaches got great training, and I was able to focus on what I did best without trying to do too much.

Last year Coyer was able to destroy offenses, holding most teams without a single TD the first half of last year. But as teams caught on the plan fell apart.

The temporary emergency plan

Bates is not the same man as Coyer. I'd like to explore why he is giving this team a fighting chance, despite our many short comings.

1. First, Bates has dropped the requirement for two deep safeties. This started early in the season. Bates had a major dilemna on his hands. On the one hand, his system requires two CBs capable of man coverage, and two safeties to play pass coverage in deep zones.

But while Bates has his two corners (simular to the Surtain / Madison type of duo in Miami some years ago and the current 1-2 punch in GB), we don't have the safeties needed to cover the deep zone. For all of Lynch's greatness, he is not a speedy pass coverage safety.

Bates' scheme should cover the run with seven men, allowing the four DBs to play the pass. Bailey and Bly will get burned like any other elite CBs from time to time, but without the safeties it will be magnified.

2. Bates will be dropping the requirement for having the DTs hold the center of the line.

This is a shocker, and an indication that Bates takes the situation seriously. I would like for him to keep the system running the way it should, so that we get past growing pains for next season, but I think I see Bates' rationale.

The last couple of games I have noticed the DTs given some flexibility. The current DTs weren't getting the job done, and some are now out of a job. I expect this to continue, especially in the match-up with KC.

KC has a weak o-line, and poor running. To win this game it may be necessary to go after the QB. Given the loss of Moss, I expect the DTs to be cut loose to get into the OFF backfield.

An indication of this switch is how seriously Bate's took the loss of Moss. Many of us might have expected Denver to pick up DTs. But Denver went after three DEs from teams ATL and TENN. The pass rush of the DE's will stay in place.

3. I also expect the OLBs to change focus. Given the horrible play of Webster we can expect Gold to get even more strong side responsibility than he was supposed to have. Gold has the speed to keep up with most TEs, even if he doesn't have the CB speed he used to. Webster just isn't adjusting, and will probably be put on zones or blitzes. Williams may have to play man on RBs and temporarily forget the odd "run-zone" responsibility he has had. Again, we have seen some of this, but I expect it to increase.

Given the danger of Gonzales (and the weakness at KC WRs) we can expect Bailey to be on TE Gonzales often. KC ill counter by throwing quick passes to Gonzales. Priest has been out with injury off and on back to '05. He hasn't done well so far this year in limited showings. Expect Williams and Lynch to be focused on him early.

The run-contain will still be used in practice to get the team up to speed (mostly for next year), but the idea is to win games and build confidence right now. As the team builds cohesion and confidence the run contain will be filtered in more and more. Lack of proper player types makes the system unlikely to be fully implemented the rest of the year.