Thursday, May 15, 2008

Yin-Yang Power Run?

I'll start with one last draft tidbit, then move back into the pre-camp, post-draft analysis. As I was reading through gathering info for upcoming pieces on position battles to watch in camp, I came across a nugget that really captures how the national media treat the Lions in a negative light. It was from Mike O'Hara of the DetNews of all people:

"11. Sometimes -- make that most of the time -- there is no logic to draft analysis. The Lions were roasted by some people last year for not drafting offensive tackle Joe Thomas, under the theory that you win up front. This year, they drafted offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus -- and they should have taken a running back. "

That about says it all.

You'll noticed I've added some additional links to the sidebar as per your posts -- keep em coming and I will add more as we go. You can also feel free to email me new sites as well.

If you see stories that catch your eye, you can post them in a comment, or email them to me -- I will post them, probably with some analysis, and be sure that the finder is credited for the source.

Moving on, the last few days, as writers work to fill space and justify year-round employment on the various national outlets, I came across two stories that contradicted each other -- in a way. The first was by Lombardi on about busting three myths of football. The second was by Kirwan on talking about possible new trends on Offense.

This was interesting -- Lombardi pointed out that teams who run the ball early and often, then abandon the run to catch up in the second half often face an uphill battle. At the same time, he said this was the case mainly if the opposition team were using a pass-first offense, racking up points, and then running off the clock in the second half.

Kirwan's take is that with defenses focused on stopping pass-first teams, that a power offense might be able to break the "quick" D down by wearing it out and beating it up early, to be able to abuse it going into the second half.

Similar takes on two sides of the same issue -- offense and defense. Lombardi listed two teams among those who ran first, and lost second. They were: Minnesota and Oakland.

Oakland had no passing game -- zilch, zero, nada. They were the anti-lions last season. All they did was run because no one they had was getting the ball near their WR, and when they did, the WR often dropped the ball. That is when the QB was not fumbling behind a porous offensive line. Oakland also was unable to defend against the pass well at all last season -- a big reason why the Lions beat them in game 1. Oakland was/is dysfunctional on so many levels, that to sue it to prove/disprove any NFL theory beyond "this is your franchise on stupid -- any questions?" is crazier than picking 4 WR in the top ten 4 out of 5 years.

Remember he said rushing attempts in the 1st half, not teams that successfully ran. Keep that in mind -- it will be important later on. (Don't get me wrong here -- I like Lomardi's pieces on SI -- they are usually well thought out, and well written. Just taking it a step I wish some of the guys who get paid to do this stuff would do.)

Minnesota ran the ball, and ran it well. Very well. AP, Chester Taylor -- didn't matter which guy they had back there (don't believe me? Look it up.) the O-Line made AP rookie of the year, not just AP. But yet, Minnesota still lost. Question: Why? Is Lombardi right, that the Vikings just plain fell behind early, and then made mistakes? Not so much. What happened is two-fold. On defense, teams stacked up 8, or a few times even 9 guys in the box or near the line -- and dared T. Jackson to win the game with his arm...and neither he, nor his WR, were up to the task. That is how Detroit took the OT game away -- they stopped the run, and Jackson couldn't make the throws, and when he did -- his WR didn't catch them - where Kitna made the throws, and his WR took them home. With JT O'followedMartzcausehe'llletmestartand-getnolanfiredsoIcankeepstartingplayingsomewhereintheleaguewhenyougetrpomoted-toHCafterscrewingnolanoverhahahabetyouwishmarinelliwouldhavefallenforthatand-notshitcannedbothofushuhican'tbeleivehowdamnlonghislastfreakingnamejustgotcanyou?
leading the team...not so much, which is what really put the game into OT -- it should have been over long before then. The second way Minnesota got beat last year was on Defense -- they had trouble rushing the passer -- and even though the Williams boys in the middle is like dropping a brick wall in the center of the field....the Vikes got hammered with outside runs that wore down their big guys on D, and coupled with the extra time it bought the WR to get open against a mediocre secondary...well, you get the picture. Minnesota had a big D meant to stop the run, and hopefully collapse in around the pocket with sheer bulk. Had Martz actually gone with some max-protect in that game (along with others) it would have been a big Lions lead, IMO, by the half. (again, we're talking about the fist game here)

So essentially, Minnesota was made to stop the power O, and most teams were passing all over them.

The teams he listed as "pass first" have something in common that he missed. Do you see it? They are: Seattle, GB, Dallas, Indy, NE.


Two words: Play Action

They can run, and teams know it. GB started having success last season after proving Grant could run all over them -- and it opened up their play action passing. They may have been pass first, but they were passing out of running formations! Then, they mix in runs at about a third of their plays in the first half to keep the defense honest -- in the second half, they often have a lead, and swap ratios to about 2/3 run -- which makes the screen, deep-strike, and play action even more effective. While they are still more pass-oriented, you can't tell because the run is mixed into what is overall a balanced attack. Since they run dozens of plays from the same formation, it is harder to tell what they are going to do when. That is what makes it effective.

That being said, I agree with Lombardi that "run first" isn't always the best option -- but being able to run -- and proving it -- is a must. A must the Lions didn't do last season, but will this season. When the Lions were winning first half of the year last year, up through Denver, defenses were playing honest (most of the time) and respecting that the Lions could run -- when they wanted to. As soon as teams realized the Lions weren't going to run...that is when they just plain stopped defending it. And Martz canned canned as much for not taking advantage of what the defenses were giving him as much as anything else that was wrong with the Lions offense last year. (The "new" offense will be another story, for another time)

I also agree with Kirwan, that we will see more teams using a Power-O to batter down the weaker D, and tire out the Jared Allens of the NFL . The Lions are on top of this trend, with enough bulk in their heavy-O now to really impose their will (theoretically) on opposing D's that are made to stop the pass. This will, in turn, open up the passing game from running formations. CJ and Roy will be open for deep strikes as they focus on the run. Gaines/Campbell and Furrey/Mcdonald will be open in the slot positions when they try to focus too much on Roy and CJ. When they load up on speed for the pass...the Lions can break out the power O again...

I agree, in part, with what both articles are saying about Running Offense, and Passing Offense. And it looks like the Lions are moving in a direction to take advantage of both sides of the situation.

BTW -- they added guys like Campbell, Fluellen, and harder-hitting safeties to be able to stop the opposing teams power O -- they put IAF, Redding, Fluellen and Darby in a play...and there's no running against that...and it would still generate a pass rush.

Yup -- this is turning out to be an interesting off season as I look at it....can't wait for the games to start!!

I'll hit the other aspects of the article tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Great analysis DF, and something that I overlooked while reading the "3 myths" piece on SI.

Both of these articles show a growing tendency in the sports world to treat opinions as fact just because their supporting evidence includes stats. the piece about running in the first half had some good points, but it neglected to point out that both the Raiders and Vikings had horrific passing games that wouldn't allow the team to establish a passing attack that could actually become a threat to the opposition. In other words, running early in and of itself isn't bad per se, it just has to be done on a team that has a passing attack that is perceived as dangerous by the other team.

As you covered in your post, this is good news for the Lions. Although Kitna isn't the greatest QB in the NFL, he has a WR group that could make a case for the best in the league...this more than qualifies the Detroit passing game as something to be feared. Also, if we do establish an effective running game, opposing defensive coordinators will be weary of moving up the safety because it leaves the secondary exposed, and will probably create a situation where both Williams and Johnson are single covered.

Also, I agree with the point you made leading off your story concerning the severe faultiness in logic of the so called "draft gurus". They problem is that the entire process of mock drafts are flawed from the beginning. Each player is ranked as an individual, irrespective of which team they would go to. The system each player will be playing in then becomes completely irrelevant. Most of this stuff is based more on egotistical, self serving and biased observations than well thought out, well researched, and well argued analysis.


ClusterFox said...

Great Topic, I start to drool just thinking about Jared Allen peeling himself up off the turf looking out his earhole.On a serious note, I've felt the same way about the lions run game having the ability to "Go Heavy". You'll see on my 30locks I only kept K. Smith, Bradley, and Felton, because I feel the rest of the HB depth is going to be decided based on ST help.(But the the Big Boys are Locks IMO)

On a somewhat different note. I work in the Financial Services Industry and I see a Common thread that I think is worth mentioning. The Investors that make the biggest waves or get the most publicity are the ones who make huge moves into today's market favorites, However the ones who make the real money are the ones that make subtle changes on a constant basis trying to keep one foot infront of the masses. Its more fun and more people commend you for selling your soul for one player, because they feel he is the new Proto-type at a position. However, I'd rather be that team that is the first to start exposing that player for what he is(one day older and still yesterday's great idea).
Lastly, On the who'll make it to camp idea. Correct me if I'm wrong but the 80 that make it to camp is an Official number. Meaning teams keep closer to 85+ with the guys hanging out in the traing room. Right?

DetFan1979 said...

Clusterfox --

I agree with you on the investors -- great example! What sector of financial services? I'm on the insurance/retirement planning side (I'm with State Farm) of the industry right now, but just passed about a decade or so in the biz.

As for having more than 80 guys -- they can have guys in for undpaid tryouts right now, but when it comes to camp its 80 guys and that's it. for the past 7-8 years, teams could cary I think 87 or 88 guys due to roster exemptions for NFL Europe. However, after eliminating the European League, the owners voted to leave the roster limit at 80 this spring at the owner's meetings. I forsee more injuries in camp as veterans have to take more reps, and think they will expand the roster limit for camp next offseason. But right now -- it has essentially been reduced from 87 to 80.

So, I'm looking for the guys who will be on the official roster -- once camp starts, those are the only guys that matter -- essentially, even ifthey were allowed to hang about, the other guys would still be considered street FA. However, my understanding is the use of facilities ends once cut, and camp gets going.

Patrick said...

great analysis as always man. Every team that has been successful throughout the years had effective passing with complementary running, except Pittsburgh. What I mean is Look at the last 10 SB Champs. They all passed, but used the Play action as their primary means of passing, because you had to respect their ability to run. I love Tom Brady, but do you think he would be as good as he is without some sort of running game? You and SW hit it on the head when you referred to the Lions starting out 6-2. Noone could stop our pass, we would stop ourselves. If there was a significant running game things would have been different in the second half of the season. A little while back I dropped some stats on MLIVE...noone responded. It was about Detroit passing 485 times to NE 486 and comparing the numbers across the board. We ran the ball 243 fewer times or 8 less a game on average. But we rushed for almost the same average for the year. 4 yds to their 4.1 ypc. I guess what I am saying...with change in both personnel and philosophy we could a huge jump. I also feel that even though the MEDIA says we have not addressed our secondary...It just shows me how little they have paid attention to everything we are doing. I think our defense is much improved but is still only average overall. We could make great strides if some of our vets can provide the leadership for the younger more dynamic players we have.

Teebs said...

This is a link to an article about Matt Butler in his hometown Paper. Looks like he will be in the 80.

ClusterFox said...

I'm on the investments/Retirement Planning side of things. Work for Oppenheimer & Co.and I've been here for 8 years this summer. I appreciate the correction on the 80, I'd been wondering what changed that had everyone talking about this first wave of cuts.

Great Article. I just found #31 for my list. Anybody know if there is any video of the scuffle. I heard the same thing happened at a practice for the Senior bowl or east-west game(I forget) between Avril and Goz. I love this everyway you slice it. Lineman that are going to hurt you if you make them look bad, and a DE that gets under your skin. Let the fireworks begin, Can't Wait!!

Anonymous said...

D-Fan, you should get paid for this! (If you put up a PayPal donation button, I'd throw a few your way from time to time...)

Lombardi's article smacked of "conventional wisdom": Sure, that's the way it is right now, but offensive systems evolve, and the whole name of the game is to do the unexpected. That's what made the WCO so great in the 80s, or "Air Coryell" (am I dating myself?) in the 70s.

IF, IF , IF......the Lions O-line can establish some "push", and create some time, the Lions are well positioned to be a "triple threat": 1) Power Run 2) Finesse, or open space run, and 3) downfield passing. To be successful on Offense, you need competence in all three, with mastery in one. Montana and Rice had their R&R (Roger and Rathman); Peyton & Marvin had their Edge or Addai; Warner and Bruce, Holt & co. had their Marshall.

You get the feeling that Marinelli knows more about what he's doing than people give him credit for? I think for once the Lions know what to do, and they just need another year or two to get the right talent in place.


Anonymous said...


I think you're the closest so far.

I think the national writers are really trying to stir on an old straw and make it new again.

What works in the NFL? Asking your team to do what it can, and having the right parts.

Look at systems. Each "system" has the ability to go big and close out a game. Each system has the ability to go deep. Some rely on different cimponents; however, it boils down to one thing.

LEADERSHIP. Do the guys in your fox hole buy the bullshit you are selling, and are they willing to sacrifice personal goals for team glory.

MIKE SHANAHAN How many losing seasons?

MIKE HOLMGREN How many losing seasons?

BILL BELICHEK How many losing seasons.

BILL COWHER How many losing seasons?

They all understand consistency puts you in the top tier of teams. Coaches that know the system and players that know their roles are a must.

To get to Championships and Super Bowls, you have to sprinkle in luck and no injuries.

There is NO ONE outside of the Big Apple that will say the New York Giants last year had the best roster. Who's got the ring? Not Tom Brady.

The reason it's important to keep changing your message, is its important your team is still receiving information (i.e. the Patriots) Other teams start to lose their coach's message after hearing so much. (i.e. Tampa Bay and lately the Seahwaks).

COMMUNICATION is so important amongst the Troops. If you have an OC that wants one thing, and a line coach teaching another, it's counter-productive (Martz and Bechtol). If you have clarity, with Senior guys teaching younger guys, and the coaches just have to monitor information're a step ahead. They are doing "Quality Control" making sure the message is proper and consistent, and not COMMUNICATION which is now being done amongst the players.

I am not a business guy, but the first rule to advancement isn't mastery of your job. It's figuring out how to do your boss's job.


Anonymous said...

I would love to see a power run game established in Detroit. There is nothing like being able to run the ball right down somebody's throat and they can't stop you. Just think if we started running the ball like Minnesota but had the passing game to compliment it, which they don't. Roy and Calvin will have a field day if we can run the ball that effectively.

We have 2 perfect young backs that we just picked up in Smith and Felton who could be with us for long time. A couple more solid O-lineman and get a couple young corners in next years draft and we could be looking at a long run of playoff appearances.

TW from OR.

CHIEFGER139 said...

YOUR RIGHT ON-the media loves to slam us and were a easy target-but can you blame them-killer puts it on the line and totally buys into it when they hired coach rod and even predicts 20 wins in 2 seasons-many others said they would make the playoffs-and like us fans were let down bigtime-even last year it looked like 10 wins and kitnas the hero-only to be let down and fall flat on our faces again
the critics win time and time again-now killer finally hit reality last year and said 6-10 and stuck with it all year even when we were winning and 10-6 seamed like a reality
the team nose dived and killer gained back some respectability
cant blame the media guys-i think now they think even if vince lambardi was our coach this team would fail-were cursed.
millen hasnt helped much either with his lame brain comments and moves
but i think like me you see-he has matured and is much better than even a few years ago
the media-the public-anyone other than the true die hard lions fans wont be able to see the good thats going on until we finally break the bearier and become a winning team-7-9 still dont cut it-
i truely think if it wasnt matt millen and the detroit lions the media would be giving us more praise on our off season moves and our draft picks-but like i said earlier-can you blame them??
i dont-good things are happening now for us-i see it-but many cant-
they cant believe in someone whos let them down so much

Dreamweaver said...

Greatpoints cheif. With Millens track record it is easy for the press to expect the worst from the Lions, But the local writers should be standing behind the team. They should be close enough to the team to ee that Rod has change the way players are picked, and what type of players are picked. The local media needs to stand behind the team, and give Rod creit for moving us in the right irectio, If the Lions fall on their face (witch I don't see happening) then is the time to critisice them.
How do they think the rookies feel, coming to a team where the hometown press says there is no hope for the team, that the players that we drafted were bad picks, or worse yet bad players.
I'm sure it's very hard for Rod to instill a winning attatude when every thing in the press is the front office sucks, the coaches suck, the owner sucks, and 75% of the posters say that no matter what the team does it will not work.
When your expected to lose, it's vey easy to live up to expections. I think the Message from the fans should be we believe you can win, we expect you to win, not "if you win 4 games I'll be happy".

Detroitfan....A great article as usual, reading your blog, and the comments from my fellow readers is one of the few bright spots in my day as far as reading about the lions goes. Keep up the good work.

DetFan1979 said...

awesome points all. Seems every time we've hit all the relevant points, someone else comes up with something new! Keep it coming!