It is interesting some of the “well duh, why don’t you…” type of ideas that we as fans become married too. Sure, forget the training or realities involved, ignore the salary cap, relative value, age, actual skill set, coaching scheme. That certain name, or certain change is sure to be the move to put our team where it needs to be.
One of those that is most often tossed out there is a position change. “This person should be in X position instead (which will, despite the learning of a new position and not being the best at their current position will lead instantly to an upgrade over the current starter)”
Right now, I keep hearing this with Dizon — “Let’s make Dizon a Safety, and then we’ll have two heavy hitters back there — Delmas and Dizon. Dizon is used in the nickle to cover. He is a bit light for a LB, lets move him to S! Why don’t the coaches see it!”
Sorry guys, but there is a lot more to it than that. The first is the nature of the position. It is true that many positions on the defense share some responsibilities — after all, everyone in some manner defends the run, and pretty much every position but DT drops back into coverage now and then. The key is what kind of coverage, and how often and in what way do you do what duty and against whom. (Felt like I was writing for an old Danny Kaye film for a minute there… “The vessel with the pessel has the pellet with the poison and the chalice from the palace…” (Court Jester) or from White Christmas — “By the time what’s left of you gets around to getting what left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting whatever it is you’ve got left.” )
Confused? Should be. It’s like this – lets go position by position, which will help show why Jordan is a LB and will likely stay there as his full time position, even though he may take some Safety duties at times.
CB: CB’s are the fastest, and the most fluid. While they need to be able to stop RB’s on occasion, “hard hitting CB” is not a common need. These are the flowing finesse guys who are essentially the WR of the defense. They match up with those tall, strong, speedy, shifty WR and need to be able to mirror them and keep pace with their blazing speed.
S: Slow CB, who hits hard. Still have enough coverage skills to pick up a WR down the field, bracket in WR, and do many CB type duties, but just can’t hang with the WR’s one-on-one. However, what they often lack in pure speed and shiftiness, they make up for in hitting power. Unlike CB’s, they are often in the thick of stopping the run game, and are often the last line of defense against a RB who busts out for a long gain.
LB: Most often, LB are closer to defensive linemen than the players in the secondary. However, it depends on which LB position and scheme you are looking at. There are run-stopping, QB crushing machines. There are all-over the field guided missiles, etc. They, even more than safeties, lack the fluidity of movement and pure speed to cover WR down the field. LB tend to have burst in short zones, but not sustainable foot-race style speed. The ability to flip the hips, and swing around on a WR tend not to be there as much in the LB, more in the S, and essential to a CB.
See where I am going with this? When a LB is covering, it is usually the slot WR over the middle — or more often the TE or RB. Teams try to get a WR or speed RB on LB one-on-one down the field to take advantage of the mismatch. Safeties usually start deep, and pick up the WR as they get down the field, rather than stay with them step-for step along the way. This allows them to use their burst and size advantage to bracket them in, or keep them contained as the CB may pass them off to help cover an underneath route, or cut off the short comeback routes.
Dizon covers very well for a LB, even though with his size he isn’t as tough for the run game as DeAndre Levy. They put him on the field for the nickle situations because he has the size and speed not to be over-matched by the big, fast, TE and RB that he needs to cover. While his skills are excellent for a LB and gives the team versatility on the field he doesn’t have the fluidity in the hips and the flip-lateral movement to make it as a S.
This is not a knock on Dizon — he has been playing quite well, and earned his playing time. He looked good in coverage during the Saints game (where he saw a good amount of time on the field) and helped shut down at least one option for Brees. (Too bad that still lef thim about 5 options…)
Besides the physical attributes I listed above, there is also the mental aspect. There are different assignments, reads, gaps, and responsibilities for a S and a LB. This cannot be understated. Also, keep in mind opportunity cost — time spent learning one position means time not spent on your other position. If I am in two positions at a job that have totally different responsibilities, even if I have the attributes needed to do both I will likely be better at one than the other. If I start as inside sales, for instance, the skills of an outside salesman may be there but it would take entirely new training and a gamble — that skill set may mentally not translate to the new responsibilities and twists of the different position. When you change a player’s position, you risk ending up with a player who is not good at either.
As I see it now, Dizon is playing LB well and improving — he is playing NB above average as a coverage LB who can step down and still take on a runner better than a S; while he isn’t yet at the level needed to be a starting WLB in place of Ernie, he is still progressing well and fills an important role in the defense.
We’ll have to see how Ko Simpson does against Minnesota as far as the S position goes — and look for more upgrades next ifseason. For now, what you see is what you get and Dizon is more valuable as a LB than as some sort of Safety-Backer.
Your thoughts? Great thoughts on the game, and look forward to every-one’s continued comments!!