Wednesday, September 16, 2009



September 16th, 2009 | by detfan1979 |

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!!

Rating: 9.8/10 (5 votes cast)
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6 Responses to “Safety-Backer?”

  1. By nubsnobber on Sep 16, 2009


    It’s easier to take a Safety and change him into a LB than vice versa. Coy Wire, Brian Urlacker, Darnell Bing.

    It’s easier to take a CB and change him into a safety. I.e. Anthony Henry.

    Why. For the same reasons you forgot to mention, when you were mentioning what you mentioned. (Kaye-ish?)

    When a CB starts to slow down, he still has some cover ability (to cover a TE or RB or slot receiver) but he has the experience to slide over the top in Zone or Double coverage because he understands and reacts quick enough to what he is seeing.

    A safety can put on weight and slide up to still stop the run, and be great as a nickle backer or cover linebacker, because he already has the speed to do so, it’s just worrying about him putting on enough weight to be used in run support.

    For a linebacker to drop deeper into coverage and play safety a) is completely foreign to thought process, and b) against the body’s natural process.

    B. It’s easier (especially as we age) to gain a little weight. It is so much harder for an athlete to lose weight. Even Dizon. He has 5% body fat. To lose weight would mean to lose muscle bulk. He’s fine where he is.

    A. A linebacker is used to funneling and covering routes, but always knows help is awaiting behind him. He is usally running downhill or angling someone towards a sideline in coverage. A linebacker does not understand how to cover over-the-top on zones or double coverage routes and the angles necessary to keep a receiver contained. Secondly, it’s a receiver they now have to cover. There is no wiggle room for error.

    Speaking from being one, it would be VERY foreign. The natural reaction is to get a good jam on someone. Whether an end or a back, I would feel as though I had to chip someone as they came forward. You want to disrupt timing and “bump” them off their route before you roll with them. As a safety, that is illegal as you are already at least ten yards from the LOS when someone gets “handed” off to you.

    Against a heavy run team like Minnesota it could work in run support, but the first thing I would do is audible away from a run when I saw the coverage, and Favre is a smart enough guy to pick up on a mis-match such as that.

    Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
  2. By detfan1979 on Sep 17, 2009

    Thanks for mentioning what I missed making mention of while mentioning what I mentioned about men moving.

    Great additional points Nubs, and an essential add-on to the piece. Thanks!

    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  3. By chiefger139 on Sep 17, 2009

    you are right about changing positions is usually goofy and not worth mentioning but our lions due to need has done this twice. maybe furry switched from safty to receiver before coming to detroit, i dont know but hes one good example, the other was one of my favorites-woody who they transformed from guard to tackle due to injury and he did great at it-hated to see us let him go-and of course theyre always hunting for guys like henry and woody and janson who can play multiple positions-thats why they like levy so much they say he can play all 3 linebacker positions.

    Rating: 2.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  4. By detfan1979 on Sep 17, 2009

    Chief — Most Oline players can do multiple positions on the offensive line, but just may excel at one versus other. Woody was a C for New England before coming to the Lions as an OG. It’s like rotating between DE and DT — a little different, but very close.

    Same thing applies to LB — while not all can play ILB and OLB, they still move around the field and have similar assignements at many points.

    Going from one LB postion, or one Oline position, to another is not nearly the same as going to a different position group.

    There are examples that have worked, but they are rare. Furrey was a WR who was converted to a S (which he did so he could make the team) and then back to a WR.

    Urlacher was originally a TE. Still, it is not something that is undertaken lightly, and in many cases doesn’t end up working. (DE to OLB is a common try, with mixed results going from a 4-3 to a 3-4…)

    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  5. By chiefger139 on Sep 17, 2009

    not saying you dont know what your talkin about-know you do-in fact I agree with you- usually it dont happen but in many cases it does-look at randell el a qb and a graet one in college now he plays wr-rb many positions and rarely qb- yes some of these guys have so much tallant they can be converted to other positions-and truthfully they should be-I agree this is unlikely and rare but a true evaluator of talant like a mike martz and others can see this-those who cant avoid this-not worth the risk-but those who can-hats off to you-your the true nfl geniosus!! detfan79 is totally right on his article-those saying put so and so at this position are goof balls -but after what I posted are we really?? sometimes it takes goof ball-crazy lame brain ideas like this-to make a team great- as simple as moving a tallanted athelte from one position to another-it happens all the time-i imagine more so at the high school level the kid wants to be a rb- but hes built to be a guard-the coach sees it-I guess time there pro level they find there spot?? but truthfully even then the true geniouses can figure it out!! why this league is so great and why the geniouses of this league excell!!

    Rating: 3.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  6. By nubsnobber on Sep 17, 2009

    You guys are forgetting my favorite position switch.

    Belton. Defensive tackle as a pro on Tampa Bay’s practice squad, and Marinelli moved him to fullback.

    Rating: 3.0/5 (1 vote cast)

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