Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Courtney Avery adendum

Yesterday, I wrote a post about Courtney Avery, his ability to play man coverage, and his utter disregard for zones. Reader Jason Roberts had a few questions about the play:

What if that IU receiver is running a fly route? I'm assuming that Cam Gordon is out there somewhere, but then it's 2-on-2, which favors any offense that also has a 5th year senior QB.

Also, if Avery leaves that guy sooner (and you may very well be right that it's a busted assignment) and it is a fly route, then Chappell might have hit him before he even got in Gordon's zone.

As you can see, Indiana is in a four-wide set, and all four receivers are running vertical routes. Michigan is in a cover-3 look with Kovacs, Gordon, and Rogers covering deep thirds of the field. Michigan has their nickel package in, charged with covering underneath zones along with the linebackers. As the play develops, it looks something like this:

Avery is the underneath defender at the top of the screen. His job against four verticals is to carry the slot receiver briefly and push him out of his line while also staying disciplined in his zone to take away the outside hitch that Indiana eventually completes on this play. If Avery carries the slot receiver for only a short amount of time, it forces Chappell to make an almost impossible throw to connect with the slot: he would have to thread the ball between Roh (outside linebacker), Carvin Johnson (middle linebacker), and the deep middle safety in Cam Gordon. Trying to complete that pass is a recipe for an interception and something that a fifth-year senior quarterback is unlikely to try. Avery, however, stays with the slot receiver too long, completely opening up the outside hitch route.

Rogers is charge with not letting anyone get behind him on this play, so with a receiver streaking directly at him, he needs to cover the deep third of the field. If Avery is in position, it forces the outside receiver to continue his fly route down the sideline. If he tries to settle in the zone, Chappell will once again have to make a difficult throw, passing between Roh, Avery, and Rogers. Getting pressure on the QB is essential if Michigan wants to avoid a jump ball down the field or the hitch route that netted Indiana 16 yards.

Frequent MGoBlog diarist Steve Sharik actually wrote up something in August for Smart Football about this play exactly: defending four verticals in a 3-3-5 cover-3. Michigan personnel come in for discussion, but the general idea:

A properly coached Cover 3 defense will use its LBs [ed. in Michigan's alignment, this is Avery and Talbott] to re-route and not give up easy seam throws. For a 3-3-5 defense, the alignment of the #2 reciever changes who is responsible for this. If #2 is a TE or Wing, then one of the Stack Backers (Sam, Will, whatever) is responsible for seam elimination (as we like to call it). If #2 is a wide slot, then either the Spur or Bandit is responsible.

The objectives are threefold:

1. Take away the quick seam throw by jamming and running with #2.
2. Widen the seam route to the Corner’s zone, or outside 1/3. Do not let #2 cross your face.
3. Get your eyes to #1.

I suggest you read the entire thing. Avery does a good job of widening the slot receiver's route, but instead of breaking off and covering the hitch route that the #1 receiver completes, Avery continues too far with the slot.


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