Monday, October 4, 2010

Results of man coverage against Indiana

Anyone who's read this blog in the last three weeks knows that I've been manically calling for more man coverage on defense. Arguments to the contrary usually range from "Do you really want to see James Rogers in man coverage?" to "Do you really want to see JT Floyd in man coverage?". In short, yes. I rewatched the Indiana game and counted every time that Michigan showed a man coverage front against a passing play. (I removed all run plays because it's difficult to tell if Michigan is or isn't in man coverage as the receivers usually run up to block the corners and the linebackers, if they're doing their job, don't drop into coverage.)

Of the 96 offensive plays that Indiana ran, Michigan showed a man coverage front 12 (12!) times. In chronological order are the results of the plays:
  • throw away
  • incompletion
  • incompletion but a holding penalty on Rogers
  • incompletion
  • completion (screen 6 yards)
  • completion (screen 8 yards; Roh covering slot receiver. Offensive personnel: 3 WR, TE, RB)
  • completion TD (end of 1st quarter; tight coverage but a good thrown and catch)
  • completion (45 yard completion to Doss; good throw over the top against Rogers. Appeared to be blown coverage by Cam Gordon in cover-2)
  • completion (9 yard; Terrence Talbott on coverage)
  • throw away (3rd and 11)
  • sack (Banks sack on 1st and 10)
  • incompletion (quick throw because of blitz; out of rhythm)
So in 12 attempts, Indiana had six incompletions, one sack, and five completions for approximately 69 yards. Is this statistically significant or proof that Michigan should use more man coverage? Probably not and no. But rewatching the game revealed a couple of things:
  • When Michigan was in man coverage, the three-man defensive front was far more effective. One of the reasons the three-man front has been so ineffective this year is because opposing receivers have been settling down on short hitch routes making it difficult for the defensive line to get any pressure. Whether or not the receivers eventually got open on their routes, is beside the point; they were covered closely near the line of scrimmage forcing Chappell to go through his reads. As such, the defensive line was usually able to get to Chappell, forcing him to move out of the pocket or change his angles.
  • Michigan got beaten over the top twice: one incompletion to an Indiana tight end that Jordan Kovacs was trailing and the 45-yard completion to Tandon Doss, who Rogers was covering--though I'm not totally sure that it was all his fault because I think Cam Gordon had blown his deep coverage in cover-2.
  • Michigan can't play man coverage against stacked receivers. We first saw this problem against UMass when they would stack receivers, usually forcing Kovacs to play man coverage and starting off the line of scrimmage. It ended poorly each time.
  • Rogers, Floyd, Avery, and Talbott can all cover for at least limited amounts of time (Avery might be the best cover corner on the team that's currently healthy, about which more this week). Never did they get blown off the line and completely lose coverage. As such, Michigan can blitz more often. I think part of the reason Michigan hasn't blitzed as much as we'd all like to see is because, as porous as the zones are with eight defenders, they'd be even more open with five or six. Teams have decided to run quick routes against a Michigan defense that has shown it will give up five or six yards at will. If they drop less than eight into coverage, we'll probably start seeing more YAC.
In the end, my thoughts stay the same: Michigan needs to show far more man coverage defensive fronts if only to confuse quarterbacks and help stop the short hitches and slants that have become a staple of opposing offenses. Last year, Michigan sat back in a zone against MSU, who threw bubble screens that netted about seven yards per play. MSU ran the same play against Notre Dame this year to the same effect. Michigan needs the ability to counter this play and to give MSU looks that they haven't seen from this defense yet. And given that no team in the Big Ten has as many quality receivers as Indiana, putting Floyd, Rogers, and Avery (please, more Avery) in man coverage with over-the-top safety help could be really effective when adequately sprinkled in among the various zone drops.


Post a Comment