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Viewing Nolan's Defense In 2009

Discussion in 'Miami Dolphins Forum' started by alen1, May 26, 2010.

  1. alen1

    alen1 New Member

    Dec 16, 2007
    I don't have the time to go and watch every single Denver game from last season and I barely found time to watch one. I finished up watching week nine of Denver against Pittsburgh in Denver, Colorado and am dissecting it by the play. CK did an excellent write up before on what the responsibilities are from the players but I wanted to look at the various defensive techniques used against the packages offenses used. What you will read below is the package used by the Steelers, each position and player listed on Denver's defense, what technique they were in and what they did. You'll also see how far they lined up off the ball and I'll explain the difference of being a yard off the ball and a foot off the ball. With that said, here it is.

    Twin Wide Receivers With A Split End (Heath Miller) On Opposite Side

    Denver's defense was the base 3-4 look here with two deep here.

    RE - Shaded five technique that was one foot off the ball.

    NT - Shaded one technique about one yard off the ball.

    LE - Shaded three technique about one foot off the ball.

    Dumervil - Wide stand up five technique about a foot and a half off the ball.

    Haggan - Seven technique about two yards off the ball.

    Davis - About four yards off the LOS across the RG.

    Williams - About four yards off the LOS across the OC.

    Summary: There was nothing spectacular about Nolan's front seven here. Dumvervil lined up wider than your typical five technique though and we usually saw this from Jimmy Johnson's 4-3 'Miami' defense. The reason behind the wider alignment is because it is a quicker get off for Dumervil because the pass blocker is not going to punch him immediately like he would in a normal five technique. Further, Haggan lined up in the seven technique, which means he was up on Heath Miller. He covered Miller here and usually what you'll see with Haggan is that when he's this far off the LOS, he's often covering. His cover duties are about 50% of his snaps, so coverage is often expected out of him from the pass blocker to his side. However, Nolan does mix this up and I'll get to that later.

    Going to the differences between being a foot or a yard off the ball. When you're a foot off the ball, you're usually in a bullfrog (small two point stance) position in Nolan's defense and you're going downhill against the Center like usual. When a yard off the ball, the reason you see this is because the defensive tackle wants more space to be able to get off the ball and get quicker down the line of scrimmage. You'll also see the defensive/nose tackle have a deep stagger in a three point stance and this is one of the tip-offs that you should watch for as a pass protector both on the outside and inside. With a deep stagger, the nose tackle is likely to do a twist or X stunt with the defensive end or the inside linebacker. The inside linebacker will usually walk up to the line of scrimmage, get closer than usual to the nose tackle and then you'll see the stunt with the linebacker going to the opposite A gap and the nose tackle going to the opposite A gap. When the nose is stunting with an end, you'll see the end be in the three technique instead of the five technique at times and the nose will go to the outside shoulder of the Offensive Tackle whilst the defensive end attacks the A gap.

    Three by Two Shotgun Set

    RE - Shaded three technique on the LOS.

    NT - Shaded one technique one yard off the LOS.

    LE - Head up on OT as a four technique and he's on the LOS.

    Dumervil - He's on the inside receiver on the tight set on the three wide receiver side.

    Haggan - He's on the slot receiver on the 2 WR side.

    Davis - Lined up in a STACK formation behind Haggan. He's showing blitz but then drops down and takes Haggan's responsibility because Haggan is the one that actually blitzes.

    Williams - On the TE who is the # 2 receiver on the 3 WR side. In other words, he's the middle receiver of the three.

    Summary: In this defensive formation, it showed Nolan's versatility and creativity. What it did was ask the left end to play with 2 gap responsibilities and tie up blockers whilst they showed Haggan as a cover linebacker to that side. They tried to confuse the RT by drawing him toward the left end and freeing up Haggan on a free blitz. Davis is usually about five yards off the ball across the RG but in this formation, he's in a stack formation, which is basically one LB behind another or a LB behind a DL. Haggan did end up coming down free on a coverage sack on Roethlisberger. Dumervil showed that he would be in coverage in the pre-snap read but ended up crashing down and there was five pass rushers in the end.

    Two Backs With 2 TE's And A Single WR

    RE - Three technique about a foot off LOS.

    NT - One technique about a yard off the ball.

    LE - Five technique about a foot off the ball.

    Dumervil - Seven technique about a yard off.

    Haggan - Seven technique about a yard off.

    Davis - Five yards off LOS across OG.

    Williiams - Five yards off LOS across OC.

    Summary: Here Nolan did not do anything special and it was really similar to what we did last year. The basic one and three techniques from an end and tackle and then a five technique end. However, one thing I noted here that I felt was important was that there was eight in the box in pre-snap, which means there was a Cover 1 or 3 behind him with a single high robber. This is important because it means that our safety COULD be asked to use his range to make plays sideline to sideline whilst there is a box in the safety. Usually what I saw with Dawkins is him in the box. Whilst he is a free safety, hes often used in the box and basically operates as a strong safety whilst Renaldo Hill plays as a free safety. Dawkins plays in the box about ten to twelve times a game and Nolan did not hesitate to use him on the blitz.

    2 by 1 Set (Two pass catchers are Hines Ward and Heath Miller as a Split End with Holmes as the Single WR Opposite)

    RE - Four Technique about a foot off the ball.

    NT - Zero technique about a yard off.

    LE - Four technique about a foot off.

    Dumervli - Stand up wide five technique.

    Haggan - Head up on TE as a 6 technique.

    Davis - Five yards off head up on OG.

    Williams - Five yards off head up on OC.

    Notes: Brian Dawkins blitzed here and Nolan showed he's not afraid to blitz against a bunch formation.

    Summary: Further, this formation is important to note because it shows a hybrid 3-4. It does not involve a hybrid 4-3/3-4 like we often see with Clancy Pendergast for example but its a hybrid 3-4 because he is using a two gap formation here. Two gap responsibilities from his three horses up front. This is where Paul Soliai has a place on this roster because he's the space eater that's a fit for the two gap.

    2 by 1 Set (Two pass catchers are Hines Ward and Heath Miller as a Split End with Holmes as the Single WR Opposite)

    Dumervil - Uses as a five technique end in a three point stance.

    NT - Three technique on LOS to Dumervil's side.

    LE - Three technique on LOS.

    Haggan - Seven technique stand up on LOS.

    Woodyard* - Five yards off across the OG.

    Williams - At LOS as a stand up one technique aka A gap blitzer.

    Summary: What's important here is that there are four players rushing and its a nickel package (five total DB's). Nolan went to the nickel package quite a few times in this half when he was faced with a bunch formation, as seen above. There is four rushing, two in coverage here. Wesley Woodyard and Mario Haggan are the cover linebackers here. Woodyard had an asterisk next to his name because he's one of the specialized role players that Nolan uses and I discussed before. He's the cover linebacker in Denver because of his range and straight-line speed.

    3x1 Set - Two wide receivers with a Split End On One Side, One WR on the Opposite Side With One Back in the Backfield.

    Dumervil - Five technique end with hand in dirt.

    NT - One technique about a yard off.

    LE - Three technique about a foot off.

    Haggan - Seven technique on LOS.

    Woodyard + Williams - Five yards off of OG and OC.

    Summary: Nolan went to a nickel package again against a one back set but four total pass catchers. This ended up being a running play at Dumervil IIRC and it picked up some positive yards. What I saw in this half was counters from the run game. Rashard Mendenhall started right and finished left, in Dumervil's direction because Dumervil was a liability against the run.

    3x2 Set - Three Wide Receivers to One Side, Two to Other

    Dumervil - Stand up five technique.

    RE - Three technique.

    NT - O technique about a foot off in the BULLFROG position.

    LE - Five technique on LOS.

    Haggan - On slot on the two wide receiver side.

    Summary: There was a nickel package used here again and there was four pass rushers here. Nothing that stood out here, other than the combo-gap responsibilities we see. The zero technique is responsible for both A gaps whilst the two ends are asked to charge the gaps.

    3x1 Set - Two WR's, One Split End to a Side With One WR Opposite

    Dumervil - Flipped to the left side as a weak side pass rusher. Was a wide Five technique.

    RE - Three technique on the ball.

    LE - Four technique on ball.

    Haggan - Seven technique.

    Summary: Woodyard and Williams line up on the LOS in the A gaps as basically stand up one techniques. This is called a Double A gap blitz that Nolan likes to use quite a bit of. He uses it in a 2-4 package that he likes to go to and what he'll usually do is blitz three whilst Dumervil and Haggan drop in a short zone as cover linebackers. Wesley Woodyard will either be a fourth rusher in the A gap with Williams or he'll drop in coverage as basically the MIKE linebacker. It reminded me a little of the 5-2 Double Eagle.

    3x1 Set - Two WR's, a Split End and then a Single Wide WR Opposite

    Dumervil - Seven technique.

    RE - Three technique a foot off.

    NT - One technique about a foot and a half off.

    LE - Three technique a foot off.

    Haggan - He's used as a floating linebacker pre-snap and then shifts to a wide five technique and goes downhill.

    Davis and Williams - Five yards off and then both blitz.

    Summary: This ends up being a coverage sack with all seven rushing and two deep with two cornerbacks. What's interesting here is that every Pittsburgh OL was covered up. Nolan made sure that every PITT pass blocker had to handle someone so he could have a free linebacker coming in. Williams ended up being the free linebacker and he got the sack.

    Tight Bunch Formation - Three WR's To One Side

    Dumervil - Lined up wide off of # 1 wide receiver (furthest WR to the sideline).

    RE - Five technique on LOS.

    NT - One technique with a deep stagger. *

    LE - Three technique a foot off.

    Ayers* - Wide five technique that's a yard off.

    Williams and Woodyard in coverage.

    Summary: I put an asterisk next to the nose tackle. Why? Because he had a deep stagger and that's a tip-off that he is going to stunt with someone. If there's no linebacker next to him, its likely to be with a defensive end, which is what happened. I also put an asterisk next to rookie Robert Ayers because he replaced Mario Haggan in the pass rusher role. Remember, every player will have a specialized role. Haggan covered, Ayers went downhill.

    Wide Bunch (Similar to above, just spread out instead of being tight)

    Dumervil - Five technique on LOS with his hand in the dirt.

    NT - One technique.

    LE - Five technique lined up off ball with a stagger.

    Woodyard - Two yards off of OC and is lined up in the A gap as a stand up blitzer.

    Williams - Lines up in B gap in the pre-snap.

    Ayers - Stand up five technique on no pass catcher side.

    Summary: What's key here is that the left end has a stagger and what he ends up doing is an X stunt with Robert Ayers. Ayers runs to the B gap whilst the LE runs to the outside and rushes around the pass blocker.

    Single Back With Two WR's and One TE

    Dumervil - Stand up five technique.

    RE - Four technique.

    NT - Bullfrog position in a two technique head up position.

    LE - Five technique.

    Haggan - Seven technique about a yard off.

    Summary: Williams and Davis are both five yards off the LOS here. This play ends up being a counter, running from right to left, in the direction of Elvis Dumervil. It ends up being positive yard gain for Mendenhall once again. Dumervil is a liability in the run game, ala Cameron Wake.

    Two Tight End Set, Two WR's

    Dumervil - Stand up seven technique.

    NT - 0 technique.

    LE - Five technique about a yard off.

    RE - Five technique about a yard off.

    Haggan - Head up six technique about two yards off the TE.

    Summary: Davis and Williams are both five yards off the LOS in coverage. What's interesting to note here is that its a three deep look again in the secondary because Brian Dawkins is in the box. With two tight end sets, we're likely to see Yeremiah Bell as an extra linebacker.

    Single Back, Three WR Bunch

    Dumervil - Five technique with hand in dirt.

    NT - One technique.

    LE - Two technique head up on OG.

    Ayers - Stand up seven technique.

    Summary: Dawkins is in the box here again and Renaldo Hill is left as a single high robber once again.

    I've got the second half done but let me start off by saying that what you're going to see is a lot of 3x1 sets, also known as a Bunch formation, from the Steelers. As I stated in the initial post, this gave Denver issues in not only the pass game but the run game too. In the pass game, they could not match up with the speed and quickness of the wide receivers from the Steelers, most notably Mike Wallace. Hines Ward also did a good job of sitting in the open zones left by the Broncos.

    In the run game, what Denver did a lot of when they saw the Bunch formation is bring out their cover linebackers, namely Wesley Woodyard and Mario Haggan. Both of these guys are not very good against the run and the Steelers lined up in that bunch formation with a single back and just ran at them.

    What I also wanted to touch upon is that with Nolan doing a lot of blitzing and exotic fronts, Pittsburgh attempted to spread him out and what he did to counter that is bring multiple DB's, both nickel and dime packages. One of the most interesting DB sets that I saw was five DB's but an odd formation of them. In a three by one set, they had a safety twenty two yards deep. About twelve yards in front of him, he had Brian Dawkins in the middle of the field, the nickel cornerback next to Dawkins in the middle of the field and then two outside cornerbacks. Plus, they had four rush and then two LB's in coverage. In total, seven in coverage, four rush. What Nolan did to cover the multiple WR's is take out Dumervil and put a cornerback. He did this very often and I imagine that if Cameron Wake starts having success, teams will do this to us to take Wake out of the game.

    Further, Nolan used a variety of fronts. He used a 4-2-5, 2-4, 4-3, 3-4, 3-4 shell that turned into a 4-3. He used all kinds of coverages, from cover 1, 2, 3, 4, and an inverted Cover 2. He also used a middle of the field open coverage (Cover 1/3 shell) but then rolled a safety over to the middle of the field. This is one of the first keys for a quarterback to read from what I have learned so what he's essentially doing here is baiting into the quarterback in reading a MOFO (middle of the field open) pre-snap and then at the snap, it turned into a MOFC (middle of field closed) and it took away a passing zone. They did this once in the red zone and Andre' Goodman had an interception because Ben forced it. This will be a interesting question for us though and it would not surprise me if we struggle defending the pass again this year. With Yeremiah Bell likely to be in the box blitzing or something else ten to twelve times a game, we are going to need a guy who has good range and discipline. I don't know if we have that on our roster. It may end up being Tyrone Culver doing that for us or maybe even Will Allen sliding in as basically a nickel cornerback and then moving to the middle of the field at the snap, like Renaldo Hill did for Denver. This will be interesting to monitor.

    Moreover, Nolan relies a lot on his front three/four to apply pressure. I think this is a major reason for the drafting of Jared Odrick and moving Starks to nose tackle. When he saw the Bunch set against Pitt, he had to remove Dumervil, as I stated earlier, and asked a trio of Vonnie Holliday, Marcus Thomas and another end to apply pressure. Those guys aren't great pressure guys IMO. What he'll have the opportunity to do here against a bunch set, for example, is get Odrick, Starks and another pass rushing end (maybe Merling?) on the field and apply pressure whilst he drops multiple in coverage. He can get Odrick to play the one technique he did in college, Starks to the three/five technique he played last year and another pass rusher at five technique. This way, all those guys go back to a spot they are comfortable in and have had success in and we are still able to apply pressure.

    Last, we'll need our cornerbacks to do well in coverage IMO. We will see a lot of press-bail (at the line showing bump and run and then drop back) and man coverage IMO.

    With all that said, here's the formations/techniques I've jotted down. If you have any questions on what to expect, what I saw or anything else, feel free to ask.

    Doubles W/ Two TE's

    Dumervil - 7 technique stand up.

    RE - 6 technique head up.

    NT - 0 technique, yard off.

    LE - 3 technique, foot off.

    Tight Bunch x 1

    Dumervil - 5 technique stand up.

    RE - 4 technique head up.

    NT - yard off, 0 technique.

    LE - 4 technique, head up.

    Haggan - 7 technique.

    2x1 (TE) Set

    LE - 5 technique.

    NT - 0 technique.

    RE - Stand up three technique.

    Dumervil - Stand up five technique.

    Haggan - Stand up seven technique.

    FIVE DB's.

    3x1 - 2 WR's + TE x 1

    RE - Five technique in two point stance, yard off.

    NT - Three technique, yard off in 3 point stance.

    LE - One technique on three point stance, foot off.

    Ayers - Stand up five technique.

    DIME package - takes out Dumervil.

    Woodyard - Plays ILB on multiple WR sets.

    3x1 Set

    RE - Five technique on line.

    NT - 0 technique, yard off.

    LE - Three technique, foot off.

    Ayers - Stand up nine technique going downhill at snap.


    - 5 DB's
    - Rush four, drop seven.
    - Dawkins seven yards back from LOS in middle of field. Ty Law, nickel cornerback, next to him.
    - DJ Williams as RAT underneath.

    3x2 Set

    RE - Four technique.

    NT - O technique a yard off.

    LE - Four technique.

    Ayers - Stand up five.

    5 DB's - Dawkins covers slot.

    3x1 Set

    RE - Three technique.

    NT - 0 technique.

    LE - Five technique.

    Ayers - Weakside five technique stand up.

    Woodyard - Lined up as cover linebacker against Hines Ward, who was # 2 WR from sideline.

    5 DB - Dawkins MOF coverage with safety behind him. Five rushed.

    2x2 Set (Heath Miller as split end)

    RE - Wide five technique, which is Dumervil with his hand in the dirt, in this case.

    NT - 0 technique a foot off.

    LE - Three technique.

    Struggled with play action in this game from what I saw. They were over aggressive at times and it hurt them.

    3x1 Set

    RE - Dumervil is four technique here with hand in dirt.

    NT - 0 technique.

    LE - Five technique.

    Ayers - Strongside nine technique.

    Note - Steelers line up in bunch formation and then run at the cover linebackers to give them issues.

    Single WR, Two Tailbacks, 2 TE's to One Side

    RE - Four technique.

    NT - 0 technique.

    LE - 4 technique.

    Ayers - Stand up seven technique.

    Dumervil - Stand up five technique.

    Dawkins in box again.

    Andra Davis is in against two tight ends again.

    3x1 Set

    Ayers - Five technique stand up.

    RE - Five technique.

    NT - 2 technique a yard off.

    LE - 3 technique.

    - Woodyard in.
    - 5 DB.

    3x2 Set

    RE - Five technique.

    NT - Three technique.

    LE - One technique.

    Ayers - Stand up 5.

    Woodyard in again because of multiple WR's.

    3x1 Set

    2 gap across the defensive line here. A 4,0,4 technique set. Ayers is the only stand up rusher and he is a very wide five technique.

    3x1 Set

    RE - 4 technique.

    NT - O technique.

    LE - 4 technique.

    Ayers - stand up 5.

    5 DB.

    3x1 Set

    4-2-5 formation used here.

    RE - 5 technique.

    DT - One technique.

    DT - Three technique.

    LE - Five technique.

    Woodyard and Williams as ILB's.

    MOFO transition to MOFC.
  2. SeanP

    SeanP Season Ticket Holder Club Member

    Aug 24, 2009
    Deltona FL
    Wow, thats huge. Looks pretty darn informative though. I'll have to break this into parts to make it all the way through!
    alen1 likes this.
  3. HULKFish

    HULKFish Artist and Scribe

    Apr 30, 2008
    Central FL
    Great write-up! Especially for your age... You are a student of the game for sure!
    dolfan7171 and alen1 like this.
  4. RoninFin4

    RoninFin4 Season Ticket Holder Club Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Brilliant stuff Alen! I read some of it at the office; can't wait for the rest tonight. Definitely sheds some light on how Misi, Edds, and Dansby can/will be used.
    alen1 likes this.
  5. MikeHoncho

    MikeHoncho -=| Censored |=-

    Nov 13, 2009
    Question: How are you not the guy replacing Eric Mangini in Cleveland?
    dolfan7171, CaribPhin and mullingan like this.
  6. the 23rd

    the 23rd a.k.a. Rio

    Apr 20, 2009
    Tampa Area
    too much for me to digest in a sitting
    I do think, however, that all these plans
    hinge on a single factor: the FreeSafety
  7. Larryfinfan

    Larryfinfan 17-0...Priceless Club Member

    No, I think they hinge on each guy knowing his particular responsibilities, based on what formation they are in. The FS can make the entire D that much better, however, more pressure at the LOS can cover up deficiencies in the secondary. Also, what I've seen Nolan's D do is reduce the need for a Fergy type 3-4 NT, by spreading out the pressure responsibilities all along the DL. Also, this D can (and that's a big can) make a star out of your FS if he's of the Sharper/Reed/Palomalo type FS...
  8. MikeHoncho

    MikeHoncho -=| Censored |=-

    Nov 13, 2009
    I thought Polamalu was a SS
  9. Disgustipate

    Disgustipate Season Ticket Holder Club Member

    Nov 25, 2007
    Nice job. That's a whole lot more 1-gap from the base package from my pretty brief once-over on the defensive highlights, hopefully I haven't been repeating bad information lol.
    alen1 likes this.
  10. alen1

    alen1 New Member

    Dec 16, 2007

    Lol, I think its going to be very interesting watching the defense this season. The various blitzes and fronts is going to be significant IMO. I charted every play on defense in that game and I agree, a lot of one gap. What stood out to me the most is that Nolan was not afraid to take out Dumervil so he can get more cover guys out on the field against four passing targets. Thinking about it, my fear is that Cameron Wake will start having some success and the multiple wide receivers/pass catchers could force him off the field in order to get more cover guys there. Although, as you can see, Nolan was not afraid to keep Dumervil in a three down lineman set and put him as a five technique or even as a head up four technique to get a pass rush. To sum it up, we are going to see a lot of different things but we are also going to see some things backfire because, IMO, his defense can be predictable.
    dolfan7171 likes this.
  11. alen1

    alen1 New Member

    Dec 16, 2007
    Renaldo Hill was often asked to be the single high safety whilst Dawkins spent time in the box. I think Yeremiah Bell can spend time in the box while they ask someone to play the robber role. I'm just not sure who that is, at the moment. Reshad Jones is young and IMO, not disciplined enough to play that role this early into his career. Chris Clemons thinks too much out there IMO. Ultimately, Tyrone Culver may be that guy and Culver may be the reason why we haven't signed or acquired a safety via FA and/or earlier in the Draft.
    dolfan7171 and MikeHoncho like this.
  12. djphinfan

    djphinfan Season Ticket Holder Club Member

    Dec 20, 2007
    Alen, you are a new breed my brother..let me ask you this, when Nolan wants to go with a 3 or 4 man dline, Wake has to be one of those ends with his hand in the dirt, right? Even with the 3 man line, wake can take on the tackle? I Can see a 3 man pressure line in obvious passing situations with Odrick, Starks and Wake..I think with his get off, and pure talent rushing the passer, the three man line with him on the end gives us tremendous coverage advantages, while still having pretty good percentages of getting to the QB, or just making him hurry...

    Iam tryin to find ways of keeping that man's hand in the dirt you know.
    dolfan7171 and alen1 like this.
  13. alen1

    alen1 New Member

    Dec 16, 2007
    As I stated previously, Nolan did not always take out Dumervil when he used four/five defensive backs. He did indeed use Dumervil in a three point stance on a three man line. It was not often but he did use it. As I also stated in the initial post, he did line up his pass rushers wider than what I usually see. Similar to the way Jimmy Johnson lined up his ends. In my opinion, Wake should have his hand on the ground quite a bit because I think he is at his best when he's coming off in a three point stance. Now what I would not mind seeing is Wake in that wide five technique in a three point stance in the three man line with the opposite end playing a three technique and the nose playing a one technique. They could also do a blend of gap responsibilities, which Nolan did in this game. Get Wake in the five technique, the Nose in a 0 or 1 technique and then the other end in a head up four technique. I think Nolan can use him in a three point stance on a three man line. I think we will be vulnerable to the run, however. A line of Wake, Odrick and Starks could be pretty damn good if we were to see multiple bunch formations, which I expect. Starks and Odrick could be interchangeable IMO but if I had to pick one, I'd put Starks at end and Odrick at the one technique. Odrick's a stump, to use CK's term.
    dolfan7171 likes this.
  14. dolfan7171

    dolfan7171 Well-Known Member

    Jun 12, 2009
    You are very talented. You should seriously consider being a defensive coordinator in the future. With your knowledge, there isn't going to be many teams that will be able to shutdown your defenses.
    alen1 likes this.

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