Posted by: petemangurian | April 24, 2012

The Spring Game, defense

Smart, physical and relentless TEAM defense.   That’s what we want to be known for. Defense by its very nature has an attitude.  The best players have an attitude. If you are going to stand there and take the best shots an offense can give you, you better have an attitude, but you better play together and be relentless. There is nothing more intimidating than 11 players who are going to challenge you every play, together.

From a technical standpoint, we want to stop the run, tackle well and not give up big plays. These ideas are not novel by any means, but understanding the opponent, recognizing the keys to each play and adjusting, make it all happen. Right now we are intent on finding out who is tough enough, smart enough and disciplined enough to count on. We have a pretty good idea who our guys are, now we have to train them. One thing you can’t train is that attitude we were talking about. You either have it or you don’t.

Overall we showed very little Friday night as far as scheme is concerned. We played our base fronts and coverages. On the other side of the ball we were also pretty vanilla – no one was really trying to fool anyone. Right now we have more important things to find out. We did sit some players after only a few plays.  We were not going to find out anything we didn’t already know, so why take the risk? The few plays that Murphy, Martin, Olinger and Adebayo played, did confirm our beliefs..

We have some talent and some depth on the defensive front. I was especially pleased with Greg Lee, we had seen flashes, but this was a consistent performance. Will Patterson has performed this spring and has done the little things to get better, it shows. The battle for the 5th defensive end spot will be a good one, during training camp. Washington has improved throughout the spring, but he needs to keep getting stronger.  He has potential to contribute and step up next year. Childress and Melka have also improved and they factored on Friday. Childress would be the most improved defensive lineman this spring, but the proof will be told next fall. I think we all got tired as the night went on.  Our pads got high and we didn’t hold the point consistently. Our pass rush was spotty, but I did like the “speed to power” transition that we showed on numerous plays. There is plenty for us to improve on, but overall I think we can be competitive.

At linebacker, we are pleased with the group overall. Friday we played downhill and physical versus the run. At times we were put in some tough coverage match ups and played well. As a staff we will be very aware of these match ups and make sure we don’t put our guys in a situation that is not advantageous for us. Murphy and Waller are both seniors.  We are fortunate to have players like Luster and East behind them who will be able to step in when needed. Olinger held down the mike position, and has performed well all spring. Zach made a play early in the evening on which I felt his celebration was a little more about “him” and not “with” his teammates, but Zach is a consummate team player, that’s not like him. All our linebackers are on all of our special teams and each has a role to play. They played Friday as they have practiced – tough and consistent. We are not there yet, but I trust these guys.

Our incoming class in the secondary is very strong, I would be surprised if they do not figure prominently in the fall. That being said we do have some players we feel good about, and some that have earned a longer look. DeVeau has performed well most of the spring at corner. There was a dip in his performance in the middle weeks, but he has maintained his spot at this point. Our corners are asked to be tacklers and cover guys, so physically aggressive play is required. On occasion we were too aggressive on Friday. People will take advantage of our aggressiveness if we are not disciplined. Carter and DiTommaso were limited by injuries, but showed enough to warrant a longer look. Their summer work will tell us a lot about how much we can trust them. We moved Braddock and Cummins from wide receiver to safety and both improved. Cummins is a senior and the game moves a little slower for him, which is a good thing.  He is smart and tough. Braddock plays on the edge of “out of control” and needs to pick his spots, but it’s a lot easier to pull back than to get guys who want to hit you. Skalitsky factored the other night.  He refuses to go away and has gotten our attention, in a good way, by chasing the big pass play and with some PBU’s.

It is natural for the defense to progress faster than the offense does. We clearly have more experience and depth on defense, but we will be tested in all phases, with tough physical running attacks and wide open explosive passing games. Our ability to adjust from series to series, stay physical, and create turnovers and field position will determine our success. Let’s be honest, we will face more explosive offenses than the one we faced Friday night, so let’s not get to excited yet. I like our attitude and work ethic. As a coach you want your players to play on the edge, do business as business is being done. We will play the game the way it needs to be played to win. Our ability to adjust will be the key.

Nothing can replace game experience. Bigger and tougher tests await, but I like what we are seeing to this point. It’s only a start.  We have begun a process that could help us be a competitive team. How we progress from here will validate what we have done to this point. It’s a start, nothing more.  It’s up to our payers to make it meaningful. I am confident of one thing – training camp will be physical and competitive.

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