Film Review: Gardner's Second INT against CMU

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Gardner's second INT is a little more in question, and a little more went wrong in the process. In this film review, we'll look at some possibilities and why they happened, and what can happen in the future to fix them.

Introduction
Last time we looked at the first interception, now let's check to see what happened with the second INT. Because this is a little difficult (the route is run off screen without a good replay) we will speculate a bit, which will allow us to get into a discussion of a couple different contexts for this play.

Video
Here's what we have to work with:

From this we can tell a few things. The coverage is cover 1 robber. We know this because there are two press defenders. When the pick is made we can see a safety coming over top to help the CB on the top of the screen. Of course, we also cannot see what route that WR is running. We can theorize that it's cover 1 robber because the box safety has run responsibility first. He bites hard on the PA, and then pretty much says "oh crap" and starts to bust back into a center coverage, but isn't turning and running as if he needs to reach his deep zone. Frankly, the run first responsibility is enough to tell us he doesn't have a deep zone, but the way he drops is a nice confirmation that he didn't just bust his coverage.

What else can we see? Well right off the snap we can tell that Gallon beat his defender off the line rather easily and gets over top of him. The fact that when the ball arrives he is so far behind leads me to believe that this was a double move, likely a hitch and go or a slugo (slant and go). What possibly happened is that Gallon got so far ahead of his defender, that by the time he stopped and started again, it was only enough for the defender to get on top of him in stride, and not enough for the defender to have to hesitate. My feeling is that it was actually a slugo, because the defender is outside of him once he comes back into play. Also, Gallon's initial release takes him outside the numbers, when the camera catches up he is in the middle of the numbers, but this could just be him working back to proper relation with the sideline as well.

So here's what we appear to have (Yellow is deep zone, red underneath, green the throwing lane)

Slide5_medium

This is pretty much max coverage, though the RB leaks out. This really drives home the point that this is probably a double move, because they are blocking to give the play time to develop. Once the defender gets over top of Gallon then, the play is to Gallon's back shoulder. This is possible because there is no coverage underneath, leaving a lot of open grass for the back shoulder. Basically, DG is trying to throw into the open area of the field.

So What Goes Wrong?
Well Gardner over throws it. The possible explaination for this is because defenders got into his feet and/or body while he was throwing. So where's the breakdown in protection? Well it's between the two TEs. A lot of people have been blaming this on Funchess, and while it likely is, let's look at the whole picture.

Blocking_issues_medium

The DL is slanting, trying to get their hat in front of the inside zone block from the OL. What this means is that the OLB to the top of the screen has contain to the top of the screen; he's responsible for making the DE right. After the PA, the LB starts working upfield and to the outside to correct his DE and get gap responsibility, but the DE works back outside. This is when Williams passes him on to Funchess and takes the LB, who now adjusts a second time - first to get outside and then to work back inside - through the C gap. Funchess whiffs because he thinks Williams is going to carry him. Funchess is planning on chipping here to let help Williams, then possibly releasing. But Williams lets him go because the LB has swung back inside. Now watch it again and watch Funchess's eyes. They go from LB, to field box safety. There is an OT and Williams inside of him for the two inside defenders. In this case, Williams passes him when he probably technically shouldn't, as Funchess will have responsibility for the outer most of the three CMU defenders, but it's difficult to tell. What is certain is that there is miscommunication between three different players, or maybe more accurately, a lack of comfort in pass pro. The two TEs are reading the play differently: Williams sees a LB coming for the C gap and doesn't feel he has help from the backside OT; Funchess thinks he'll help and come off in case the outside most defender decides to attack, and will otherwise release. That's where the pass protection breaks down. It's not as simple as a Funchess whiff.

Let's Assume For a Second
Alright, so we think we have a pretty decent understanding of what happened on the second INT. So let's assume for a second that it wasn't a double move to the outside, but simply a fly route that the CB managed to get over top of the WR. Then what should happen?

Well in that case, Gallon would run to the opening in the defense. Gallon and Gardner wouldn't necessarily be looking for the back shoulder, but instead, Gallon would option his route into a shallow post, allowing Gardner to hit him in stride with a run after catch possibility.

Slide6_medium

Conclusion
So there were some breakdowns, yes. What they are isn't necessarily because of a lack of technique or skill, but more so because of a lack of comfort at this stage. Either the QB and WR aren't making the correct read (this likely isn't the case given the above knowledge) or the pass pro isn't yet comfortable working together. It's a work in progress, and these things will get ironed out. It's best they happen now rather than against ND. And in fact, having it happen against CMU gives the coaches a chance to know it's something that needs to be taught again so that the communication and feel gets corrected.

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