So, rumors have it that not only will Michigan have a new DC next year, but possibly a new base defense as well. Rumors being rumors and all, lets forge ahead. I mentioned one of the concerns I have regarding this defensive approach last night on the
rapid fire shouting match collaboration of great minds that was held over at mgoblog and WLA, and I was roundly treated as though I had just asked why 2+2=4... Basically, my question was the following:
When you have a strong group of players at defensive line (for our example, let's say that is Brandon Graham and Mike Martin next year) why would you only put three people down on the line and allow the offensive line to completely neutralize them with double teams if they so choose?
This was roundly answered with a smattering of "blitzing LBs are uncovered DUH" and "if they double two guys, we're getting to the QB you dolt" type of responses, something to be expected because I feel my point was somewhat misinterpreted or roundly ignored. It should also be said that this was not the forum to ask a question that requires a detailed answer, so I'm sure there is a good answer to my question, and who knows, maybe it really is a stupid question, but nonetheless, I push on.
The problem I see here is that even if you're blitzing LBs, you're taking one or two of the best players on the defense (and if anyone thinks that any of our LBs were more valuable than Graham this past season, you're wrong) and rendering them ineffective. This whole "getting to the QB point" also erroneously assumes that we are blitzing on every play (we are not), that the offense is passing on every play (they are not) and that letting an offensive line control the line of scrimmage has no effect on the rushing attack and our ability to defend it (this seems erroneous to me as well). With that in mind, wouldn't we reduce any kind of pressure we might be able to generate from the D-line alone and dropping the rest of the D into coverage? Again, it just seems to be a problem if you ask me.
I'd also be much more willing to go along with this whole "other guys get to the QB" thing if it had actually happened... the one time I can recall this year where we strictly ran the 3-3-5 was at Purdue, and the results? Umm.... atrociously eye-gougingly awful scratches the surface, and yes, I know it was just one game, but I was there and it was tremedously painful so humor me:
- 25 first downs
- 256 yards rushing
- 266 yards passing (from a FR QB making his first ever start)
- 522 total yards
- 48 points
- ZERO sacks and only 5 TFLs.
So pardon my skepticism and all... but where was all of the LBs getting home to a fresh new QB? I understand that Shafer was not a 3-3-5 coach, I understand that just like an offensive system, it's an unfamiliar defense that takes time and personnel to learn and run, but holy crap did it suck against a woeful Boilermaker team. I'm certain that there are those out there who will happily show me stats of other teams who run the 3-3-5 and point out their successes against this or that, etc, etc... the point is lost in that kind of discussion however. My qualm here is this: does Michigan's CURRENT defensive personnel work well with this formation? Answer? I do not know.
Certainly, my main complaint surrounding the D-line would still be present with any formation that features a 3 man front (say the 3-4) and not just the 3-3-5, but I am not a big fan of the approach when the strength of the team (as it so CLEARLY was all year) is the defensive line. Again, looking at next year's personnel, where do you think the strength of the defense is going to be? It's awfully early but I wouldn't balk at saying it's D-line again. So why only put 3 of them on the field? If defensive scheming is about putting your players in the best positions to make plays, how can one justify this for players like Graham and Martin? I'm not asking this accusatorily, but rather just asking because frankly it does not make sense to me.
It seems to me that if we're going to bring in a new DC and want to run the 3-3-5 then a number of things are going to have to occur:
1. The LBs absolutely must improve, particularly in pass coverage, an area we were miserable at last year. If we're going to basically give Graham and Martin an uphill battle on each snap, guys like Ezeh and Mouton have to come through.
2. Our team is going to have to feature another guy who can play a Brandon Harrison type of role, he played a lot of
linebacker err "safety" in our okie defense over the course of the year, and performed rather well at it. I think we'll need another hybrid type of guy to fill that role (screams of a "converted" safety).
3. I'm somewhat firing from the hip here, but wouldn't we also have to be much more willing to play a lot more man coverage with our corners? Perhaps I'm wrong here?
I don't know, those are some of my concerns, what do you think about it? Any advice or thoughts are certainly welcome, and of course: GO BLUE!!