Canes Concepts: Defending Money Downs

Canes Concepts: Defending Money Downs

Lance Roffers
In this edition of Canes Concepts I want to look at an area that has brought the vitriol to the doorstep of defensive coordinator Blake Baker; third down defense. How did Miami fare on the most important down and how did it look on film? Keep reading as we explore together.

Methodology

The process I used to compile my success percentages is a little different than you may read on certain websites so I wanted to clarify how I calculated:

  • A first down picked up by penalty was calculated as a success for that play type. For instance, a 3rd & 10 picked up after a targeting penalty would be a pass success for 15 yards.
  • Success on 3rd down is considered pass/fail, so if picked up it’s successful, if not, it’s not successful despite the fact that several of these drives were extended by successful conversions on 4th down (which I’ll cover)
  • I am not including fake punts/FG’s in the data, so Florida and Georgia Tech picking up a first down on a fake punt is not included (both those drives ended in touchdowns, which were killers)
  • Sacks come out of the success rates for passing, not rushing
By the Numbers

In 2019, Miami once again had a very strong defense, ranking highly in most statistical categories. Here is how they ranked nationally in a few important categories:
1.png


Despite ranking fairly well from an overall standpoint, there is an area that Miami struggled defensively in 2019: getting off the field on money downs.
  • Going strictly by the overall data, Miami finished 42nd out of 130 FBS teams by allowing 37.1% of 3rd downs to be converted (69th percentile)
  • Compared to just Power-5 teams the numbers are slightly worse at 25th out of 65 teams (63rd percentile)
  • Miami faced a schedule with three opponent offense’s that ranked in the 100’s nationally for third down conversions. Only four of their opponents even ranked in the top-50 nationally.
  • The Hurricanes’ defense was especially poor against the run on third downs as opponents converted 59% of 3rd and 1-4 yards and 57% of 3rd and 5-7 yards when they ran the ball
Things look even worse when you factor in fourth down conversions.
  • Florida converted four 4th down plays resulting in 10 points and would’ve been more if not for a Franks fumble in the red zone
  • North Carolina converted a 4th & 17 on their game-winning drive
  • Central Michigan converted three 4th down attempts on a 17-play drive in the fourth quarter that resulted in a TD to make the game a one-score game
  • Georgia Tech faked a punt for a TD in a huge play where the defense was on the field
  • Louisville converted a 4th & 8 and gained 36 yards. If not for an interception, they would’ve scored on this drive. Then, on a 4th & 1, Louisville ran it 58 yards for a TD. A third 4th down conversion came on a drive that later ended on downs
If you put the 4th down attempts and conversions for each P5 team into their totals, Miami drops to 34th out of 65, or 48th percentile.
  • Perhaps the worst data point of all of these is the fact that Miami allowed an unsightly 33 out of 106 3rd & long (7+ yards) to be converted, which results in a 31.1% successful conversion rate
  • Taking this one step further, Miami allowed successful conversions of 3rd & 11+ yards on 7 of 41 attempts, or 17.1%
To add a little context to the numbers, there were seven P5 defenses who allowed a lower conversion percentage than Miami did on 3rd & long on ALL 3rd down attempts!
  • For comparison’ sake, Alabama faced 85 3rd & long situations and allowed a conversion 11 times, for a rate of 12.9%. Miami’s rate was two-and-a-half times higher than Alabama’s rate of conversion allowed, and Miami allowed a higher rate of conversions on 3rd & 11+ than Alabama did on 3rd & 7+
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Film
The numbers are clear; Miami has to improve on money downs and this is especially true in 3rd & long situations as well as against the run on 3rd downs. What could be contributing to these issues on defense? Let’s take a look at the film and try and identify some areas for improvement.

Over Aggressiveness
This is a 3rd & 11 against a running team and a running QB with Miami leading 21-7. Miami has nine defenders engaged right at the LOS and two safeties deep. Knowles is sitting 18 yards from the LOS and is truly doing very little. Louisville gets exactly what they want as Miami blitzes both LB’s into the A-gap. They send the slot into motion to get the Striker to trail him and that opens up the entirety of the field to the boundary. This is a QB run all the way. Garvin loses his lane discipline and flies upfield, the Rousseau flies upfield and the QB has an easy lane to run through and an OL as a lead blocker. This is an easy 1st down and was something that never needed to happen; if they played this conservative and rallied up to make a tackle, they’re off the field. Miami’s lives and dies with blitzes far too often.
3.png


Again, you can’t allow your edge to get collapsed inside on a 3rd and long against a scrambling QB. He doesn’t make it all the way on this play, but he got too close on a 3rd & 12 because there wasn’t any integrity with the rush.
3A.png


This is a 3rd & 14 and Miami is up by a large amount. Why are you blitzing your nickel corner here? In reality, it just created a bunch of confusion for the defense, as I have no idea where Carter is going here. He has the RB out of the backfield, but completely abandons him because he’s worried about the slot WR coming across the field (I guess?). Shaq is in a different position here trying to get out to the slot. This defense is another example where they play their SS all over the place, as the striker (Finley) goes back to SS and Carter drops into the box in this defense. It’s a screen to the RB that goes for huge yardage.
5b.png


I want to take the time to show instances where they play it well. In this case, they play coverage with a Cover-1 man (man-to-man defense all across) and have the MLB play the “hook zone” or the middle portion of the field where a receiver would settle in for a short comeback route. Garvin stands up and instead of rushing upfield recklessly, he spies Franks and tries to force him to make a tight window throw or scramble. Franks scrambles and Garvin makes the tackle on the edge. This defense takes athletic edge rushers and a S with excellent speed to be able to help deep, or to come downhill quickly and help with a deep square-in if the receiver doesn’t go deep.
5c.png


It’s interesting that Miami plays a 3-man rush with coverage behind it much more often on 3rd and medium (like 5 yards) than they do on 3rd and long. Here is another 3-man rush with a spy backing out. When I’m watching it, I said that’s an easy conversion if the QB sees the second slant because the defender is way too far off. He did and it was easy. Miami had a 2nd and 22 on this drive, Franks slips out of a Rousseau sack, runs for 17 yards, brings up the 3rd and short, then they convert after getting a 4th down conversion they shouldn’t have, earlier. It all adds up, and this is why every plays contributes to the next.
3b.png


Miscommunication
There are few things that will kill your defense quicker than miscommunication. Miami is in Cover-1 Robber on this play, but they don’t play it well. There are different ways to play this defense, but I’m fairly certain the error is made by Frierson here (blue circle). He needs to follow Tutu all the way across, while Carter will jump the cross coming into his zone. Instead, Frierson cuts back as if he’s going to be replaced by another defender on the shallow cross and Atwell takes this to the house. This is a total bust by the defense and while most wouldn’t be able to erase the angle around the edge like Atwell did here, Frierson can’t be making this mistake in that spot. If you want to know why Miami is recruiting all the safeties that they are, it’s because they ask them to do a lot of things in this defense and they play three on most plays, and sometimes four.
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You can see that everyone did their job except for Frierson. Carter jumped the crosser, Bandy carried the dig, Ivey comes to act as deep support behind Carter. Frierson bites on the mesh and cost his team. Hall takes too shallow of an angle (something he did quite often in 2019) and it’s a house call. Lane integrity with the pass rush is off again, as well.
5.png


Another case where miscommunication kills the defense. This is a simple route and they have the defense for it, but the defender doesn’t do his job. Bandy has the wheel route of the backfield and Hall has to take the TE in the seam who waltzes into the end zone untouched.
5a.png


The Safeties for Miami improved as the season went on, but especially in this Florida game they were poor. Carter here is way inside of where he should be, standing directly on the hash, but he knows this is a corner blitz to the boundary side and he has to get over there. He should be at least two steps further outside, knowing where he will have to get and no TE to that side threatening the seam. The result is an easy 1st down, and you can also debate the merits of a CB blitz when the QB hasn’t been hurting you with his passing for most of the game and you have the lead here.
5d.png


Again, they try that CB blitz from the boundary and you can see immediately someone messed up. The outside WR is running free and has his hand up already. Pitts is running down the seam and Miami only has Carter out there to cover both. Carter isn’t a coverage specialist to begin with and this is another case of asking players to do things they aren’t great at. CB blitz is picked up and it’s easy peasy for the offense. The scheme is actually asking Shaq to get depth to make the QB throw it over him and Hall to cover Pitts deep here. Hall is late getting over and Shaq falls for the play-action fake.
5e.png


I watch this play from Carter over-and-over and still cannot understand what is holding him on that hash. He’s single-high, there is no TE to run the seam to that side (he’s on the other side). Why is Carter not three steps to his left and more in the middle of the formation based on the leverage of the offense? It makes no sense to be where he is and contributed heavily to Miami losing this game.
5f.png


This is on Carter, not really Frierson.
5g.png


Run Fits
I wrote earlier about how successful teams were at running the ball on 3rd down to pick up conversions and this is an example of why. Miami has this play all accounted for. Finley has to take the bounce (C gap), DE has to set an edge that causes the RB to bubble and give Finley time to get there. Shaq has the B-gap, or the outside shoulder of #83. Playing the outside shoulder of the blocker causes the RB to have to cutback into the A-gap, where Pinckney is flowing from behind to fill that gap.
6.png


Instead, Shaq takes the inside shoulder of #83 and gives the blocker all the leverage and the runner a lane to hit going “downhill” which really just means with a full head of steam and a straight line.
7.png


You can tell that Shaq heard about how he took on that block earlier in the game, because here he does attack the correct shoulder and forces the RB back into his help, but this time Pinckney overruns his gap and allows for a cutback lane and this running play goes down to the 3-yard line. The defense is in position, there were just a lot of poor run fits by the LB’s and S’s last year.
8.png


You hear the coaches talk all the time about the need for their CB’s to be able to tackle and it’s because they really are an extension of your run defense. There are two situations where a CB has a “run fit” or “gap” in run defense: 1. When his WR comes down and blocks down on the edge defender, the CB has to replace the Edge as responsible for that gap in run defense. 2. When he does not have a receiver to his side of the field he immediately becomes the wide defender in the run game. This is a 4th down, and Miami has their second chance to stop Florida in plus territory. Bandy does not have a receiver to his side and is therefore the wide edge defender in the run game. Bandy takes the red angle when he should’ve taken the green angle. If Bandy takes the green angle he forces the runner back into his help. He does the one thing he cannot do here and allows the runner the outside corner and he gets the 1st down. Go where the runner is going, not where he is.
9.png


It’s not really a run fit, but this little swing pass is an extension of the run game. This is a 2nd and 10 and they have him hemmed in to bring up a long 3rd down. Instead he slips through and picks up the 1st down. You absolutely hate seeing your LB Pinckney get blocked by #1 on this play. Hall stops his feet and it’s a busted run fit that hurts badly.
9a.png


Lack of Coverage
This is a 4th & 5 with Miami holding a 6-point lead. I don’t understand having both Shaq and McCloud on the field here against 5-wide. Shaq is forced to play coverage downfield and it’s an easy conversion. Get another DB on the field in these situations and put your players in a position to succeed. They played a contain rush to keep the QB in the pocket, which plays even further into the idea of having more coverage on the field, rather than Shaq or McCloud. Florida floods their receivers to that side and leaves Shaq to pattern match to that side (meaning he carries Pitts until he goes deep, then Blades picks him up and he drops off onto the outside WR when he comes short). WR runs a whip route (fakes slant or post and then breaks back outside) and it’s an easy conversion.
10.png


3rd & goal from the 9 and you’d like to see Miami play a coverage package here. Another example of Miami playing three safeties (Knowles, Cart, Hall) and two LB’s (Shaq and Pinckney). I’d rather take Pinckney out on this play and have Finley in the game or another coverage player. Rousseau makes an excellent play with his length and stops the play, but I’m trying to highlight the actual personnel usage in this situation.
12.png


It worked last time thanks to Florida running the QB, but not this time as the two LB’s on the field are absolutely exposed in coverage. Why does Shaq have his back to the QB? He’s just supposed to get depth here, he’s not in man. Pinckney falls for the outside juke on the Texas route by the RB, falls down, and it’s a walk-in TD on 3rd & goal from the 8. Not great, Bob.
11.png


Bottom Line
Looking solely at the overall numbers the defense appears to be quite solid, but digging deeper there are clear and obvious problems with the defense that must be improved for the team to take another step forward in 2020.
  • The coaches need to put the defense in a better position to succeed through reduced aggression on 3rd & long. Too often Miami would send six or more rushers looking for the big play and allow the offense to convert. The coaching staff has been quoted as saying, “this is who we are” several times, but on those down’s you don’t need a big play as much as you need a smart play.
  • Miami’s LB’s struggled to maintain gap control in their run fits last year, leading to an inordinate number of successful pickups on the ground. They had reliable tackling and solid leadership, but didn’t produce enough big plays to exhibit poor run fits.
  • Safety play struggled- especially early in the season- and there were communication and alignment issues all season long. With the move to more-and-more three safety defensive alignments, the defense either needs to be simplified, or the safeties need to study more to avoid the coverage busts that cost them games last year.
  • Asking the LB’s to play coverage against athletic pass catchers was a mismatch with Miami’s defense all season long. The defensive staff needs to play more coverage players and fewer LB’s in 2020.
As noted in the Data section of this article, Miami struggled in all areas of defending money downs; running plays, deep passing, QB scrambles. It is on the coaching staff to design a defense that rallies and tackles on long yardage 3rd downs, while still maintaining the havoc and big plays that have defined this defense over the past several years. On a 3rd & 11 getting a sack is not as impactful as it is on 1st & 10, on longer conversion 3rd downs, relying on your front to get pressure and force short passes is the way to improvement in overall performance. Luckily for Miami, 3rd down defense is not especially sticky year-over-year, meaning with small improvements you could see Miami go from mediocre to great on money downs.
 

Comments (46)

In this edition of Canes Concepts I want to look at an area that has brought the vitriol to the doorstep of defensive coordinator Blake Baker; third down defense. How did Miami fare on the most important down and how did it look on film? Keep reading as we explore together.

Methodology

The process I used to compile my success percentages is a little different than you may read on certain websites so I wanted to clarify how I calculated:

  • A first down picked up by penalty was calculated as a success for that play type. For instance, a 3rd & 10 picked up after a targeting penalty would be a pass success for 15 yards.
  • Success on 3rd down is considered pass/fail, so if picked up it’s successful, if not, it’s not successful despite the fact that several of these drives were extended by successful conversions on 4th down (which I’ll cover)
  • I am not including fake punts/FG’s in the data, so Florida and Georgia Tech picking up a first down on a fake punt is not included (both those drives ended in touchdowns, which were killers)
  • Sacks come out of the success rates for passing, not rushing
By the Numbers

In 2019, Miami once again had a very strong defense, ranking highly in most statistical categories. Here is how they ranked nationally in a few important categories:
View attachment 123429

Despite ranking fairly well from an overall standpoint, there is an area that Miami struggled defensively in 2019: getting off the field on money downs.
  • Going strictly by the overall data, Miami finished 42nd out of 130 FBS teams by allowing 37.1% of 3rd downs to be converted (69th percentile)
  • Compared to just Power-5 teams the numbers are slightly worse at 25th out of 65 teams (63rd percentile)
  • Miami faced a schedule with three opponent offense’s that ranked in the 100’s nationally for third down conversions. Only four of their opponents even ranked in the top-50 nationally.
  • The Hurricanes’ defense was especially poor against the run on third downs as opponents converted 59% of 3rd and 1-4 yards and 57% of 3rd and 5-7 yards when they ran the ball
Things look even worse when you factor in fourth down conversions.
  • Florida converted four 4th down plays resulting in 10 points and would’ve been more if not for a Franks fumble in the red zone
  • North Carolina converted a 4th & 17 on their game-winning drive
  • Central Michigan converted three 4th down attempts on a 17-play drive in the fourth quarter that resulted in a TD to make the game a one-score game
  • Georgia Tech faked a punt for a TD in a huge play where the defense was on the field
  • Louisville converted a 4th & 8 and gained 36 yards. If not for an interception, they would’ve scored on this drive. Then, on a 4th & 1, Louisville ran it 58 yards for a TD. A third 4th down conversion came on a drive that later ended on downs
If you put the 4th down attempts and conversions for each P5 team into their totals, Miami drops to 34th out of 65, or 48th percentile.
  • Perhaps the worst data point of all of these is the fact that Miami allowed an unsightly 33 out of 106 3rd & long (7+ yards) to be converted, which results in a 31.1% successful conversion rate
  • Taking this one step further, Miami allowed successful conversions of 3rd & 11+ yards on 7 of 41 attempts, or 17.1%
To add a little context to the numbers, there were seven P5 defenses who allowed a lower conversion percentage than Miami did on 3rd & long on ALL 3rd down attempts!
  • For comparison’ sake, Alabama faced 85 3rd & long situations and allowed a conversion 11 times, for a rate of 12.9%. Miami’s rate was two-and-a-half times higher than Alabama’s rate of conversion allowed, and Miami allowed a higher rate of conversions on 3rd & 11+ than Alabama did on 3rd & 7+
View attachment 123430

Film
The numbers are clear; Miami has to improve on money downs and this is especially true in 3rd & long situations as well as against the run on 3rd downs. What could be contributing to these issues on defense? Let’s take a look at the film and try and identify some areas for improvement.

Over Aggressiveness
This is a 3rd & 11 against a running team and a running QB with Miami leading 21-7. Miami has nine defenders engaged right at the LOS and two safeties deep. Knowles is sitting 18 yards from the LOS and is truly doing very little. Louisville gets exactly what they want as Miami blitzes both LB’s into the A-gap. They send the slot into motion to get the Striker to trail him and that opens up the entirety of the field to the boundary. This is a QB run all the way. Garvin loses his lane discipline and flies upfield, the Rousseau flies upfield and the QB has an easy lane to run through and an OL as a lead blocker. This is an easy 1st down and was something that never needed to happen; if they played this conservative and rallied up to make a tackle, they’re off the field. Miami’s lives and dies with blitzes far too often.
View attachment 123431


Again, you can’t allow your edge to get collapsed inside on a 3rd and long against a scrambling QB. He doesn’t make it all the way on this play, but he got too close on a 3rd & 12 because there wasn’t any integrity with the rush.
View attachment 123432

This is a 3rd & 14 and Miami is up by a large amount. Why are you blitzing your nickel corner here? In reality, it just created a bunch of confusion for the defense, as I have no idea where Carter is going here. He has the RB out of the backfield, but completely abandons him because he’s worried about the slot WR coming across the field (I guess?). Shaq is in a different position here trying to get out to the slot. This defense is another example where they play their SS all over the place, as the striker (Finley) goes back to SS and Carter drops into the box in this defense. It’s a screen to the RB that goes for huge yardage.
View attachment 123433

I want to take the time to show instances where they play it well. In this case, they play coverage with a Cover-1 man (man-to-man defense all across) and have the MLB play the “hook zone” or the middle portion of the field where a receiver would settle in for a short comeback route. Garvin stands up and instead of rushing upfield recklessly, he spies Franks and tries to force him to make a tight window throw or scramble. Franks scrambles and Garvin makes the tackle on the edge. This defense takes athletic edge rushers and a S with excellent speed to be able to help deep, or to come downhill quickly and help with a deep square-in if the receiver doesn’t go deep.
View attachment 123434

It’s interesting that Miami plays a 3-man rush with coverage behind it much more often on 3rd and medium (like 5 yards) than they do on 3rd and long. Here is another 3-man rush with a spy backing out. When I’m watching it, I said that’s an easy conversion if the QB sees the second slant because the defender is way too far off. He did and it was easy. Miami had a 2nd and 22 on this drive, Franks slips out of a Rousseau sack, runs for 17 yards, brings up the 3rd and short, then they convert after getting a 4th down conversion they shouldn’t have, earlier. It all adds up, and this is why every plays contributes to the next.
View attachment 123435

Miscommunication
There are few things that will kill your defense quicker than miscommunication. Miami is in Cover-1 Robber on this play, but they don’t play it well. There are different ways to play this defense, but I’m fairly certain the error is made by Frierson here (blue circle). He needs to follow Tutu all the way across, while Carter will jump the cross coming into his zone. Instead, Frierson cuts back as if he’s going to be replaced by another defender on the shallow cross and Atwell takes this to the house. This is a total bust by the defense and while most wouldn’t be able to erase the angle around the edge like Atwell did here, Frierson can’t be making this mistake in that spot. If you want to know why Miami is recruiting all the safeties that they are, it’s because they ask them to do a lot of things in this defense and they play three on most plays, and sometimes four.
View attachment 123436

You can see that everyone did their job except for Frierson. Carter jumped the crosser, Bandy carried the dig, Ivey comes to act as deep support behind Carter. Frierson bites on the mesh and cost his team. Hall takes too shallow of an angle (something he did quite often in 2019) and it’s a house call. Lane integrity with the pass rush is off again, as well.
View attachment 123437

Another case where miscommunication kills the defense. This is a simple route and they have the defense for it, but the defender doesn’t do his job. Bandy has the wheel route of the backfield and Hall has to take the TE in the seam who waltzes into the end zone untouched.
View attachment 123438

The Safeties for Miami improved as the season went on, but especially in this Florida game they were poor. Carter here is way inside of where he should be, standing directly on the hash, but he knows this is a corner blitz to the boundary side and he has to get over there. He should be at least two steps further outside, knowing where he will have to get and no TE to that side threatening the seam. The result is an easy 1st down, and you can also debate the merits of a CB blitz when the QB hasn’t been hurting you with his passing for most of the game and you have the lead here.
View attachment 123439

Again, they try that CB blitz from the boundary and you can see immediately someone messed up. The outside WR is running free and has his hand up already. Pitts is running down the seam and Miami only has Carter out there to cover both. Carter isn’t a coverage specialist to begin with and this is another case of asking players to do things they aren’t great at. CB blitz is picked up and it’s easy peasy for the offense. The scheme is actually asking Shaq to get depth to make the QB throw it over him and Hall to cover Pitts deep here. Hall is late getting over and Shaq falls for the play-action fake.
View attachment 123440

I watch this play from Carter over-and-over and still cannot understand what is holding him on that hash. He’s single-high, there is no TE to run the seam to that side (he’s on the other side). Why is Carter not three steps to his left and more in the middle of the formation based on the leverage of the offense? It makes no sense to be where he is and contributed heavily to Miami losing this game.
View attachment 123441

This is on Carter, not really Frierson.
View attachment 123442

Run Fits
I wrote earlier about how successful teams were at running the ball on 3rd down to pick up conversions and this is an example of why. Miami has this play all accounted for. Finley has to take the bounce (C gap), DE has to set an edge that causes the RB to bubble and give Finley time to get there. Shaq has the B-gap, or the outside shoulder of #83. Playing the outside shoulder of the blocker causes the RB to have to cutback into the A-gap, where Pinckney is flowing from behind to fill that gap.
View attachment 123443

Instead, Shaq takes the inside shoulder of #83 and gives the blocker all the leverage and the runner a lane to hit going “downhill” which really just means with a full head of steam and a straight line.
View attachment 123444

You can tell that Shaq heard about how he took on that block earlier in the game, because here he does attack the correct shoulder and forces the RB back into his help, but this time Pinckney overruns his gap and allows for a cutback lane and this running play goes down to the 3-yard line. The defense is in position, there were just a lot of poor run fits by the LB’s and S’s last year.
View attachment 123445

You hear the coaches talk all the time about the need for their CB’s to be able to tackle and it’s because they really are an extension of your run defense. There are two situations where a CB has a “run fit” or “gap” in run defense: 1. When his WR comes down and blocks down on the edge defender, the CB has to replace the Edge as responsible for that gap in run defense. 2. When he does not have a receiver to his side of the field he immediately becomes the wide defender in the run game. This is a 4th down, and Miami has their second chance to stop Florida in plus territory. Bandy does not have a receiver to his side and is therefore the wide edge defender in the run game. Bandy takes the red angle when he should’ve taken the green angle. If Bandy takes the green angle he forces the runner back into his help. He does the one thing he cannot do here and allows the runner the outside corner and he gets the 1st down. Go where the runner is going, not where he is.
View attachment 123446

It’s not really a run fit, but this little swing pass is an extension of the run game. This is a 2nd and 10 and they have him hemmed in to bring up a long 3rd down. Instead he slips through and picks up the 1st down. You absolutely hate seeing your LB Pinckney get blocked by #1 on this play. Hall stops his feet and it’s a busted run fit that hurts badly.
View attachment 123447

Lack of Coverage
This is a 4th & 5 with Miami holding a 6-point lead. I don’t understand having both Shaq and McCloud on the field here against 5-wide. Shaq is forced to play coverage downfield and it’s an easy conversion. Get another DB on the field in these situations and put your players in a position to succeed. They played a contain rush to keep the QB in the pocket, which plays even further into the idea of having more coverage on the field, rather than Shaq or McCloud. Florida floods their receivers to that side and leaves Shaq to pattern match to that side (meaning he carries Pitts until he goes deep, then Blades picks him up and he drops off onto the outside WR when he comes short). WR runs a whip route (fakes slant or post and then breaks back outside) and it’s an easy conversion.
View attachment 123448

3rd & goal from the 9 and you’d like to see Miami play a coverage package here. Another example of Miami playing three safeties (Knowles, Cart, Hall) and two LB’s (Shaq and Pinckney). I’d rather take Pinckney out on this play and have Finley in the game or another coverage player. Rousseau makes an excellent play with his length and stops the play, but I’m trying to highlight the actual personnel usage in this situation.
View attachment 123449

It worked last time thanks to Florida running the QB, but not this time as the two LB’s on the field are absolutely exposed in coverage. Why does Shaq have his back to the QB? He’s just supposed to get depth here, he’s not in man. Pinckney falls for the outside juke on the Texas route by the RB, falls down, and it’s a walk-in TD on 3rd & goal from the 8. Not great, Bob.
View attachment 123450

Bottom Line
Looking solely at the overall numbers the defense appears to be quite solid, but digging deeper there are clear and obvious problems with the defense that must be improved for the team to take another step forward in 2020.
  • The coaches need to put the defense in a better position to succeed through reduced aggression on 3rd & long. Too often Miami would send six or more rushers looking for the big play and allow the offense to convert. The coaching staff has been quoted as saying, “this is who we are” several times, but on those down’s you don’t need a big play as much as you need a smart play.
  • Miami’s LB’s struggled to maintain gap control in their run fits last year, leading to an inordinate number of successful pickups on the ground. They had reliable tackling and solid leadership, but didn’t produce enough big plays to exhibit poor run fits.
  • Safety play struggled- especially early in the season- and there were communication and alignment issues all season long. With the move to more-and-more three safety defensive alignments, the defense either needs to be simplified, or the safeties need to study more to avoid the coverage busts that cost them games last year.
  • Asking the LB’s to play coverage against athletic pass catchers was a mismatch with Miami’s defense all season long. The defensive staff needs to play more coverage players and fewer LB’s in 2020.
As noted in the Data section of this article, Miami struggled in all areas of defending money downs; running plays, deep passing, QB scrambles. It is on the coaching staff to design a defense that rallies and tackles on long yardage 3rd downs, while still maintaining the havoc and big plays that have defined this defense over the past several years. On a 3rd & 11 getting a sack is not as impactful as it is on 1st & 10, on longer conversion 3rd downs, relying on your front to get pressure and force short passes is the way to improvement in overall performance. Luckily for Miami, 3rd down defense is not especially sticky year-over-year, meaning with small improvements you could see Miami go from mediocre to great on money downs.
2018 most sexiest staff wtiter is back!!! Thanks man. I smell the season getting closer..
 
Nice analysis. Sometimes I though a night cover 3 shell out of nickel would have done the job. We got way too cute.
 
Lance your articles are always spot on. This one hurts a little extra though because I have been on cloud 9 in regards to recruiting. This brought me back to reality. One year in of baker and I can say with certainty I’m not impressed. Let’s hope he improves and the defense as a whole does as well.
 
This is both discouraging and encouraging at the same time. It is nice to know that we can improve quite a bit defensively with nothing more than solid common-sense coaching and scheming. It's discouraging knowing that is not likely to happen since nothing has changed, coaching personnel wise.
 
Great analysis. Definitely think Baker put us in poor schematic positions on 3rd downs but the "we are who we are" comment shows a stubbornness we need to be mitigated to take the next step as a defense. I do however think having more athletic linebackers who can actually run and cover will make a huge difference.
 
Great write-up.

It confirms what a lot of us have been saying.

We don't play a fundamentally sound defense.

The scheme is more of a gimmick predicated around disrupting the backfield. Its a gamble of creating chaos in the backfield hoping to ruin the play, while allowing RB's and TE's to be uncovered.

Its easy to gameplan against especially if you have a strong offensive line, and it's going to continue to be exposed until Baker is removed.
 
We have the athletes on the dline to blitz less and just pressure with a 4 man front, if the dline steps. I have said this for YEARSSSSSS, Manny's Defense is successful when he has an elite/very good DLine coach and this goes back to his days at LA Tech and MSU. Baker had Rick Pitri at LA Tech so the dline bailled him out when he called cutesy plays and the competition was suspect. But now Baker/Diaz need to self assess and go back the Lab an come out with a new hard hitting aggressive 3rd down defense.

Then when he got Miami he had initially had two of best in the industry, which should in Miami's Havoc Rate.

Excellent Work @Lance Roffers as always.

Go Canes
 
Always look forward to these posts. It confirms the memo that has to be sent out.

Executive Summary:

A. Be disciplined and elementary on 3rd down and long. You were already the smarter, micro-managing, short guy on the first two downs. Let players, play. Let Canes, eat.
 
This is 50% on Baker and 50% on the players IMO.
Garvin was very selfish last year as a player. SHAQ and Pickney both should not have been making these simple mistakes as 4 year starters. Knowles is Knowles. And Carter is pure athlete only.

If we still had Jaquon Johnson we win the gator game even with all of our blunders.
 

2021 Commits

S
6'5"
220
Fort Lauderdale, FL
DT
6'4"
255
Miami, FL
OG
6'2"
295
Miami, FL
DT
6'4"
290
Miami, FL
DE
6'5"
210
Miami, FL
WR
6'2"
180
Miami, FL
RB
6'0"
225
Hollywood, FL
TE
6'4"
210
Frisco, TX
S
5'11"
200
Miami, FL
WR
5'11"
160
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Latest Predictions

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High
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Certain

2020 Schedule

09/10
UAB
Miami Gardens, FL
09/19
Louisville
Louisville, KY
09/26
Florida State
Miami Gardens, FL
10/10
Clemson
Clemson, SC
10/17
Pittsburgh
Miami Gardens, FL
10/24
Virginia
Miami Gardens, FL
11/06
NC State
Raleigh, NC
11/14
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA
11/21
Georgia Tech
Miami Gardens, FL
11/28
Wake Forest
Winston-Salem, NC
12/05
North Carolina
Miami Gardens, FL
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