Greg Cosell

  • Greg Cosell's SB 50 Preview: Carolina's fun, creative running game

    Greg Cosell at Shutdown Corner 19 hrs ago

    When you watch the Carolina Panthers closely in Super Bowl 50, you'll see a run game that's unlike any other in the NFL.

    They have a running game that, among NFL teams, is most like what you’d see in the college game. They built their running game around quarterback Cam Newton’s running skills. Newton doesn’t run that much, but defenses always have to account for him in the running game. That's huge. (We have discussed the Panthers' creative offense before, here and here.)

    And when you consider that the Broncos’ defense is coming off a game in which it hit New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady repeatedly, slowing down the front seven is a key.

    And Newton isn’t just a decoy in the running game, he’s more than capable of getting big plays on designed runs. On consecutive plays he had an 11-yard run on a third-and-10 and a 12-yard touchdown.

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  • Greg Cosell's SB 50 Preview: Keys for Peyton Manning vs. Panthers

    Greg Cosell at Shutdown Corner 2 days ago

    The Denver Broncos won the AFC championship game, but there are still things their offense must do better in Super Bowl 50, specifically in the passing game.

    Peyton Manning was up and down with his ball placement in the AFC title game against the New England Patriots, and that has been a continuous problem with him this season. He made some throws, but he was also inaccurate on a number of throws that were there.

    There were a few examples from the win over the Patriots, and here’s one: On the first play after a Von Miller interception, the Broncos had a well-designed concept against man coverage with Emmanuel Sanders going in motion to gain leverage against cornerback Malcolm Butler on a seam route. It worked, Sanders was open, and Manning missed him. It should have been an easy touchdown.

    Manning also missed Jordan Norwood on a touchdown later in the game with an inaccurate pass, and he had Sanders on a go route with 2:09 left to put the game away but threw it too short and too far inside.

    One issue the Broncos will have is protecting Manning, specifically from the rush up the middle. It might be a matchup problem for the Broncos.


  • Greg Cosell's SB 50 Preview: Can Carolina slow Denver's pass rush?

    Greg Cosell at Shutdown Corner 3 days ago

    In the AFC championship game, the Denver Broncos’ pass rush got to Tom Brady repeatedly and was the biggest key in Denver’s victory.

    It’s not like that game was a template for what to expect in Super Bowl 50. This will be a totally different game for the Broncos. Their approach will have to change because the Carolina Panthers will have a much different protection philosophy than Denver saw in its last game.

    The Patriots lined up often in shotgun, spread formations and tried to protect with their five offensive linemen. That didn't work. The Panthers are a protection-first offense. They’ll often protect with six and seven players. They won’t have quarterback Cam Newton drop back deep and expect their offensive tackles to go one-on-one against Von Miller or DeMarcus Ware.

    Here’s what it looked like on a 39-yard pass to Ted Ginn on the sideline.


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  • Greg Cosell's Film Review: How Denver's D dominated the Patriots

    Greg Cosell at Shutdown Corner 10 days ago

    The Denver Broncos defense created a lot of problems for the New England Patriots offense, through good coaching, adept play-calling and simply winning one-on-one battles.

    The Broncos came in with a game plan to rarely blitz, hoping to win up front with three- and four-man rushes, and throw a lot of different coverage looks at Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. There were many plays in which the Broncos features man concepts and matchup zone concepts within the same play, never giving Brady a clear picture of the coverage.

    In New England's first two possessions alone, the Broncos used all the following coverages: “2 man” with two deep safeties and man coverage underneath behind a four- man rush, and "2 man" behind a three-man rush with a dropping lurk defender, “quarters” zone (four defensive backs all responsible for one-quarter of the field), “Cover 3” zone (three defensive backs responsible for a deep third), quarter-quarter-half split zone coverage, man free, and man free with matchup zone concepts behind a three-man rush. The Broncos also gave tight end Rob Gronkowski a lot of attention with a number of different double-team concepts.

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  • Greg Cosell's AFC championship preview: Broncos need to be sharper

    Greg Cosell at Shutdown Corner 13 days ago

    For each of the conference championship games this weekend, we'll take a look at what the film tells us about the key matchups on each side of the ball.

    Here are a few things to look for in the AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos:

    Broncos offense vs. Patriots defense

    Peyton Manning has been a focal point, but there wasn’t much new from his performance against the Steelers that we hadn’t seen already this season.

    Manning prefers to line up in the shotgun, and did most of the game, even though Gary Kubiak’s offense has never used the shotgun much before. Manning was not quite as consistently precise with his ball placement as he used to be, and there were many examples in the Steelers game of that.

    One example came on the first play of the second quarter. Manning, who can read a defense as well as anyone, called a great audible. He got Demaryius Thomas open on the deep post against Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell. But he overthrew the pass. It would have been a touchdown.

    The Broncos passing game had no continuity in the first half between some inaccurate throws by Manning and drops by his receivers. The Broncos need to clean that up.

  • Greg Cosell's NFC championship preview: Pass rush is the key

    Greg Cosell at Shutdown Corner 13 days ago

    For each of the conference championship games this weekend, we'll take a look at what the film tells us about the key matchups on each side of the ball.

    Here are a few things to look for in the NFC championship game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers:

    Cardinals offense vs. Panthers defense

    The Panthers are going to want to get Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer under pressure and playing fast. That happened to an extent to Palmer against the Packers last week.

    I think the Panthers might increase their normal blitz frequency in this game. They are usually a “safe” blitzing team, often bringing an extra rusher with some zone blitz concepts, because their foundation is as a zone coverage defense.

    That’s what the Panthers want to do to Palmer. The Cardinals can find some deep passes against the Panthers’ zone coverage if the protection is there. Against any zone coverage, there are always voids, and Bruce Arians is masterful at concepts to beat any coverage. But you need time for the receivers to get in those voids. And the Seahawks showed a lot of voids in the Panthers zone coverage concepts in the second half last week; it was very evident on film.


  • Greg Cosell's Film Review: The two big Packers-Cardinals plays

    Greg Cosell at Shutdown Corner 17 days ago

    Before the final seconds of regulation in the Arizona Cardinals' win over the Green Bay Packers, it was a game that featured uneven performances by both quarterbacks.

    Aaron Rodgers had just 160 yards before a big 60-yard pass to Jeff Janis on fourth down from deep in their own territory. Carson Palmer was erratic throwing the ball during the game, in part because of Green Bay's pressure.

    But all anyone will remember years from now is two plays near the end.

    Rodgers hit Janis on a Hail Mary as time expired. A look at the film shows how much of a Hail Mary it really was.

    The Cardinals blitzed, sending seven and dropping only four into coverage, which meant Rodgers couldn't get set before he threw it. Rodgers was chased from the pocket and just had to get rid of the ball before he got hit. When you look, at the moment Rodgers threw the ball Janis was 20 yards from the end zone and wasn't even looking at Rodgers. This isn't how you draw it up, but Rodgers did a fine job to get the ball to the end zone, and Janis adjusted quickly and made a nice catch for the score.

    After the extra point, the game went to overtime and the Cardinals made a big play of their own.

  • Greg Cosell's Playoff Preview: Breaking down Sunday's games

    Greg Cosell at Shutdown Corner 19 days ago

    After the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals moved on to the conference championship round Saturday, we move on to break down Sunday's games.

    That includes a tough game to get a read on, because of injury issues and uncertainty about both quarterbacks:


    Protecting Cam Newton might be the Panthers’ highest priority in this game.

    They’re going against a Seattle pass rush that really bothered the Minnesota Vikings offense last week. The Seahawks dominated up front in the run game, and also in getting pressure on Teddy Bridgewater.

    Up front, the Seahawks strength stems from Michael Bennett, who can play laterally down the line of scrimmage in the run game, can win one-on-one pass rushes and is as good as there is in the NFL. He can line up at any position, and the Panthers will spend a lot of time identifying where Bennett is and then adjusting. On a red-zone sack on third down late in the third quarter, Bennett split a double team by the right guard and right tackle and forced Bridgewater to leave the pocket. Bridgewater ran into a sack by Cliff Avril, who was lined up wide in a two-point stance.


  • Greg Cosell's Playoff Preview: Breaking down Saturday's games

    Greg Cosell at Shutdown Corner 20 days ago

    Like last week's previews, I hope to give you a few keys to watch during this weekend's divisional round games, whether it's a matchup issue or a specific concept that could change the course of the game.

    Here are the previews for Saturday's divisional games:


    The two star tight ends on each side, and how the defenses defends them, are among the biggest keys to this game.

    Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is tough to stop. Here’s a great example of the matchup issues he creates. Last week against the Texans, on second-and-6, Kelce lined up on the line against the Texans’ nickel defense. Houston used nickel most of the game against “12” personnel, which is one back and two tight ends, with cornerback Kevin Johnson matched on Kelce. And on this 25-yard gain, Kelce ran a great route, using initial leverage to create separation against a faster corner.

    Kelce got 48 more yard late in the third quarter. He was the No. 2 receiver in a 3x1 set with three receivers to one side and one to the other. The Texans used man coverage to the trips side, and Kelce got open on an in-breaking route against outside leverage cornerback Kareem Jackson.

  • Greg Cosell's Playoff Preview: Breaking down NFC wild-card games

    Greg Cosell at Shutdown Corner 26 days ago

    On Saturday we previewed the AFC wild-card games, and now it's time to look at the NFC matchups.

    In these posts I'll share something I've noticed from watching film, either a strategic wrinkle or a matchup issue, that you can watch for in the game. Here's the preview of the NFC wild-card games:


    I went back and looked at the first matchup between these teams, a 38-7 Seahawks win in Minnesota on Dec. 6, and i t was evident early in the game that the Vikings offensive line could not handle the physical challenge presented by the Seahawks defensive line.

    If the Vikings want to change the result today, that specific matchup can't be as one-sided as it was. The Vikings can't be physically handled up front. In this space we talk about a lot of strategic concepts, but in that first meeting it simply came down to the physical side of the game, at least when the Vikings were on offense. 

    Here are two Adrian Peterson runs that show how little room the Vikings line made for him.The first is a 1-yard loss from the first quarter:

    Peterson had just 18 yards on eight carries in the first game.