We're back with another weekly podcast featuring our favorite X's-and-O's analyst — Greg Cosell, the longtime NFL Films maven, who's also the executive producer of ESPN's "NFL Matchup." As always, we go through this week's upcoming games with a scout's eye and Greg in control of the All-22 tape.
It's always a must-listen when Greg talks football, so check it out! Subscribe to the Shutdown Corner iTunes link (in iTunes, go to "Advanced/Subscribe to Podcast," and paste this link in: http://ysportspods.podbean.com/category/shutdown/feed/). You can also use the link below to either left-click and listen, or right-click to save to your computer.
Here are the game breakdowns, with a few transcribed pearls of wisdom from Mr. Cosell:
New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers
On the guys who make the Saints' offense go: "The two keys to New Orleans' offense are Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. They're on the field together for numerous snaps. What they've really started to do is to go empty [backfield], but line up those guys just off the tackles, so they are in what's called a 'nudge' position. It's not really a chip, per se — it's just kind of a nudge. The issue for the defense is that, because they're on the line of scrimmage and not in the backfield, there's still an immediate vertical threat. Because what happens if they don't nudge or chip and just immediately release vertically? See, that's the difference when you're on the line of scrimmage as opposed to being in the backfield — you're an immediate vertical threat and must be treated that way by the defense."
We also discuss the formation issues presented specifically by Graham, the "ghost sweep" concept the 49ers really enjoy, why the Saints will really miss not having a pure pass rusher this weekend, New Orleans' possible aversion to stunts, and the two guys who are on the field for the 49ers as much as they can possibly be.
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
On Denver's surprisingly diverse offense: "There wasn't a whole lot of formation creativity, but they took staple things they had done. They used this flash play action to an in-breaking route, but this time, instead of the in-breaking route, they have Demaryius Thomas fake inside and run deep. That was the first 58-yarder. They also started to do a little more designed movement, like play-action boot, and they had a great wrinkle — which I think was put in to take advantage of [Troy] Polamalu's aggressiveness — on the 40-yarder to Daniel Fells. Every team, when they run play-action boot, runs a crossing route. But what they did was to have Fells start on his crossing route, and then take it vertically. They knew Polamalu would read it and jump the route."
We also talk about the defensive adjustments made by the Patriots when these two teams last faced off, the big-time throws Tim Tebow made against the Steelers, the hidden value of New England's running backs, and what was really going on defensively on that amazing 80-yard overtime score.
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
On the way the Texans use their fullbacks and H-backs creatively: "When Lawrence Vickers is in, he sort of fills the Vonta Leach role. He's not quite as good, so he's not the guy all the time. James Casey is kind of a "Joker" who moves around a bit. He's had some big games this year — maybe not numbers-wise for fantasy people, but he's been a very effective player for them. He didn't play Week 6 when the Texans played the Ravens — nor did Andre Johnson, for that matter. But Casey is a very multiple guy — they do a lot with their H-backs. They've got Casey, they've got Joel Dreessen, and they've got Owen Daniels. They do a lot of things with those three guys — not as individual players, but they become difficult defensively because of how they line up, where they line up, and how they're used."
Greg and I also go over why T.J. Yates might be better than some folks believe, how the Texans compensate for the fact that they don't have a prototype run-plugging nose tackle, and just what it is about Joe Flacco that leaves some people wanting more than they're seeing.
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
On what the Giants' defense did to frustrate Aaron Rodgers at times in the first meeting between these two teams: "I thought that they mixed things really well, and it's funny that you bring it up. Obviously, Rodgers had a phenomenal year, and we all love his ability. But I think that over the last month of the season, that offense was a lot more erratic and not quite as consistent as it was through, let's say, the first 10 games. The Giants game was a good example of that. It's lost because the game-winning drive was just beautiful, but there were a number of plays where Rodgers was a little tentative and a little uncertain. I thought the Giants did a good job of taking away throws, and there was no sense of rhythm to the Packers' passing game."
We also talk about Ryan Pickett and the problems Green Bay has had stopping the run, what you might expect should Matt Flynn see any time for any reason, and whether it is indeed possible to spell "Elite" without "Eli."