Monday, October 20, 2008

Coverage Problems Include Linebackers as Well

by: Michael Steffes

Fans, and rightfully so, are cursing the secondary this season. They have given up far too many big plays. Kelly Jennings can't stay on his feet, and Marcus Trufant seems to get too easily manipulated by opposing wide receivers. However . . .

The secondary is not the only unit having problems. Last night the Bucs completed 10 passes to WRs, but they also completed 17 to tight ends and running backs. These are typically linebacker responsibilities. Granted, special tight ends usually draw safeties, but Jerramy Stevens (4 catches for 55 yards), John Gilmore (2 for 20), or Alex Smith (2 for 25) do not qualify as special. Most of the completions were right in the middle of the field, in linebacker territory. Even the longest completion--thrown to Jerramy Stevens--saw him get behind Julian Peterson. Also, neither Dunn nor Graham compare favorably in the passing game to a Reggie Bush. Linebackers should be able to cover these guys. Figure in that neither Lofa Tatupu or Leroy Hill has recoded a sack this year, and the linebackers poor performance is affecting the secondary in that way too.

The linebacker position was supposed to be a strength. It hasn't been. One theory that was thrown around this morning on KJR was that the Seahawks are putting too much emphasis on stopping the run. It makes both the defensive line and the linebackers a step slower once diagnosing pass. This makes a lot of sense to me. The team used its first pick on Lawrence Jackson. They made him a starter mostly based on his ability to stuff the run. They are cheating their safeties into the box FAR MORE than they did last year, and they are getting good results . . . in rush defense. Unfortunately, teams have blasted the defensive unit down the field with explosive pass plays.

Could it be that one performance, in the snow last January, precipitated a complete change in defensive philosophy? I understand not ever wanting to be run over like that again. But whatever has happened, it seems fair to say that allowing a few more rushing yards would be a fair trade off to get some pressure and stop the deep ball. Again, whatever the root causes, the team needs to try something different and see if it sticks. ~END~