I know I'm not the only one who was a little more than excited to steal Jared Crick at the bottom of the 4th round the other day. Combined with first round pick Whitney Mercilus, the Texans front seven is now officially disgusting. I've seen Wade talk about finding ways to get everyone on the field at the same time (because who honestly wouldn't buy a ticket just to see that), and that got my mind going.
If we really did cram everyone on the same field, what would it look like? How would it be used? What situations would call for it? I can't claim to be anywhere near the level of Wade Phillips in terms of football IQ, but I do have an imagination and way too much time on my hands so that will have to do. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you...the Stampede package.First things first, let's look at what this formation would actually look like. I believe it makes most sense to use it when opposing offenses go into 3-wide sets, which is becoming more and more common. With the Titans and Jaguars adding a plethora of receiving talent in the off season, and the Packers, Lions, Bears, Patriots, and Broncos on the schedule, one can expect us to play a lot of nickel this year. It is also handy against two TE sets when one of the TE's are motioned to the slot. At that point Quin will roll down to cover the motioned TE, resulting in a very similar look except the slot receiver will be 6'6" and somewhere between 230-260 lbs.
As you can see, this package calls for essentially a shifted 3-4 with Reed taking over for Sharpton and setting up at SAM ILB. Cushing will be the Will ILB, Barwin will shift to SAM OLB. Mercilus will be Will OLB (where he excels against backs rather than tackles). Unlike traditional nickel packages, Stampede will not sub out a linebacker in exchange for a defensive back. Instead, Quinn will move to nickel corner/SS. He has corner and safety experience, which gives this formation flexibility to roll to base cover 2 looks if need be.
Edge pressure will be the name of the game, with Cushing and Manning handling anything over the middle whether it be runs, scrambles, or crossing routes. Let's take a look at the first play.
Cover 1 Weak Overload
This play is designed to get to the quarterback on 2nd or 3rd and manageable (between 3 and 6 yards). I'll break down responsibilities player by player.
Joseph/Jackson: Press coverage on the number 1 and 2 receivers. Keep in mind their sides can be flipped depending on who is the X and Z on the opposing team. More often than not the number 1 will be strong side, but I trust Joseph to cover those speedy deep threat number 2's more than Kareem (cough cough Torrey Smith), so I put him there for now. This can be adjusted depending on the read. If they see a go route, they can shift to off if need be.
Quin: Off coverage on slot receiver. Make sure nothing gets completed that moves the chains. Play everything in front of him since safety help isn't guaranteed.
Manning: Deep zone. Double team deep routes or come in to lay the wood on someone cutting across the middle. Dealer's choice.
Cushing: Drop back to middle zone to take away slants. Watch for draws and Scrambles. Essentially police the middle.
Reed: Lines up behind Barwin. Start with man to man coverage on the tight end. I put Reed here because he is exceptionally fast and has the best chance in coverage out of all of our pass rushing linebackers. If the TE stays home to block, he drops back to take away the curl.
Barwin: Edge pressure through C gap from the 5 tech. Probably will get double teamed if the TE or RB stays home, but if he gets around the chip and shoots the tackle quick enough, he has a good shot at a sack.
Smith: Hits the B Gap from the 3 tech. Will probably get doubled either way, but if the tackle shifts to take Barwin he will be left one on one, which is a welcome opportunity for Antonio.
Crick: Hits the A gap all the way from the 3 tech. Will be playing across the guard and his leverage will not be squared up, so that first lateral step is very important to get out of the guard's first punch range. Lucky for us, Crick has that first step. If he can occupy the center and guard, he opens things up for Watt.
Watt: Hits the B gap from the 5 tech. Same deal as Crick, that first step needs to be explosive, which Watt can do handily. If the Guard and Center double Crick, Watt is singled up with the tackle inside and get on the QB in a hurry with a good move. If the Guard passes Crick to the Center, JJ could get doubled out of the play.
Mercilus: However. even if Watt or Crick get doubled Mercilus will still be completely unblocked off the edge. Either the tackle adjusts and gives Watt a free shot at the QB, or Mercilus is left one on one with a running back. No matter what, I like our chances of the QB hitting the ground...hard.
This play relies on sound coverage from the secondary. If Jackson looses his man on a deep route, or Glover is a half second slow in the slot, the pressure can be beat. The flats are also very exposed, so RB's with speed can kill this play entirely if they are sent on a route (or a screen). It's up to Manning and Cush to adjust out of it if they see anything fishy from the line. If, however, this is dialed up in the right circumstances and the quarterback does not adjust properly, this play could generate sacks very, very easily. On to the second play.
Every exotic blitz needs a base look counter part or it just won't work. This play provides that, and is particularly effective in 3rd and long passing situations.
Joseph/Jackson: Deep third zones. Doubles the Posts and corners with Manning. Again, can be flipped depending in who the opposing receivers are.
Quin: Drops back to cover the strong side curl and out zones.
Manning: Doubles deep routes. Prevents the big play.
Cushing: Drops back to cover the weak side curl, hook, and slant once Joseph disengages (Only applicable if his receiver doesn't go deep).
Reed: Man to man coverage on the tight end. If the TE stays home to block, he will spy against draws and scrambles.
Barwin: Hits the C gap from the 5 tech. More edge pressure.
Smith: Hits the B gap from the 3 tech. Tries to collapse the pocket.
Crick: Hits the other B gap from the 3 tech. Plays his gap and his gap only on the way to the QB. Has to get through the Guard and behind the Center before they can adjust. If the RB stays home to block, he needs to draw his attention first.
Watt: Will probably get singled up on the tackle depending on what Crick can generate on his first step. If the Tackle makes the mistake of covering Crick and hoping the back takes Watt, then JJ has a free shot at the QB.
Mercilus: Again, with Watt and Crick in front of him being so dangerous, blockers will have to double both of them every snap. This leaves Whitney free yet again to come screaming off the edge and level the QB.
This play has a good balance between coverage and pressure, while not being perfect at either one. The main strengths are having excellent protection against those deep bombs that Chicago, Greenbay, Detroit, and now presumably Tennessee (judging by their off season) like to run. The cover 1 look should bait them into deep posts that can be jumped for turnovers, or at lease covered adequately enough to allow time for sacks. The slot receiver should be relatively well covered, and the TE will again be well covered depending on who it is (As fast as brooks is, he will have trouble covering fast physical specimens like Fleener or Vernon Davis). If the opposing team does happen to possess one of those freak tight ends, then Brooks will have the jam the living hell out of him and hope pass protection gets to the QB before the ball gets to the tight end. The weak side pressure again should be more than any offensive line in the business can handle. That ridiculous Crick-Watt-Mercilus combination is the bread and butter of this package, and should always give this defense a chance at sacking the quarterback on any given down.
The weakness of this play again is the flats and screen game. However, Watt could very easily shift to cover the flat leaving Mercilus with the tackle in a pseudo-zone blitz look if need be. Reed can also cover the strong flat if he needs to. Tight end coverage would be compromised though, so Manning or Cushing will have to be ready to make the tackle if that TE breaks to the middle on a crossing route uncovered. Draws could also potentially kill this play for a big gain. With no inside pressure and Cushing dropping back, it is conceivable that an unchallenged Center could block Cushing from making the tackle on the draw, leaving either Reed coming from across the line or Manning coming from the deep zone as the only people that can stop the running back. Hopefully Brooks' speed can help him make the tackle before too much damage is done in such an instance.
Anyway, on to play 3.
Ahhhhhhh now THIS is what I'm talking about. Bringing the kitchen sink with the entire front 7. Is there anything more fun to watch than seeing an o-line panic in the face of a misread all out blitz? I didn't think so either. This play is reserved for 3rd and really long (13+) because you need the opposing offense to be forced into sending their receivers on long routes. The longer the routes take to develop, the longer our front 7 has to get to the quarterback.
Joseph/Jackson/Quin: Man to man off coverage. Blanket the deep routes to allow time for the blitz.
Manning: Break to cover the Tight End if he gets sent on a route. Once he gets past the linebackers the QB may dump it to him in a panic from the pressure, so all that would matter at that point is limiting yards after catch. If Manning can bring him down before he crosses the line, the offense will be leaving the field. Also has to read and stop the screen if necessary.
Barwin: Hits the C gap from the 5 tech. Edge pressure etc etc etc.
Reed: Shoots the gap right after Barwin on a delayed blitz once his blockers are occupied. Can go around the outside of the tight end if necessary. Whatever gets him to the QB faster.
Smith: Stunts to the A gap from 3 tech. Occupies the center's attention and tries to get to the QB from the inside.
Cushing: Stunts to B gap. Ideally the guard will be occupied with doubling Smith or risk having him be one on one with the center. Should give Cushing a good shot at the QB from the inside barring any cut blocks from the running back.
Crick: Hits the B gap from the 3 tech. Should be singled up with the guard, which is very, very winnable for someone with such a great set of penetrating moves and first step.
Watt: Hits the C gap. Should be singled with the tackle unless the back shifts to double him. Should be able to generate good edge pressure or deliver a spin to cut back inside. Either way the tackle will have his hands full.
Mercilus: Stunts all the way to the A gap. By the time he gets there the center should be engaged with Smith, and Whitney is so fast that adjusting to him suddenly hitting the middle of the pocket will be damn near impossible. The back will have to choose between blocking Crick singled up on a Guard, Watt singled up on a tackle, Cushing stunting untouched to the B gap, or Mercilus screaming around the back of the line to the A gap. It's a lose, lose, lose, and REALLY lose proposition.
This play is all about pressure, and with 7 ridiculous athletes coming after the quarterback, the offense will either have to dump it off, take the sack, or throw it away almost immediately. Of course screens and flats are another weakness to this play, so like any other blitz adjustments will have to be made if a screen is read. All the secondary has to do is keep the receivers covered for 3 seconds and someone, somewhere, will be hitting the quarterback.
So that's a very brief look at the stampede package. Will it get implemented? Probably not. Will I cry tears of joy if I see anything close to it? Absolutely. I know Wade wants to get these guys on the same field as much as I do, so I'm sure he'll come up with something. Thanks for reading.