1. EVERYTHING DIES
This week this is the only thing that matters. All the other words are empty and meaningless. I could have copied and pasted this ten times and moved on.
After seven years of limiting offensive production, horrendous quarterback play put upon himself, maddening in-game decisions, and a power struggle that led to mad-king mentally ill personnel moves based around feelings and reactions, without any sort of long-term planning, we finally have our favorite football team back. I, and everyone else, wrote more about it here, and you can listen to the podcast here and below.
All those wasted days are gone. It’s time to hop on Romeo Crennel’s lap, snuggle up to his chest, nuzzle his bosom, and enjoy Houston football again while he tussles your hair. We can think about future head coaches and everything else another day. Let’s just narrow our focus, forget about Jack Easterby, and enjoy the now right now.
2. WIDEN THAT THING OUT
Myles Garrett is having another Defensive Player of the Year type of season, the same type of season he had last year, until he tried to bludgeon Mason Rudolph with his own helmet, while Rudolph scurried for the country club afraid to finish a fight he started. He’s currently tied first with Za’Darius Smith with five sacks, and is tied for third with 14 pressures. In addition to these league leading numbers, he’s forced three fumbles, and has six quarterback hits.
Garrett (#95) does it all, but the best part of his game, is when he lines up as a wide JET rusher. Earlier this year he was lined up against Geron Christian Sr. (#74) as a right defensive end.
Christian Sr. makes it through one and a half kick-slides before bailing on his pass set. The speed is too tremendous. Garrett is too wide. Despite this, Christian Sr. still is unable to set up deep enough. Garrett takes a killer angle, goes through the outside half, rips, bends, and curls around the pocket. Dwayne Haskins climbs the pocket with Garrett inner tubing behind him. His shirt is the handle. It stretches out like a sunscreen bottle. His spine is the boat. Momentum comes to a standstill. Haskins tumbles, stumbling, drunk and exhausted.
Against Dallas, Garrett had two sacks. He usually lined up wide over rookie right tackle Terence Steele (#78). On passing downs, he rarely lined up on Steele’s outside shoulder, and usually was another shade over, outside an invisible tight end.
On his first sack, he hesitated getting off the line of scrimmage. With Ezekiel Elliot in the backfield, a chip seemed imminent. A spotlight on him. Garrett starts his rush once Elliot releases inside the tackle. With a sudden burst he breaks across Steele’s face, sticks, then spins back wide away from Elliot. Steele reacts well to the spin, but he overreacts. One hand becomes too, he leans forward, without having a firm grasp of Garrett. Garrett devours Dak Prescott before he can release the ball.
Similar to the Atlanta game, lost fumbles sunk ships for the Dallas Cowboys. Garrett is once again lined up wide against Steele. Garrett utilizes a pure edge rush here. Steele, dealing with a pass rusher who can unleash a whirlwind of pass rush moves both outside and inside, has a stuttering pass set that fails to find the balance between staying strong enough to take on an inside move, and quick enough to meet Garrett at the point of attack. He sticks on his post foot. His pass set is sticky. At the point of attack he’s turned and open. Garrett chops his punch, rips under, washes the window, and runs the arc of the pocket to pick Prescott from behind.
The Browns pass rush is more than Garrett. They have one of the best interior pass rushes in the league. Larry Ogunjobi is in the middle of a breakout season. Sheldon Richardson is worth every dollar the Browns gave him in free agency in 2019. And they still haven’t gotten much from Olivier Vernon yet this season. Yet, Garrett is the star at the center of this solar system, and everything rotates around him. He’s been the league’s best edge rusher this season, and is still enjoying his time at the intersection of potential and production.
3. GARY FEELING HIMSELF
I still can’t believe Gary Kubiak had the audacity to run a quarterback sweep with Kirk Cousins on 4th and 2 against Houston last weekend.
The play design was perfect. Each piece had an impact on this play to create the fourth down conversion.
First, Dalvin Cook motions from a wide receiver position behind the formation, pulling Zach Cunningham (#41) along with him. The backside scoop between Dakota Dozier (#78) and Garrett Bradbury (#56) goes from Brandon Dunn (#92) up to Cunningham. This puts Cunningham in conflict. His man coverage responsibilities are pushed to Benardrick McKinney (#55). Cunningham becomes the hook defender, but he’s lost in the motion. He doesn’t see the hand off until it’s too late, removing himself out of the play in a heap of confusion.
The backside of the play has three receivers running wide, carrying the back side pursuit along with them. J.J. Watt lines up over right tackles. That’s what he does now. Kubiak makes sure to run this play away from Watt. Brian O’Neil (#75) protects the ‘B’ gap and widens out to wall Watt from the play.
On the play side, Dru Samia (#78) has to reach Carlos Watkins’s (#91) outside shoulder. Both receivers have a block to make. This is when Kubiak really gets wild. He has Chad Beebe (#12), all 183 pounds of him, block down on Whitney Mercilus (#59), and Justin Jefferson is supposed to block Vernon Hargreaves III (#26). This leaves Riley Reiff (#71) pulling around these blocks to lead the way for Cousins, and gets him up on Justin Reid (#20).
Everything works to perfection. The scoop drives Dunn five yards up the field and Bradbury has no one to block. Watkins ignores his keys. He drives up field, opening himself to Samia’s reach block. The left guard does a great job getting wide with his first two steps, inviting Watkins up field, and hooks him away from the play. Beebe lathers Mercilus with a rambunctious block—absolutely embarrassing. Jefferson almost blows the play, and is unsure of who he’s supposed to block, but his match up is against Hargreaves III, so it doesn’t matter anyways. And Reiff cleans out Reid when he tries to take the block on low, instead of slithering around it to play the ball.
From there, Cousins does the rest. He ran a 4.82 40 yard dash in 2012. He runs a 5.4 in 2020. He almost spins out of control after turning the corner, but slows down enough to ensure he gets the first. That’s a little something called being an athlete.
Thanks for the memories Gary, and thank you for lopping the head off the witch.
The Buccaneers are more enjoyable than I thought they’d be entering this summer. I was despondent of the thought of Tom Brady replacing Jameis Winston in a vertical aggressive passing offense turning something deep and spacious into clean and efficient and robotic. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin catching six yard slant routes, O.J. Howard running into the flat, and lots of Scotty Miller juke routes. Make it stop.
The Bucs have done a great job molding the two ideas together, to create one of the better offenses in the league. They combine heavy three tight end sets to smash their run game behind their interior trio of disgusting scurvy ridden blockers, spread things out with four and five wide receiver sets, and the best part is when they mold the two together, creating a vertical passing game from heavy formations off of play action.
Tampa has run vertical passing plays like this with success for the entirety of this season, and last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, they completed three big passes exactly like this.
The first came on second and eight. They have 13 personnel (1 running back, three tight ends, and one wide receiver), one tight end left, and two tight ends right. There are eight players along the line of scrimmage against a nine man box with one safety deep. Tom Brady fakes the hand off and Tampa runs four vertical routes out of this typical power run formation.
The Chargers are playing cover three, and have a ‘LIZ’ call to cover four verticals, with only three deep defenders. This pulls safety Rayshawn Jenkins (#23) to cover the second vertical, and he also has Kyzir White (#44) acting as the weak hook, who carries O.J. Howard (#80, the ‘Y’) to the center of the field where there typically is a deep middle defender. Yet, because of the offensive formation, this leads to Nasir Adderly (#24) covering Rob Gronkowski (#87).
Jenkins blows the coverage. He ends up doubling up on Cameron Brate (#84), instead of sticking on Howard, where he and White should be doubling the seam. Howard widens out his route, to create space horizontally, and wins his 40 yard dash against White. Brady isn’t a laser beam anymore, but he can still throw downfield with loft and multiple colors. This is what we like to call in the business a touchdown.
Now it’s first and ten. The Bucs have 13 personnel once again. They motion running back Ronald Jones (#27) from a wide receiver and into the backfield. Out of 13 personnel they are still able to create a bunch right formation with two tight ends since Scotty Miller (#10) is lined up tight to the line of scrimmage.
Tampa is running a vertical with Miller, a deep post with Howard that breaks inside once he runs past the first level of the defense, and an out and up with Mike Evans (#13) on the left sideline. The Chargers are playing cover three sky (the safety is the flat defender), with the weak hook working back to the seam, since the safety has the flat.
Similar to Howard, Miller runs horizontally to create space. Casey Hayward (#26) doesn’t take a true zone turn right away. With Miller’s head down, he’s counting steps, assuming Miller is going to run an out, and that Brady’s first read is the post. He maintains outside leverage, knowing he has deep middle safety help, but he’s unprepared when Miller turns his route up along the numbers and inside of him. The free safety Adderly (#24) is focused on the post, and is unable to come from middle to the numbers to affect this high arching Brady pass.
On this last one, it’s first and ten, and the Bucs are a little more spread out. They have 12 personnel, and motion O.J. Howard as a split end. It’s a twist on a trips wide receiver formation. Miller (#10) is selling the slot fade and cuts it back to the quarterback. Evans is running a deep dig. Leaving Howard running a deep post.
The Chargers aren’t prepared for this play action pass. They’re playing a 4-3 defense, and don’t have the three corners needed for a cover three defense to defend 3x1 formations how they typically do. This leaves the deep middle safety Adderly (#24) covering the post. It’s an easy Eddie Bauer XXXL Hawaiian shirt throw for Brady, and Adderly saves a touchdown with a leg chomping tackle.
With a blitz heavy defense, the second best run defense in football, and a creative offense that uses heavy formations, three tight sets, and a wide assortment of pass catchers, the Bucs are not only one of the best teams in the league, but they’re also one of the most creative, interesting, and entertaining teams as well. Tampa no longer drifts into the bizarre and absurd waters that Winston charted last season, so instead, they’ve had to just settle for being good.
5. OUR WEEK FOUR JOSH ALLEN HIGHLIGHTS
I used to like to think of consciousness as rings. With enough time and effort one could break out of a current lair of circular thinking, and expand to a new forefront of thought and life. This summer I learned this thinking was all wrong. It isn’t a ring. It’s a spiral. And the goal is to get deeper and deeper to the center. It isn’t to expand outward.
This week I took another step down deeper to the center. I found a better and more beautiful way to live. Rather than stew in resentment that my Josh Allen has gone mainstream, the source of YOLO Josh Allen Ringer videos, MVP discussions, and hearing the same words I’ve screamed into the cave bounce back at me from other sources, I’ve learned to savor and appreciate it.
See, these aren’t MY Josh Allen highlights, or YOUR Josh Allen highlights, but OUR Josh Allen highlights. Like the sun’s light, Allen’s play and grace doesn’t exist only for me and the wonderful souls in Western Buffalo, who haven’t been excited about a quarterback’s performance since Kyle Orton, it’s for all of us. He doesn’t fling one arm ejections while escaping the pocket with a higher velocity than half the quarterbacks in the league do after taking a full three step drop, or lead John Brown to yards after the catch chances, or hit sideline corner routes to Cole Beasley, or understand the match up advantage he has with Stefon Diggs boxing out a safety, or toy with pass rushers in the pocket, for me, or for them, but for all of us.
I mean, come on, how good is OUR God?
Of all the wonderful events he created for us to bask in, this touchdown throw to Beasley was the best. In the redzone, on third and seven, the Bills have 10 personnel and a trips right formation. The Raiders are playing cover one with linebacker Corey Littleton (#42) acting as the rat defender.
The Bills have three v. three on the right side against a middle of the field safety. Slant-flat is routine redzone route combination. It creates an easy rub, and forces the defense to pass off their routes quickly, if they don’t, it usually creates an easy first down or score. John Brown runs into the flat (#15), but rather than run a slant over it, Beasley doesn’t cut this route route inside, instead, he chops his feet up the seam, selling the slant to the deep middle safety, keeping him in place, and then he looks back for the ball.
It’s a great play design by Brian Daboll, to use something defensive backs are used to seeing, and reconfiguring it into something unexpected. Josh Allen makes this throw with his eyes though. His head is turned and fixated on Brown in the slot. The defensive back assumes the safety can defend the slant, and the ball is going to the flat for the easy first. With his eyes on Brown, Allen keeps his peripheral on Beasley, pulling both defensive backs over, and rifling a pass up and away from the defender.
Through four weeks Allen has gone from sublime and entertaining, into the best quarterback in the league, and a legitimate MVP candidate. The Bills are 4-0 and he’s neck and neck with Aaron Rodgers in both passing DVOA and DYAR. Four games doesn’t make an entire career, but so far, to start 2020, he’s answered the deep ball question, and emerged as an actually great quarterback.
The scary thing is Buffalo is going to be even better. It looks like they’ve finally figured out their offensive line configuration by starting Cody Ford and Brian Winters at guard. Devin Singletary is starting to boil. Both their starting linebackers are healthy again. And their defensive line finally played a great game and controlled the line of scrimmage against Las Vegas. Ed Oliver’s run stops were exquisite last week.
With the Houston Texans at 0-4, and other teams already in shambles with their season fallen apart, it’s never too late to smash your friends and families through beer soaked tables, and make the Bills your extramarital electric closet, pool house bathroom affair. On both sides of the ball they’re riveting, they don’t have the playoff success the other top teams have, and Allen is the most exciting and interesting quarterback in the league.
Come, join me, and live a life of grace in his goodness.
6. JOEY BUCKETS
Joe Burrow, or Joey Buckets as he’s called in the Weston household, can’t miss. Well, he almost can’t miss. When throwing passes less than 20 yard through the air he’s a sharp shooter. Head shots only. There’s never a wasted bullet. The home invasion looks like a bull stampeded through the watermelon patch. Skull and blood mixed together into a gory soup painted across the floor.
Burrow is great at everything, navigating the pocket, reading the defense, finding the open throw, using his eyes to manipulate coverage, understanding when to escape, hitting throws on the run, and completing passes with both accuracy and precision. There’s one problem though.
On throws over 20 yard through the air he is 1/23 for 23 yards and 1 touchdown. On throws less than 20 yards down the field he has a completion percentage of 79.3%. On throws from 10-20 yards he is 28/42 for 454 yards, which is 66.6%, and 10.8 yards an attempt. He’s been a putrid deep passer. This isn’t merely just the result of force feeding. He had open throws he just missed.
The arm is a little weak. His velocity is viscous. But quarterbacks with below average arms can still throw with loft to complete downfield passes. And Burrow has the most important aspect of the position nailed down, short to intermediate accuracy. We’ve seen this from young quarterbacks before. Downfield passing takes some quarterbacks a few years to figure out as they adjust to the speed of the game and the locations of where the ball needs to be.
There’s no need to sound the alarm. Burrow has been as good as advertised, especially when considering the offensive line he’s playing behind. There’s just this one voluptuous issue deriding his game. It will be interesting to see if he can throw his way out of it this season, and how defenses will adjust to this one glaring issue as the season progresses.
7. I HAVE TO BE TEDDY
This section is for me, and only me. The only thing that made the firing of Bill O’Brien sweeter, was Teddy Bridgewater leading the Panthers to a win over Arizona and fight back to 2-2. They lost a close game to Oakland, and will have problems against any team that can actually run the ball. Turnovers killed them against Tampa Bay. Turnovers saved them against L.A. (C).
And last week, Bridgewater was exact, and played better than Kyler Murray did on the opposite sideline. He made a pre-snap decision to keep on the bootleg and convert on 4th and 2.
He led D.J. Moore to create yards after the catch, to convert on a mesh design on third and ten.
He scrambled for a touchdown against a quarters defense by breaking two tackles, setting up his blocks, and splitting three defenders to cross the goal line.
He read the defense from left to right, and found Robbie Anderson on a quick dig against a linebacker.
He zipped a slant pass past the first level defender, hitting Anderson in stride.
After missing an open slot vertical route to Anderson, he followed it up by hitting D.J. Moore on a sick out route, putting the ball in between the levels of zone coverage.
And he used to motion to move the defense over, creating a man v. man opportunity for Moore on a quick slant against Byron Murphy. The pass was low and inside, and only where Moore could get it.
Bridgewater is an above average starter. He’s more than good enough to lead a team to the postseason, you know, the type of thing he did with a crappy collection of offensive players in Minnesota. Then his leg exploded. Then he fought back and spent time in Sean Payton’s quarterback halfway house, taking the Saints to 5-0 while Drew Brees was injured last season, and now, with Carolina all his, he’s providing good quarterback play, making it impossible for the Panthers to tank against a difficult schedule.
The defense is still too young. The offensive line has a hole, maybe two, to plug up. The Panthers are a year away, and an easier schedule away from being a postseason team, but already, they’re showing signs of success in a —POST Cam Newton existence, and even though it probably isn’t, I like to think it’s all because of Teddy.
8. JERRY AND QUINNEN REMEMBERED HOW TO PLAY FOOTBALL AGAIN
In the 2019 NFL Draft, Quinnen Williams was selected third overall by the New York Jets, and Jerry Tillery was selected 28th overall by the Los Angeles Chargers. Neither had much of an impact their rookie seasons, and it was pretty much a lost year for them. Williams had 6 quarterback hits, 2.5 sacks, 4 tackles for a loss, and 11 pressures. Tillery had 3 quarterback hits, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, and 3 pressures.
This season, both players have nearly eclipsed their previous production in the first month of this season. Williams is a hippopotamus along the New York Jets front. In their base defense he plays 3-4 defensive end. On passing downs he lines up as a defensive tackle, and provides juice as both a bull rusher, quick slanter, and looper.
Here, Williams (#95) is a 4i, playing the ‘B’ gap, and the Colts are running outside zone left. This means Quenton Nelson (#56) is tasked with a ridiculous block. He has to take a zone step, and reach Williams’s outside shoulder. Nelson does exactly this, but Williams overwhelms him with his strength. He devours the inside shoulder, drives Nelson backwards, and completely removes Jonathan Taylor’s ability to bend this run wide. Williams drives one of the best guards in the league three yards backwards and makes the tackle for a loss.
Dalton Risner (#66) has made the transition from tackle to guard in the NFL seamless. He’s a plus starter at this position in only his second year in the league. The Broncos are running outside zone left, and Risner has to reach Williams’s inside shoulder. Like the previous play, Williams drives Risner into the backfield, but here, he uses his length to extend him, tosses him away, and garottes the attempt.
Williams is a line of scrimmage mover. He picks up the invisible line, carries it, and slams it down two yards backwards play after play. The majority of his run stops look like this. Punch, drive backwards, extend, all while keeping his eyes on the ball carrier to make plays on the ball. This isn’t aimless ferocious athleticism. It’s intelligent and skillful play.
This same strength carries over as a pass rusher. He’s a dominating bull rusher. Red cape. Head down. He drives the blocker backwards, forcing him to anchor down. When guards drop their weight, Williams likes to use this change in leverage as an opportunity to swim over the top and escape from the block.
Instantly he gets off the ball, and beats offensive linemen who know the snap count. On this sack, he beats Trent Williams’s (#71) down block on a play action pass. His head is across of his, taking him all the way into the center, and into the pulling guard selling the play action. Williams isn’t buying. He’s able to take down Nick Mullens while playing the ball.
This quick burst pairs perfectly with the five man blitzes and pressures Gregg Williams conjures up. On this quarterback hit, negated by a weak roughing the passer penalty, Williams punches, waits for his linebacker to shoot the ‘A’ gap, and quickly loops around him into the other ‘A’ gap. He uses his inside arm to deflect Risner as he comes across to pick up the stunt.
Tillery (#99), is a wide spreading sunset across the horizon. He plays every technique from the ‘3’ on. On run downs, he usually plays defensive tackle, paired with everyone’s favorite Snorlax Linval Joseph. He has excellent and active hands, making it difficult for offensive linemen to ever come directly into contact with him and control the block. He understands how to take on half a blocker to perfection, so he isn’t bruised by men larger than him. On this play, he’s the ‘3’ technique defending the outside zone against Kansas City.
He still has his struggles against behemoths like Alex Cappa, Ali Marpet, and Ryan Jensen, and didn’t provide much disruption against Tampa Bay last week. But against spread attacks, and quicker offensive lines, he’s more than a viable run defender.
On passing downs, the Chargers like to move him outside. When Melvin Ingram is healthy, the Chargers prefer to use him as an interior rusher, using his speed to blindside lumbering interior giants, and Tillery on the exterior, since he has the hands and quickness to rush way out over there. This time, Tillery gets left tackle Eric Fisher (#72) on a perfect chop rip move.
Here, he fakes the slant inside, pauses, and then loops out wide on a stunt. He comes tight around Fisher, surprises him with the loop, and is able to turn a long developing stunt into a quarterback hit and an incompletion.
The hands shine on the interior too. He’s just more one dimensional here, since guards have the strength to lock him up. In man v. man situations, he can still win match ups with chops and rips, while keeping his torso at a 45 degree angle extending from his waist. Someone has been hanging out with Joey Bosa.
It’s always a shame when tremendous college prospects aren’t able to carry their talent to the next level, leaving an empty hole on the roster, and in our hearts. Thankfully, Tillery and Williams, two of my favorite players from the 2019 NFL Draft, have learned how to play football again.
9. THE BEST ATHLETES ON EARTH
Khalil Mack. Former third overall pick. The type of player you can build an entire defense around. A neck that even Michael Myers couldn’t strangle if he popped up out of the backseat of his car right before pulling out of the garage. Nuclear bull rush. Quick blinking edge rushes. He’s the 1% of the 1%.
That being said, he’s still a human, a human who dropped the easiest interception you’ll ever see. This is like the ocean dropping a drop of rain. Impossible. Unfathomable. Khalil Mack. He’s just like the rest of us.
10. THESE THROWS
Justin Herbert, not Joe Burrow has been the best rookie quarterback this year. He’s 11th in DVOA, 13th in DYAR (despite not starting week one), 11th in adjusted yards an attempt, and 15th in QBR. Who knew Tyrod Taylor being stabbed by the team doctor was just the spark Los Angeles needed.
He’s already entered the Josh Allen zone. Herbert is a young quarterback who combines the stupid and the spectacular. He doesn’t know any better, all he knows is how to play ball. There’s no frontal lobe scaring him, making him think of his future self, his future body, that may feel the upcoming spear from the rhino’s horn, so there he sits, taking on the entirety of the detonation, and delivering on time, regardless of the rampaging Armageddon swirling around him.
Week one between the Bengals and Chargers was a depressing affair. The Chargers, in their 1990s cereal box uniforms, piss yellow, and white, hideous drab blue section of sock, looking like a Spiderman villain. Plenty of deep Burrow misses. Los Angeles’s offense was only swing routes to Austin Ekeler and deep heaves to Mike Williams, reaching a stretchy arm up with one hand out to passes steering him out of bounds. But now with Herbert, the Chargers sing electric, mixing together the stupid with the spectacular.