Major adjustment to DB’s prove key in wild card win and moving forward
Last week I had a feeling that a big adjustment was coming to the personnel group of defensive backs. I thought that Rayshawn Jenkins, a backup safety would help fill in on nickel and dime packages to help with the loss of several linebackers. It made sense, I mean you would want everyone else to keep playing the position they have been used and accustomed too in order to not throw off the chemistry much. So in a sense I was right….but only to a point. Jenkins not only ended up playing a huge factor he ended up being the full time starter as the team’s single high safety. What I did not expect was Jahleel Addae being moved down to linebacker the majority of the time with the exception of last part of garbage time in the last 6 minutes of the game. Essentially moving him back from cover 3 linebacker. Man oh man did this adjustment work.
Jahleel Addae has had his fair share of criticism this season but it’s also the first time he has been asked to play free safety. The fact of the matter is that he much better as an in the box safety not because of his size or bone crushing hit’s. It is simply because of his mentality. He wants to be aggressive and constantly lay a vicious hit on someone and be able to get in a guy’s face when they touch the ball. Essentially he has a linebackers mentality in a defensive back’s body. This move was a perfect fit for him alongside Adrian Phillips who has been patrolling a coverage linebacker position for a good chunk of time now. All this plus they had Derwin James who plays well nearly everywhere, in the same role just opposite side. James size helps to go well to offset the other two undersized Addae and Phillips. All of this speed at the linebacker position really helped to limit the RPO (run, pass, option) that Baltimore loves to run so much. Keeping Lamar Jackson contained so that he couldn’t run wild, which is what makes him successful, forced him into a lot of passing situations and helped exposed his weakness as an actual quarterback. This scheme really forced Jackson to hold the ball for about a second longer than he should have. Resulting in him getting pressured on 19 of 40 plays which is 47.5% of the time. That would be a single game season high of any team in the league this year.
The real question then becomes does the team stick to this scheme that was so successful or would it be a moot point against a Patriots team that has an entirely different scheme? My opinion would be yes they should, however running a cover 3 60% of the time would likely need to drop a bit. Cover 2 might be employed more on early downs with the likes of Kyle Emanuel manning the Mike position. This would be so in order to stop the run more so as New England will more than likely utilize Rex Burkhead more to try and expose the safeties that indeed man the linebacker position. Derwin James will probably be tasked with trying to shut down Rob Gronkowski, who seems to be slowing down this season. I would however love to see Addae utilized as a linebacker still assuming they still stick with the cover 3 packages. The problem will be however is that people should not expect the pressure on the quarter back percentage to be as high as Tom Brady still has the quickest release in the NFL, so the outside corners will need to have tight coverage to force Brady to try and hold the ball a bit longer. This is no easy task as many teams try and yet don’t accomplish.
The team also utilized the “bear front” scheme during wild card week. Essentially it means that the defense takes both tackles and one of the defensive end’s to clog up the opposing teams interior lineman playing head up on the guard’s and center. Leaving one end and the designated “leo” to have one on one while rushing the quarterback. I feel that this particular package should not be utilized in the same manner in the coming week. This will allow the Patriots to take advantage of the undersized safeties playing linebacker. I absolutely loved all of the adjustments the Chargers made and will be ever so curious to see if the same type of packages get utilized against Tom Brady and the evil empire or if a different scheme will be deployed. Either way this Chargers team has everything they need to slow the Patriots offense and their undersized receivers.