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Analyzing Mathis' run defense against the Bills


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We've discussed this in other threads, but I wanted to break this down a little bit and go over it to see what happened on the second defensive play of the game. Mathis isn't considered a great run defender, and some are concerned about other teams determining to run his direction in order to expose a weakness on our team. 

 

I don't think that's an issue, so long as Mathis plays disciplined football. So, here's the second play, where Spiller takes it 15 yards (following up a 17 yarder to open the game), in four different shots:

 

The Bills have 21 personnel and are in Strong I, to the left. Mathis is standing up, on the near side. First of all, we were debating whether this play was designed to go to Mathis' side or not. I was convinced it was going away from Mathis, but I think it's a designed weakside cutback run. The line all block to the strongside, but the fullback blocks the weakside, and the running back comes back to the weakside right after he takes the handoff. If that's the case, then it is designed to come Mathis' way, but only after action the other way.
 

 

As the ball is snapped, Spiller takes the handoff going to the strongside. You can see the fullback coming back to block weakside. The right tackle is blocking the left defensive end, so Mathis is unblocked at this point. At that point, he kind of enters no man's land defensively, because the play looks like it's going away from him, and he's not engaged with a blocker.

 

 

The play is still going to the strongside, as far as anyone can tell at this point. The line is all blocking that way, but you can see in this shot and the next that Walden and whoever the right defensive end is have kind of shut that side down. The nose tackle also gets great penetration. At this point, it's up to the backside defenders to close in on the ball carrier and keep him from getting in open space on the backside. This is especially important if this is actually a designed backside cutback/counter play.

 

Mathis has two choices. He's turned completely toward the playside, and intends to chase the play down going straight down the line. He's a great effort, high motor kind of player, so this isn't surprising. But the fullback is right in his path, and it opens up the backside. What he should do is come up the field, then engage the blocker, that way the play can't come backside without the ball carrier going backward. This isn't about power or size, it's about putting himself in the proper place. If he does this, he probably won't be able to make the tackle, but he will be a part of the defensive wall that keeps the ball carrier from getting vertical and shooting upfield.

 

 

Mathis has gone straight down the line, and gets cut blocked by the fullback. He never engaged a blocker, and never had a chance at the ball carrier. Spiller now cuts it back to the weakside, which is completely open, and earns big yardage.

 

But notice the strongside, at the top of the screen. There's nowhere for Spiller to go without trying to turn the corner on the defensive back. They set the edge like champs (yes, that's Walden up there). If Mathis had played with that kind of discipline, he'd be right at the 18 or 19 yard line, right outside the hash, and Spiller wouldn't have a cut back lane. He'd have to try to turn the corner at or outside the numbers.

 

It doesn't take some great hulk of a guy to set the edge. He's just got to pay attention to the angles, and mind his assignment. Can't freelance, can't roam around the field trying to make the big play. He's got to be a part of the rest of the defensive front, and the goal is to form a wall that forces the ball carrier to stay horizontal for as long as possible. On this play in particular, Mathis didn't get beat. He abandoned his responsibility, and it led to a big play for the other team. 

Edited by Superman
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It doesn't take some great hulk of a guy to set the edge. He's just got to pay attention to the angles, and mind his assignment. Can't freelance, can't roam around the field trying to make the big play. He's got to be a part of the rest of the defensive front, and the goal is to form a wall that forces the ball carrier to stay horizontal for as long as possible. On this play in particular, Mathis didn't get beat. He abandoned his responsibility, and it led to a big play for the other team. 

 

Excellent break down and write up, perfectly shows that his and Freeneys issues against the run were more in getting over that natural instinct to pursue and to make better decisions. Watching the play live I remember thinking Matthis looked like he'd gone too far and by the time he realised the play was coming back his way he was off balance and too far away to make the play leaving a wide open field. A RB like Spiller is going to maximise that sort of hole, and I thought the secondary actually did a good job to cover.

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You get yourself inside and pinned like that....that is a 'Lorenzo Charles' bye bye run from last year revisited.  

 

I really enjoyed the breakdown Superman.  We need Walden setting the edge....but there are two OLBs....we really need Werner and one more OLB to step up and make a statement.  The AFC South running backs are 'kind of' good :)

 

Thanks for the post!   :thmup:

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I guess this is why we have preseason games. Glad Bills schooled us now so that we can make adjustments later. I tend to think Mathis is an awesome OLB because, well, he is Robert Mathis, but he is still learning the position it seems. Would love to see more breakdowns like this!

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He's just got to pay attention to the angles, and mind his assignment. Can't freelance, can't roam around the field trying to make the big play. He's got to be a part of the rest of the defensive front, and the goal is to form a wall that forces the ball carrier to stay horizontal for as long as possible. On this play in particular, Mathis didn't get beat. He abandoned his responsibility, and it led to a big play for the other team.

yup - just to add in there for those that may not know, the responsibilities of the backside defender in that situation are in this order: cutback - bootleg - reverse. Like you showed, Mathis crashed down the line and ended up out of position and caught in traffic. All it takes is one breakdown in many cases. That's why we have preseason :) It will be a coaching point this week for sure.

nice write up dude :)

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yup - just to add in there for those that may not know, the responsibilities of the backside defender in that situation are in this order: cutback - bootleg - reverse. Like you showed, Mathis crashed down the line and ended up out of position and caught in traffic. All it takes is one breakdown in many cases. That's why we have preseason :) It will be a coaching point this week for sure.

nice write up dude :)

 

Sorry if I'm being dumb but from your post, chasing down the originally envisioned line of the runner (Strongside) should of been Matthis' 4 priority. Not questioning that, but questioning if that is the case Matthis really didn't show much discipline here? What are the chances of getting across to making a play on that side anyway vs giving up a big play on the weakside if the RB cuts back?

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Amusing.

This may be one of the best game/play analyses I've run across on this forum, but nary a one of our resident hot-shot talent evaluators / GM wannabes are here to add to the depth of our collective comprehension.

"I am not impressed".

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Mathis has never been a good run defender same with Freeney because they both over pursuit. Also Mathis is a small OLB only 6'2 245 lbs when the avg OLB is 6'3 260 lbs. He's one of the fastest OLB's which is why he gets so many sacks but h'es at a major disadvantage going up against o-linemen that are 6'6 300 lbs.  He's still an elite pass rusher but not being strong or big enough is the difference between Mathis and players like Suggs,Aldon Smith,Clay,and Orakpo.

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Thanks for the writeup....are there supposed to be pics though?

Are you not able to see the pictures? There are four of them. Anyone else?

 

Edit: I just logged out and viewed it as a guest, and can still see the images. I don't know why you can't...

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Something else I meant to mention, if this were a read option play, we'd have been cooked. Mathis would have been the read defender, as he was initially unblocked, and the QB would have kept the ball and run to the weakside, just like Spiller was able to do. If Mathis had stayed on the edge, the QB would have read his position and handed the ball off to Spiller, and the strongside would have been cut off, and Mathis would have been in position to contain the backside.

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don't forget that Landry was not playing.  he will help our run d immensely. 

 

Landry would have been sucked in by the strongside action. The key to that play is weakside contain. One player did a poor job, and it led to a 15 yard gain.

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What about #55 on these 2 plays? Rick Venturi, former Colts coach, currently analyst, was on the radio and he blamed Hickman for over pursuing.

 

Hickman didn't overpursue, but he was caught out of position due to the strongside action. He reacted to the initial direction of the play, which is what the play is meant to do. But he's playing the inside backer position, so it's his responsibility to chase the ball down and make a tackle. It's the five guys up front -- defensive line plus two outside backers -- who are supposed to stay disciplined in and form a wall, then the other six defenders can flow freely to the ball.

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Mathis has never been a good run defender same with Freeney because they both over pursuit. Also Mathis is a small OLB only 6'2 245 lbs when the avg OLB is 6'3 260 lbs. He's one of the fastest OLB's which is why he gets so many sacks but h'es at a major disadvantage going up against o-linemen that are 6'6 300 lbs.  He's still an elite pass rusher but not being strong or big enough is the difference between Mathis and players like Suggs,Aldon Smith,Clay,and Orakpo.

 

I agree that his size doesn't make it easier for him, but I don't think that his size is an excuse in this case. He was cut down by a fullback, not an offensive lineman. Let's talk about his size when he actually attempts to set the edge and fails.

 

This is something he can do. He's set the edge as an outside backer many times since last season. He did it on the very next play.

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Are you not able to see the pictures? There are four of them. Anyone else?

 

Edit: I just logged out and viewed it as a guest, and can still see the images. I don't know why you can't...

Weird, now they are showing up. Sorry boss.....makes for such a better write up now :) 

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Good write up. Got to watch both plays from that end zone. No where to go on the left side at all. Mathis crashed the line so hard that he left a huge whole. And for a quick back he got caught on his heels. They need to trusts each other and do your job "contain" and I could see our d being very very good

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Holy rusted metal, Superman... I'm getting a football education today on the forum (and mixing my comic book metaphors). Great stuff.. and well written for us laypeople...  I hope that the situation gets rectified before the regular season, otherwise this will become a go-to play for all of our opponents this season. We do have to play Wilson and Kaepernick in the first half of the schedule and getting destroyed by the read option doesn't sound like much fun.

 

I'm going to check out whether the Bills ran any more weakside counter plays at Mathis in the series' he was playing... its possible that it was momentary lapse of discipline and that getting burned will have made sure that it doesn't happen again (too often). I don't think that Manusky is having Mathis "play the run on the way to the QB" like we used to have our ends do, but old habits...

 

This gives me one more interesting thing to watch during this (most exciting i can remember) preseason. I'm excited to see what happens when we add Landry and Werner to the mix. From what I saw, our defensive front got decent penetration for most of the game. I am pretty optimistic about our defense this season (something that rarely ever happens)...

 

I wish the game against Arizona was earlier in the season, because it would be a great confidence builder for the defense... we might get a sack from every guy in the front 7 and some DBs in that one...

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This is something he can do. He's set the edge as an outside backer many times since last season. He did it on the very next play.

answered one of my pressing questions.. I wonder why none of the advanced statistics nerds like Nate Dunleavy (bad example, I know) wrote any articles examining Mathis's ability to set the edge last season...  With all of the fluff and posturing and just plain worthless articles that get written throughout the NFL offseason, you'd think somebody would have. Freeney as well, for that matter..... I don't think I've ever read the words "set the edge" in any Colts-related article until Walden was signed... IDK...  but I can tell you that reading the forum has made me sound a little less like a blade to my father-in-law... its cheaper than staying at a Holiday Inn Express...

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I think your first intuition was correct.  The way it starts out, the G and T on the strong side double the DE pushing him out and opening a hole and then G releases to get the MLB that's on his inside (the desired effect being that he pushes him toward the middle of the field.  This is the same for the weak side LB, except by virtue of being the weakside LB, the G on the weakside is in perfect position to seal the WLB off.  At this poitn, all the guys in the box are blocked (FB-Mathis coming soon).  The reason it works is, as the zone blocking is designed to do, is open up cutback lanes.  The Center didn't get his facemask across the DT which allowed (and I can't tell who it is) the DT blow up the running lane created by the strong side G and T.  But the reason the cutback was there was two fold.  Mistake 1) Mathis allowed himself to get washed in and hte FB blocked his outside shoulder sealing the inside and opening up the outside.  Mistake 2) the CB was in soft zone, not reading the run play quick enough and releasing too far back and taking himself out of hte play.  See how Woods looks like he's got nobody to block?  Yeah, we took ourselves out of that play.

 

So I mean, you could say that it was a designed cutback or intended to go to the strongside, with the blcoking scheme Bills were running, both answers are right in a round about way.  Designed cut backs, watch how the OL releases to the second level.  It's all about leverage.  If it were designed the other way, you'd have probably seen the T release to the LB on the weak side (i.e. to avoid the G from clipping).

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I think your first intuition was correct.  The way it starts out, the G and T on the strong side double the DE pushing him out and opening a hole and then G releases to get the MLB that's on his inside (the desired effect being that he pushes him toward the middle of the field.  This is the same for the weak side LB, except by virtue of being the weakside LB, the G on the weakside is in perfect position to seal the WLB off.  At this poitn, all the guys in the box are blocked (FB-Mathis coming soon).  The reason it works is, as the zone blocking is designed to do, is open up cutback lanes.  The Center didn't get his facemask across the DT which allowed (and I can't tell who it is) the DT blow up the running lane created by the strong side G and T.  But the reason the cutback was there was two fold.  Mistake 1) Mathis allowed himself to get washed in and hte FB blocked his outside shoulder sealing the inside and opening up the outside.  Mistake 2) the CB was in soft zone, not reading the run play quick enough and releasing too far back and taking himself out of hte play.  See how Woods looks like he's got nobody to block?  Yeah, we took ourselves out of that play.

 

So I mean, you could say that it was a designed cutback or intended to go to the strongside, with the blcoking scheme Bills were running, both answers are right in a round about way.  Designed cut backs, watch how the OL releases to the second level.  It's all about leverage.  If it were designed the other way, you'd have probably seen the T release to the LB on the weak side (i.e. to avoid the G from clipping).

As soon as I saw that run I immediately thought about the Texans, and how Foster runs the same (designed or not) cutback runs all day long.  I'm sure alot of it will get cleaned up in the coming weeks, but I agree with Superman, Mathis needs to have better discipline in the run game.  Great analysis by the way.

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Good write up. Got to watch both plays from that end zone. No where to go on the left side at all. Mathis crashed the line so hard that he left a huge whole. And for a quick back he got caught on his heels. They need to trusts each other and do your job "contain" and I could see our d being very very good

I think Mathis will learn to trust his guys on the other side when they look at the film from this and the next few games.  I would explain it just how you did. Mathis was trying to do too much, we can say that about alot of our players on defense last year, especially Bethea.

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As soon as I saw that run I immediately thought about the Texans, and how Foster runs the same (designed or not) cutback runs all day long.  I'm sure alot of it will get cleaned up in the coming weeks, but I agree with Superman, Mathis needs to have better discipline in the run game.  Great analysis by the way.

Thanks.  And I agree with that as well.  But like most of us acknowledge, as I'm sure you do, it's pre-season game #1.  Even if Mathis usually doesn't make that mistake, there's still some cobwebs.  There's always a difference between practice and games, even if it's pre-season.  So I'm confident Colts will be just fine. 

 

BTW, why do they have this stupid post restictions?  Is it unlimited after I get my 10 approved posts or whatever?

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Thanks.  And I agree with that as well.  But like most of us acknowledge, as I'm sure you do, it's pre-season game #1.  Even if Mathis usually doesn't make that mistake, there's still some cobwebs.  There's always a difference between practice and games, even if it's pre-season.  So I'm confident Colts will be just fine. 

 

BTW, why do they have this stupid post restictions?  Is it unlimited after I get my 10 approved posts or whatever?

 

Yes, after 10 posts, you're in the clear.

 

Welcome. ;)

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Sorry if I'm being dumb but from your post, chasing down the originally envisioned line of the runner (Strongside) should of been Matthis' 4 priority. Not questioning that, but questioning if that is the case Matthis really didn't show much discipline here? What are the chances of getting across to making a play on that side anyway vs giving up a big play on the weakside if the RB cuts back?

 

Yes you're basically correct, Mathis neglected his assignment there.  Nothing wrong with trying to chase a play down from the backside, but his first priority was backside containment and making sure that's taken care of first.

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We've discussed this in other threads, but I wanted to break this down a little bit and go over it to see what happened on the second defensive play of the game. Mathis isn't considered a great run defender, and some are concerned about other teams determining to run his direction in order to expose a weakness on our team. 

 

I don't think that's an issue, so long as Mathis plays disciplined football. So, here's the second play, where Spiller takes it 15 yards (following up a 17 yarder to open the game), in four different shots:

 

 

 

The Bills have 21 personnel and are in Strong I, to the left. Mathis is standing up, on the near side. First of all, we were debating whether this play was designed to go to Mathis' side or not. I was convinced it was going away from Mathis, but I think it's a designed weakside cutback run. The line all block to the strongside, but the fullback blocks the weakside, and the running back comes back to the weakside right after he takes the handoff. If that's the case, then it is designed to come Mathis' way, but only after action the other way.
 
 

 

As the ball is snapped, Spiller takes the handoff going to the strongside. You can see the fullback coming back to block weakside. The right tackle is blocking the left defensive end, so Mathis is unblocked at this point. At that point, he kind of enters no man's land defensively, because the play looks like it's going away from him, and he's not engaged with a blocker.

 

 

 

The play is still going to the strongside, as far as anyone can tell at this point. The line is all blocking that way, but you can see in this shot and the next that Walden and whoever the right defensive end is have kind of shut that side down. The nose tackle also gets great penetration. At this point, it's up to the backside defenders to close in on the ball carrier and keep him from getting in open space on the backside. This is especially important if this is actually a designed backside cutback/counter play.

 

Mathis has two choices. He's turned completely toward the playside, and intends to chase the play down going straight down the line. He's a great effort, high motor kind of player, so this isn't surprising. But the fullback is right in his path, and it opens up the backside. What he should do is come up the field, then engage the blocker, that way the play can't come backside without the ball carrier going backward. This isn't about power or size, it's about putting himself in the proper place. If he does this, he probably won't be able to make the tackle, but he will be a part of the defensive wall that keeps the ball carrier from getting vertical and shooting upfield.

 

 

 

Mathis has gone straight down the line, and gets cut blocked by the fullback. He never engaged a blocker, and never had a chance at the ball carrier. Spiller now cuts it back to the weakside, which is completely open, and earns big yardage.

 

But notice the strongside, at the top of the screen. There's nowhere for Spiller to go without trying to turn the corner on the defensive back. They set the edge like champs (yes, that's Walden up there). If Mathis had played with that kind of discipline, he'd be right at the 18 or 19 yard line, right outside the hash, and Spiller wouldn't have a cut back lane. He'd have to try to turn the corner at or outside the numbers.

 

It doesn't take some great hulk of a guy to set the edge. He's just got to pay attention to the angles, and mind his assignment. Can't freelance, can't roam around the field trying to make the big play. He's got to be a part of the rest of the defensive front, and the goal is to form a wall that forces the ball carrier to stay horizontal for as long as possible. On this play in particular, Mathis didn't get beat. He abandoned his responsibility, and it led to a big play for the other team. 

Great write up Superman!

 

I think Mathis will be okay.. Not saying he will be a top OLB by any means, but we all have to remember he is in year 2 as a linebacker. All players have to stay disciplined to limit the big plays. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed come week 1 and he engraves it in his mind to protect the back side

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I like the breakdown.  So they scripted the first two plays to take advantage of an exuberant pursuer and inexperienced edge setter in the first games in months.  I'm sure it will addressed.  Personally, games 1 and 2 is where I watch the 3rd, and 2nd stringers respectively and try to see who'll stick and who won't.  The 3rd game is where I look for the discipline, actions, and results of the 1's.  And then some backups. Mathis should be much improved by then, if not- I'll consider worry then. Not before.

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I like the breakdown.  So they scripted the first two plays to take advantage of an exuberant pursuer and inexperienced edge setter in the first games in months.  I'm sure it will addressed.  Personally, games 1 and 2 is where I watch the 3rd, and 2nd stringers respectively and try to see who'll stick and who won't.  The 3rd game is where I look for the discipline, actions, and results of the 1's.  And then some backups. Mathis should be much improved by then, if not- I'll consider worry then. Not before.

 

Oh yeah, I said in another thread that this is Mathis' first game action since January. He wanted to hit something.  As we do film study and play with a gameplan (which isn't until game 3), I'm sure we'll see better execution. And as our players get their feet under them, things will work out well. 

 

I really just wanted to highlight the idea that this isn't an issue of Mathis not having the ability to set the edge, which is the idea a lot of people have. It's mostly about discipline.

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We've discussed this in other threads, but I wanted to break this down a little bit and go over it to see what happened on the second defensive play of the game. Mathis isn't considered a great run defender, and some are concerned about other teams determining to run his direction in order to expose a weakness on our team. 

 

I don't think that's an issue, so long as Mathis plays disciplined football. So, here's the second play, where Spiller takes it 15 yards (following up a 17 yarder to open the game), in four different shots:

 

 

 

The Bills have 21 personnel and are in Strong I, to the left. Mathis is standing up, on the near side. First of all, we were debating whether this play was designed to go to Mathis' side or not. I was convinced it was going away from Mathis, but I think it's a designed weakside cutback run. The line all block to the strongside, but the fullback blocks the weakside, and the running back comes back to the weakside right after he takes the handoff. If that's the case, then it is designed to come Mathis' way, but only after action the other way.
 
 

 

As the ball is snapped, Spiller takes the handoff going to the strongside. You can see the fullback coming back to block weakside. The right tackle is blocking the left defensive end, so Mathis is unblocked at this point. At that point, he kind of enters no man's land defensively, because the play looks like it's going away from him, and he's not engaged with a blocker.

 

 

 

The play is still going to the strongside, as far as anyone can tell at this point. The line is all blocking that way, but you can see in this shot and the next that Walden and whoever the right defensive end is have kind of shut that side down. The nose tackle also gets great penetration. At this point, it's up to the backside defenders to close in on the ball carrier and keep him from getting in open space on the backside. This is especially important if this is actually a designed backside cutback/counter play.

 

Mathis has two choices. He's turned completely toward the playside, and intends to chase the play down going straight down the line. He's a great effort, high motor kind of player, so this isn't surprising. But the fullback is right in his path, and it opens up the backside. What he should do is come up the field, then engage the blocker, that way the play can't come backside without the ball carrier going backward. This isn't about power or size, it's about putting himself in the proper place. If he does this, he probably won't be able to make the tackle, but he will be a part of the defensive wall that keeps the ball carrier from getting vertical and shooting upfield.

 

 

 

Mathis has gone straight down the line, and gets cut blocked by the fullback. He never engaged a blocker, and never had a chance at the ball carrier. Spiller now cuts it back to the weakside, which is completely open, and earns big yardage.

 

But notice the strongside, at the top of the screen. There's nowhere for Spiller to go without trying to turn the corner on the defensive back. They set the edge like champs (yes, that's Walden up there). If Mathis had played with that kind of discipline, he'd be right at the 18 or 19 yard line, right outside the hash, and Spiller wouldn't have a cut back lane. He'd have to try to turn the corner at or outside the numbers.

 

It doesn't take some great hulk of a guy to set the edge. He's just got to pay attention to the angles, and mind his assignment. Can't freelance, can't roam around the field trying to make the big play. He's got to be a part of the rest of the defensive front, and the goal is to form a wall that forces the ball carrier to stay horizontal for as long as possible. On this play in particular, Mathis didn't get beat. He abandoned his responsibility, and it led to a big play for the other team. 

Perfect breakdown from what I could tell after watching the play over and over in slow mo, Now for a question indirectly related to the breakdown, I have noticed that the All-2 is not available yet, Im not sure if it will be for pre season or not, can ya help me out figuring that out

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Perfect breakdown from what I could tell after watching the play over and over in slow mo, Now for a question indirectly related to the breakdown, I have noticed that the All-2 is not available yet, Im not sure if it will be for pre season or not, can ya help me out figuring that out

its not - 99% sure
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Gonna be real hard to tell what other players are doing that are trying to make the team then that are not directly involved in the play going on

yup - really the main reason I got it was so I could at least watch all of the games when I have time and not have to try and fit NFL Network's schedule. Not putting too much time into breaking these down though, especially when you can't see the secondary at all. Superman did a good job here with what was available.

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