Overanalyzing the Preseason: Episode I

7 Aug

Pay me my money!

What a weekend! 

Willie Roaf entered the Hall of Fame, Jeff Duncan took a dump on those idiot Saints fans, football players played actual football, a non-legendary Cardinals quarterback got smushed, the League flinched while Vilma LMAO’d, and holy crap, did I mention there was an actual football game?

Well, I mean, I guess it depends on your definition of “football game,” but I’ll take anything that involves more shoulder pads than judges right about now.

Of course Willie Roaf went into the Hall of Fame, where we were treated to a name-dropping speech complete with a whole pile of guys that I grew up watching in a Saints uniform – Jim Dombrowski, Pig Goff, head coach [weird hesitation just long enough to make us wonder if he forgot the dude’s name] Jim Mora!  Yes, sir, that was fun to watch, even in spite of the asinine bullshit about Kansas or whatever.

Quick update, Saints fans: it wasn’t Joe Horn.  How did everyone miss that?

Meanwhile, Jeff Duncan took a big Nasty on the Saints fan base while we were watching the induction ceremony.  Not even par for the course, you ultimate douche, this was a new low for you.  How does Jeffy even still have a job?  I don’t even have the energy to berate him properly.  I’m over it.  [sigh]  Moving on…

Did you guys hear?  There was a football game Sunday!  Let’s turn to the Game Film Tape™ for a moment and overanalyze!

Editor’s note: Game Film Tape™ refers to a DVR (pausable! rewindable!) copy of the game as broadcast on NFL Network, not anything that anyone anywhere should ever call “Game Tape”.  Thanks for your attention.

My four most important overblown observations from a meaningless yet entertaining Hall of Fame Game:

1. Drew Brees is going to be okay, in spite of his missing offseason workouts.  Shocker!  In one drive, the Saints offense went 77 yards in four minutes and 8 seconds for a touchdown.  And my goodness, was it a beauty.  28 yards rushing, 59 yards passing.  WHY AREN’T WE RUSHING ENOUGH?  Oh well, we got seven, and that’s all that matters, right?

Extrapolating, and assuming an even split in time of possession, that puts Drew Brees on pace to throw for 6,851 yards in the regular season and the offense on pace to score 50.8 points per game. Championship!

In all seriousness, the offense, in its one possession, looked like they could do pretty much anything they wanted, and the Cards were helpless to stop them.  Nothing fancy.  Screens to Pierre, off-tackle rushes, simple short passes, just the bread and butter of basic Vanilla™ preseason offense, and Arizona had no answer.  After all my shit-talk about how meaningless the game was, I found myself on the edge of my seat after about 3 plays. 

2. Legatron.  Yes.

3. Chris Ivory is in zero danger of losing his job to Cadet.  Stop it.

4. The Defense.  Let’s get serious for a minute.  No more mockery.  There are some things you can take from a preseason game, no matter how Vanilla™ an offense or defense plays.  Scheme doesn’t matter when you’re talking fundamentals.

Yeah, the interception was fun.  Two plays, bam, shut down.  That’s ESPN shit right there – flashy, makes the fans stand up and yell.  But The Spags isn’t teaching flash, and it’s obvious when you watch these guys play.  Just a couple possessions in the first preseason game, and the difference a Spags makes (and perhaps just as much the absence of a Gregg) is obvious.  Something ol’ Gregg never seemed to grasp was that the key to defense was simply removing the offense from the field.

“But Angry Who Dat, football is about violence!  It’s about destruction!  I want to watch men punish each other for my entertainment!”

Then throw on a TapOut shirt and go watch an MMA bout, asshole.  I couldn’t give less shits (I currently give zero, so I couldn’t give less) about big hits or highlight reels, I want to watch my team win, and that means scoring more points than the other team, and that means stopping the other team from scoring as many as you, and that means making the other team leave the field, and sometimes that can just mean a fucking fourth down, you know?

When you watch the game again, you football-obsessed maniac, observe the many, many situations where an Arizona ballcarrier is facing more than one tackler to his front.  What does the defense do?  They squat.  They sit right there and force him to make a move.  Let the runner come to you.  And when the first down marker is six yards behind you, why the hell not?  You don’t need a loss of two, you need a gain of five or less, and if the runner comes to you and you tackle him for a gain of two, you have accomplished your mission.

I don’t believe the Saints had a bounty program, or that they targeted players specifically for injury (since there is some discrepancy in those definitions, apparently).  But what has become obvious in the last two years is that what they were doing wasn’t working.  What Gregg Williams apparently didn’t get in spite of all his defensive genius was that you don’t need to “kill the head” when it’s third and ten, a five yard gain is acceptable, and there’s no point in risking a big play to somehow psych out the offense with a two-yard loss.  A punt is pretty demoralizing for most offenses.  And you certainly don’t need to cart anyone off – produce a fourth down, and shockingly, the offensive players will all leave the field voluntarily.

The mentality is reflected in tackling form, also.  Look at the hit that injured Kolb for a perfect example.  Sedrick Ellis chases down Kolb, wraps his arms around the quarterback, leans to the right, and brings him to the turf.  He didn’t lean his helmet in like a fucking English Pointer, he didn’t crush the guy’s ribs, he just tackled the player.  And as fundamentally sound as that hit was, with the ball already gone and the play resulting in an injury, we didn’t see a flag.  You won’t see too much yellow cloth for hits like that.

One more example – and I’ll take this one from the NFL.com highlights also, so you can find it, like super easy.  14:22 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Skelton throws to Roberts right at the first down marker.  Marquis Johnson is right there, with an opportunity for a big hit.  In past years, this is where our cornerbacks do one of two things: either they dive at the feet of the receiver, or they put their arms at their sides, leave the ground and lower their heads at the other guy’s face.  What does Marquis Johnson do?  He wraps his arms around the receiver, leans to the left, and tackles him without allowing another yard.  Beautiful.  Fundamental.

I hope a few others are paying attention (:cough: Roman Harper :cough:).

And here we are, two days later, two days from another preseason game.  Life is good.

If that wasn’t enough, we even got a quick little roller coaster ride from the Vilma Chronicles.  Source says Goodell/League offered a settlement that would take Vilma’s suspension down to eight games, Ginsberg asks court to look into an apparent confidentiality violation, league denies offer, and Werder defends his report from the most bizarre and hilariously untimely twitter account in sports.

Wow.  Nice shot at a little PR pressure from the League there, but as has become expected, Goodell, Aiello, and Associates conveniently forgot that Ginsberg is far from an idiot.  I’m now convinced that Ginsberg could turn literally anything into a PR win for Vilma.  And without any real knowledge or information to substantiate my claim, I choose to believe that Ginsberg just enjoys the shit out of every bit of this.  Next time you read a fun quote from Ginsberg, picture Saul Goodman in his place.  You don’t need a criminal lawyer, yo, you need a criminal lawyer.

There’s not much else to say that hasn’t already been said about the ongoing court proceedings, but one thing has become clear, at least to me – Roger Goodell shits his pants a little every time he imagines the courts ordering him to show all the evidence.  For that, Vilma & Ginsberg, you are my heroes.

Is it Thursday yet?