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Field Position and the Defense


Reaganaut

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Football brains:

I am intrigued by having better special teams this year where we can possibly gain 10-15 more yards per punt or kickoff in our average. Can the smart people here explain again to me how this affects the defensive strategy. I'd also like to know how high this ranks in importance in terms of having a great defensive year.

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I feel like it's going to make a huge difference to our defense and offense. Having 10-15 more yards for opposing offenses to go means giving us a much better chance to stop them. I mean, last year they were starting at thier 45 or our 45, or worse. Having them start deeper in thier territory will make a huge difference for everyone. Not only can our defense stop them sooner, but our offense will start with much better position and have a better shot at scoring. I think that our improved ST combined with the offense and defense being in the same system for 2 years will help emmensly. I'm still worried about our punter situation though, but you can't have everything perfect can you.

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At the very least - from a defensive standpoint - an extra 10 yards means one more set of downs the offense has to achieve before they are in scoring position. Which allows for 1 more opporunity for a stop.. or 4 more plays to create a turnover.

You know why these zone defenses (ie. "bend don't break") work so well? Because they make you play the length of the field. They're designed to take away the big plays and force offenses to take shorter plays and go the length of the field. It's makes it a long field. Most offenses aren't designed to move 80-yards in small increments. Of course it's up to the offensive coordinator to take what the defense gives ;)

But the underlying strategy of those zone defenses is... the more plays the offense takes... the more chances the defense has to make a play or the offense to screw up.

Of course.. if you've got a gambling defense coordinator who likes to blitz and leave 1-on-1 situations with receivers... an extra 10-15 yards isn't going to matter if the offense pulls off a big play.

I think Edward's scheme will take advantage of that field position.

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Bad special teams can undo a good defense. Shorter the field, more likely to score. It's why the nfl ranks defenses by yards not points, because defenses with better special teams has an advantage over defenses with poor special teams.

Our defense was top 5, 10, & 5 the last 3 years. With a better special teams we could get better defensive results (less points, more wins) with defense that's the about the same. And at top 5/10 its hard to improve the defense much more at that point. Best thing we can do for the defense at that point is field a better special teams (as well as offense).

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The average of an improved 10-15 yards on ST masks the real benefit of the improved ST game ... the big play. That is really how the average gets skewed. A half dozen big plays over the course of the year is what makes the average jump. It's not really the actual 10-15 yards on each play - its busting a few.

We gave up so many big plays on ST last year (and had so few of our own) that we were always on the short end of field positions or just downright ST scores.

Case in point - New Orleans. Without the two runbacks its a tight game.

Look at the stats for the top KR/PRs. Taking it to the house is necessary for the big numbers.

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I'm actually more excited about the prospects of how a better return game and more consistent kicking game will impact our offense and its ability to score points than I am about possible benefits to the defense in the terms of field position. I think there's little doubt we'll see improvement. I just don't know how much.

In 2002 we missed tons of kicks, had a terrible punter, turned the ball over seemingly consistently and wound up having to take chances on fourth which surrendered the ball in good spots due to a lack of faith in special teams. Yet, on the whole, the opponent's average starting field position was the 35-yard-line, which was just 5 yards more than the year before, a year in which we had good punting, solid kicking, good coverage and we turned the ball over far less.

That's why I'm more hopeful over the offensive side of the return game. If we can average starting on our own 31 or so that means we're 40 yards from striking distance, instead of 60 that we might have really needed to be last year. That influences every part of how we can call the game and attack and we should be better for it.

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The Giants are in a similar situation with their improved special teams play, on paper anyway. Having a team start at their own 40 or 45 can put a lot of strain on a defense. And that team will be in field goal range with a two or three first downs. But, if you can make your opponenet start at their 30 or less, it changes the way you can scheme an offense. You can take more of a chance early on with blitzes or some scheme to try to confuse the offense. A 20 or 30 yard mistake when the opponent is inside their own 25 or 30 isn't nearly as disheartening as when they are at their own 40 or even midfield. Better special teams play can change the whole outlook and scheme by a team.

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