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Daily Slop - 29 Nov 23: defense, young players, London Fletcher and an injured Dolphins starter

A collection of articles, podcasts & tweets from around the web to keep you in touch with the Commanders, the NFC East and the NFL in general

NFL: APR 27 2023 Draft Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)

What changes to expect from Ron Rivera calling the defense

Breaking down the potential major changes on defense with Jack Del Rio gone and Ron Rivera taking over.

I suspect with Del Rio now gone, Rivera will revert back to some basic zone coverages which his defenses have historically been known for. Even in the Cowboys game, we saw how much more effective zone coverage was for this defense.

On this play, we see the Commanders drop into a basic Tampa-2 zone coverage. This consists of two deep safeties, with each one responsible for their respective deep halves of the field. The other five defenders then play in underneath zones, with the middle linebacker sinking slightly deeper into the hole to allow the safeties to split a bit wider. No zone coverage is perfect and each one has its own weaknesses which everyone knows about, but each coverage has its own rules and is generally quite safe with its ability to limit shots down the field and force throws underneath.

The Cowboys actually call a good Tampa-2 beater, with a seam route from the tight end and two in-breaking routes from the outside. The seam route and the underneath route are designed to put the Mike linebacker in a bind, either he sinks deep and leaves a hole underneath or he jumps up to attack the underneath route and leaves the seam route open. On this occasion, Kam Curl is playing the role of the Mike linebacker and he begins to sink back to match the seam route from the tight end. He has a little moment of hesitation, which allows the tight end to get a step on him, but Percy Butler does a nice job bailing him out.

Butler is responsible for his deep half of the field, but when he reads both outside receivers working underneath, he’s able to cheat inside a little more. He spots the quarterback attempting the throw up the seam and quickly closes on the route. Butler arrives as the ball does and he’s able to break up the pass.

Now the coverage isn’t perfect. Curl gave the tight end a bit of room with his hesitation and the Cowboys could easily have just taken the throw underneath for a solid gain. But the whole point of zone coverage is that it makes the throws down the field much harder. Because Curl had sunk back and Butler had cheated inside a little, the window to make that throw up the seam was incredibly small.


Washington Times (subscription)

Young Commanders stars looking to shine in season’s final weeks

Washington coach Ron Rivera said Monday that the team won’t be playing youth just for the sake of it, but he is excited to see the young players continue to develop.

“We’re not going to reach out and just throw somebody out there for the sake of saying, ‘Well, I wanted to see what he did,’” Rivera said. “I think this is more about, this is who we have, and let’s continue to work with them and continue to help them grow and develop.”

Some of the players to watch in the season’s final weeks:

Casey Toohill and KJ Henry: The trades that sent Montez Sweat and Chase Young to other teams left a gaping hole at defensive tackle.

Chris Paul: Offensive linemen take longer to develop than any other position, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when Saahdiq Charles got the nod to start at left guard this season.

However, Paul has started the last five games at the position, a period during which the offense as a whole has run the ball more effectively.

Chris Rodriguez Jr.: The dominance of Brian Robinson Jr. has been one of the main storylines over the past month, and Washington’s top running back has been fed accordingly.

Percy Butler: The safety was picked in last year’s draft but has bloomed this year, and has seen his playing time shoot up over the past two months.

Butler is now an every-down player for the Commanders. And while he may not be as noticeable as Kam Curl or Benjamin St.-Juste, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been effective.


Commanders.com

London Fletcher named HOF semifinalist for Class of 2024

Four-time Pro Bowler London Fletcher has been selected as a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024.

Fletcher is part of a group consisting of 25 “Modern-Era” players that was narrowed down from 173 nominees in September. The list includes some of the league’s elite who played in the late 1990s to early 2010s, such as cornerback Eric Allen, first-time semifinalist Julius Peppers and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

Fletcher, who played in the NFL for 16 years after being an undrafted free agent out of John Carroll, played the final seven years of his career with the Washington franchise, recording 956 tackles, 12 interceptions, 53 pass breakups, nine forced fumbles and 11.5 sacks for the Burgundy & Gold.


Commanders Wire

Dolphins will be without top pass rusher ahead of Week 13 matchup vs. Commanders

When the Miami Dolphins come to FedEx Field on Sunday, they will be without one of their top defensive players. In Miami’s Black Friday win over the New York Jets, linebacker Jaelan Phillips suffered a torn Achilles and is unfortunately lost for the season.

The 6-foot-5, 263-pound edge rusher is in his third NFL season and was tied for the team lead with 6.5 sacks with defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.

To replace Phillips on the roster, the Dolphins are expected to sign longtime NFL veteran Jason Pierre-Paul from the Saints’ practice squad to their 53-man roster. A former first-round pick of the New York Giants, Pierre-Paul is a 14-year NFL veteran with 94.5 career sacks.


Burgundy & Gold Report

Georgia Right Tackle Amarius Mims is Poised for Success | Commanders NFL Draft

Mims is a gargantuan of a man and has been compared to Browns 2023 4th rounder Dwand “Thanos” Jones, but will likely hear his name called much earlier during the 2024 NFL Draft.

  • Amarius Mims
  • 6’7” 340 lbs | RT | UGA
  • Draft Proj Mid-Late 2nd Rd

In 2022 Mims played in 12 games and more than doubled the amount of snaps from ‘21 with 288 snaps. On the year he gave up just 2 QB hurries, no QB hits, and zero sacks while playing at right tackle.

In 2023 Mims was named to the Preseason Media Days All-SEC First Team. Unfortunately the Bulldogs right tackle dealt with a setback when he sprained his ankle in the conference opener vs S.Carolina (9/16). Mims returned from injury a few games later to play vs Ole Miss (11/11).

Outlook

Mims was once regarded as one of the top high school tackles in the nation and his massive hands and 7’1” wingspan are hard to ignore. In the run game Mims dominates, displaying a seek and destroy mentality.

His ability in pass protection is more than sufficient, but that aspect of his game could keep him out of the 1st round. In saying that, there’s a long time between now and the NFL Combine/Georgia Pro Day. His shortcomings in pass pro look to be fixable though and should just require more reps/coaching on the next level.

Some evaluators have mentioned Mims being tried at left tackle on the next level, but the Bulldogs tackle is best suited to play right tackle in the NFL. His ankle will require medical evaluation at the Combine, but word is no structural damage is expected and he hasn’t missed time since returning to action earlier this month.

Mims has an extremely high ceiling, he boasts the type of intangibles that should result in a draft day rise if he tests well this offseason.


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Locked on Commanders: Why Washington Commanders Ron Rivera Fired Jack Del Rio | Salary Cap | London Fletcher Hall of Fame


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Washington Post (paywall)

NFL teams with offensive-minded head coaches are more likely to succeed

Washington Post contributor Jason La Canfora posited recently that the downtrend of offenses across the league could lead to defensive-minded coaches dominating the next NFL hiring cycle. Perhaps, but that would be a mistake, because offensive-minded coaches have outperformed their defensive counterparts since 2002, when the league expanded to 32 teams.

There are many ways to evaluate success in the NFL; the primary metric we will use here is expected points added, the number of points scored above or below what we would expect after accounting for the down, distance and field position of each play. The top teams in net expected points added this season include the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, all on the shortlist of Super Bowl contenders. The bottom three teams are the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers and New York Giants, poor performers whose inclusion here suggests that this metric passes the eye test.

[T]he adage “defense wins championships” does not have as much merit as it did in the past. From 2002 to 2006, the average offensive expected points added rank for a team appearing in the Super Bowl was 11th, while the average defensive rank was 10th. By 2018 to 2022, those had shifted to fifth and 11th, respectively. The past seven Super Bowl winners were ranked no lower than seventh in offensive expected points added, while three of the seven had defenses that ranked 11th or worse. In other words, offensive powerhouses are taking over the championship landscape.

Over the past 20 full seasons, 53 percent of the head coaches in the NFL had prior experience on the offensive side of the game, including offensive coordinators, quarterbacks coaches and so on. Teams coached by those offensive-minded head coaches have accounted for 61 percent of the top five offenses in the NFL over that span. In other words, they have been responsible for more than their fair share of stellar team performances. They also have been at the helm for 55 percent of the top five defensive performances; again, more than their fair share. That means, of course, that defensive-minded coaches have accounted for less than their share of top five offensive and defensive performances.


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