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Posted: 1 hours 53 minutes ago

Trend watch: Is power offense making a comeback?

By Pat Kirwan | NFL.com

Senior Analyst

May and June are considered the quiet months in the NFL, but there are still plenty of interesting developments to ponder and look forward to. Lets' tackle a few…

Will bigger be better?

As we continue to see defenses get faster and more athletic to handle all the matchup problems offenses throw at them, perhaps it is time for offenses to try a different tact. The trend is to use 230-pound middle linebackers who can get to the deep middle, 250-pound defensive ends who are best known as pass rushers, safeties with corner skills who are a bit undersized from the old-school 6-foot-2, 225-pounder, in-the-box strong safeties, weakside backers who are converted safeties, and extra defensive back packages based on down and distance. The defenses did what they had to do -- build units based on speed.

Marc Serota / Getty Images

Don't be surprised to see new Dolphins boss Bill Parcells mold his team's offense into a jumbo unit that can bully undersized defenses.

I get the feeling that a few offensive coordinators are starting to see a new opportunity emerging from these defensive tactics.

It was suggested to me that a few teams may be considering an old-fashioned offensive mentality that might be more from the Vince Lombardi school than the spread offense of 2007. It just might be time to send two big in-line tight end types out on to the field with a big old-fashioned fullback and a power runner. It might just be time to punch these quick defenses right in the nose with some smash-mouth power football.

One coach told me his team's divisional opponents dictate this switch -- tighten the line splits down so quick defensive linemen can't penetrate a gap, and roll a short-yardage philosophy out in the middle of the field.

It's still in the formative stages, but here's the plan as I understand it: Force the undersized weak linebacker to play on the line of scrimmage; make the hybrid safety play in the box, make the undersized pass rusher play over the offensive tackle with a tight end able to block down on him and send a fullback, who is bigger than the middle linebacker, right at him. It might not be exciting football but it would be a very interesting way to attack speed defenses.

The first team that came to mind when I had the discussion about attacking defenses this way was the Miami Dolphins. Picture the right side, with Justin Smiley at guard, Jake Long next to him and tight end Anthony Fasano next to Long. In the backfield, 250-pound FB Boomer Grigsby is leading Ronnie Brown. There would be some running room over there -- and it might look just as inviting going to the left.

The Dolphins could shorten the game, not expose their quarterbacks and keep the team in games a lot longer. Everyone knows Bill Parcells always loved big defensive players; when he sees all of the undersized defenses popping up around the NFL, he knows they will struggle with bulk and power offense.

The true test will come when a team uses this philosophy when they are down by six or seven points, deciding not to panic and throw more than they are capable of, risking turnovers. Last year, we saw the Raiders stick with the run when they were down in games and at times they were able to climb back in games by staying committed to the run. They had no other choice at the time; a team like Miami could be in the same boat this year.

It's too early to tell if it will be a trend in 2008, but I do know offenses are getting very tempted to bring a power game to the undersized defenses around the NFL. As one offensive coordinator said to me: "Everything that goes around comes around, and it just might be time to dust off the tight splits and heavy personnel."

80 is not enough

Teams around the league actually have more than 80 players floating around the facility right now for the OTAs and minicamps. Until the rookie draft picks are signed, they don't count in the 80-man roster. But sooner or later a team like Kansas City, with 86 players on the roster and 12 draft picks, is going to have to cut players.

Keep in mind NFL teams have been going to camp with more than 80 players for years because they got an exemption for every player they sent to NFL Europa. It was not uncommon for 86 players to head off to the long month of two-a-days. "Eighty is going to be tight, very tight this summer," is how one coach described what's ahead.

2008 NFL schedule

By team: AFC | NFC

NFL Network games | Video

Preseason schedule

Carucci: 43 must-see games

Schefter: Dissecting the schedule

Promising Browns hit prime time

Inside the schedule: AFC | NFC

Video: Madden breaks down key games

The extra five or six players would allow teams to load up on extra receivers and defensive backs to offset the number of strained hamstrings that occur every summer. It's possible we will see practices cancelled around the summer camps this year. Check your team web site before you get the kids in the car to go watch your favorite team practice.

Another issue here is coaches worried about getting players injured while pulling double duty. Here's an example: A team takes 12 defensive linemen to camp instead of 13 or 14. Eight of them are the probables to make the team while the other four are there to act as the scout team; if they flash any talent, one or two might make it to the practice squad. A few days into camp, one of the scout-team tackles goes down with an injury. A year ago, because of the Europa exemption, there is an extra tackle to step in as a replacement. Now a player expected to make the team has to pull the extra duty as a scout-team player while also taking reps with his own defense. The risk of injury to him goes way up.

If that happens, roster depth for the season is affected and an older starting tackle who may be going just once a day through camp to keep him fresh for the season has to take more reps in camp and that creates even more risk of injury.

Protests mean little

The months of May and June are slow when it comes to breaking news in the NFL and it should be a great time for fans to learn more about the Xs and Os -- but instead it has become the protest season. Every year, there are more and more players upset with their contracts who decide to show their unhappiness by not showing up at the club facilities.

For the most part, there is very little financial risk or punishment for players who stay away this time of year, but very little gets accomplished by handling issues this way.

The more I talk with GMs and contract negotiators, the more I get the feeling they have developed a tolerance to this behavior and they know the protesting players will show up for camp in late July.

Does anyone in Chicago think Brian Urlacher is going to pass up any of his weekly, $235,000 game checks? Do Earnest Graham (Tampa Bay), Chris Baker (Jets), or Paul Spicer (Jacksonville) have any leverage at all at this point in their careers? Not really, but it's easy to understand their frustration. As one GM said, "All the money thrown around on average players during free agency and all the money first-round draft picks will make before ever lining up for a play in the NFL has locker rooms unsettled."

But this GM also went on to say that teams just don't react to the protest season anymore. Pete Kendall might be one of the last guys to get his way by protesting, when he finally got the Jets to trade him last year. Don't expect much real action for any of the players who have decided not to show up in the months of May and June.

More cuts coming

Already this week, CB Duane Starks got cut in Oakland and Kenny Wright in Cleveland. It looks like Greg Wesley is right behind them in Kansas City. With the OTAs getting ready to start, it is time to release players that are not in the plans for 2008. Teams can't afford to let such a player participate and incur an injury -- making the club liable for his salary. Wesley is scheduled to make $2.8 million, Wright $730,000.

Personnel directors around the league all take a look at the high-salaried players on other rosters and predict which guys will be let go very soon -- and be prepared to go after one or two of them if need be. How long can LaMont Jordan remain on the Raiders roster when they drafted Darren McFadden, extended Justin Fargas and have Michael Bush looking healthy? No team is going to trade for Jordan and his $4.7 million salary when they believe he can't go on the field for the June 3 mandatory minicamp.

Look for a steady flow of terminated players over the next few weeks.

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Power running is not that easy, because teams that have good depth can carry players who can be inserted in power defense packages.

Eagles start a 260 lb SLB and a 254 lb MLB, their NT is about 310 lbs, the other DT is 300 lbs, the LDE is 275 LBs and who had success running at Cole?

Tampa Bay and Indy have always been undersized but who has had success running at Tampa Bay or Indy the last couple years?

The problem is if you don't get 4-5 ypc, you're gonna be in a lot of 3rd and 3, 3rd and 4 situations, and your QB better be darn accurate.

The roster issue is real interesting, and it may be one reason the Eagles were less aggressive with UDFAs, they're gonna have to cut a half dozen players by July, and they'll probably be looking at cuts from other teams for interesting prospects they scouted and feel fit what they do.

The only players I can see the Eagles cutting for salary reasons (i.e. fear of injury) are Schobel, McDougle, Howard and Reagor. Since they have plenty of cap room, they will feel no urgency, since they can afford to carry these guys on the IR.

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Yes but we are not playing the Eagles DEF every week.

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I don't think it's an accident that the Eagles loaded up on TEs and fullbacks. Maybe they're considering more power running plays or maybe just beefing up STs.

Dorsey Levens had some success running right up the gut in several games in 04. It was really exciting to watch, actually.

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There was an article on the home page this week about how much faster this Eagle team is. What has struck me, and I've commented on it a lot, is how much bigger it is on defense. Whether it is ahead of the curve or not, it is clearly a defense based more on strength across the front seven and less on blitzing by the back seven. FBs who are going to take a run at Bradley or Gocong are going to lose a lot of collisions, collisions they would win against the Antonio Pierces of the world. RBs who weigh 200-210 may have an advantage when covered by a 260-lb LB, but when they're in blitz pickup they're going to get steamrollered. Think how sweet it would be for a guy like Gocong, forced to chase a fast guy into the flat all day, to finally see that guy standing still. It's a free shot. Shots like that really take it out of those RBs. Think of what NE did to Westbrook in the SB.

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Yes I really like how we got Bigger, stronger and also faster at LB!!!

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There was an article on the home page this week about how much faster this Eagle team is. What has struck me, and I've commented on it a lot, is how much bigger it is on defense. Whether it is ahead of the curve or not, it is clearly a defense based more on strength across the front seven and less on blitzing by the back seven. FBs who are going to take a run at Bradley or Gocong are going to lose a lot of collisions, collisions they would win against the Antonio Pierces of the world. RBs who weigh 200-210 may have an advantage when covered by a 260-lb LB, but when they're in blitz pickup they're going to get steamrollered. Think how sweet it would be for a guy like Gocong, forced to chase a fast guy into the flat all day, to finally see that guy standing still. It's a free shot. Shots like that really take it out of those RBs. Think of what NE did to Westbrook in the SB.

and yet the Giants RB is still bigger than any Eagle LB.

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and yet the Giants RB is still bigger than any Eagle LB.

Pretty much everybody's LBs. Yours too. That is, if you have any left.

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and yet the Giants RB is still bigger than any Eagle LB.

Until we move King Dunlap to 'backer :whistle:

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and yet the Giants RB is still bigger than any Eagle LB.

His whopping 3.2 yards per carry against us last year has me oh so scared! :rolleyes:

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and yet the Giants RB is still bigger than any Eagle LB.

I bet our punter could take your RB.

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Power running is not that easy, because teams that have good depth can carry players who can be inserted in power defense packages.

Eagles start a 260 lb SLB and a 254 lb MLB, their NT is about 310 lbs, the other DT is 300 lbs, the LDE is 275 LBs and who had success running at Cole?

Tampa Bay and Indy have always been undersized but who has had success running at Tampa Bay or Indy the last couple years?

The problem is if you don't get 4-5 ypc, you're gonna be in a lot of 3rd and 3, 3rd and 4 situations, and your QB better be darn accurate.

The roster issue is real interesting, and it may be one reason the Eagles were less aggressive with UDFAs, they're gonna have to cut a half dozen players by July, and they'll probably be looking at cuts from other teams for interesting prospects they scouted and feel fit what they do.

The only players I can see the Eagles cutting for salary reasons (i.e. fear of injury) are Schobel, McDougle, Howard and Reagor. Since they have plenty of cap room, they will feel no urgency, since they can afford to carry these guys on the IR.

I think Carolina had good success with the running game against Tampa for a substantial period.

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Until we move King Dunlap to 'backer :whistle:

:lol: i've been calling for this for months! finally someone who agrees with me!

starting LB corps in '08---Bradley, Gaither and the King!!!

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and yet it proved to be enough to sweep the birdies.

;)

Consider Jacobs ran for 70 yards in the second game and wasnt even healthy at the first game, I doubt it was him there won it.

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Consider Jacobs ran for 70 yards in the second game and wasnt even healthy at the first game, I doubt it was him there won it.

I'm a Birds fan and all, but it is hard to trash talk the Gints or their fans in any sense based on a year when they beat us twice and won the Super Bowl...

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Posted: 1 hours 53 minutes ago

Trend watch: Is power offense making a comeback?

By Pat Kirwan | NFL.com

Senior Analyst

May and June are considered the quiet months in the NFL, but there are still plenty of interesting developments to ponder and look forward to. Lets' tackle a few…

Will bigger be better?

As we continue to see defenses get faster and more athletic to handle all the matchup problems offenses throw at them, perhaps it is time for offenses to try a different tact. The trend is to use 230-pound middle linebackers who can get to the deep middle, 250-pound defensive ends who are best known as pass rushers, safeties with corner skills who are a bit undersized from the old-school 6-foot-2, 225-pounder, in-the-box strong safeties, weakside backers who are converted safeties, and extra defensive back packages based on down and distance. The defenses did what they had to do -- build units based on speed.

Marc Serota / Getty Images

Don't be surprised to see new Dolphins boss Bill Parcells mold his team's offense into a jumbo unit that can bully undersized defenses.

I get the feeling that a few offensive coordinators are starting to see a new opportunity emerging from these defensive tactics.

It was suggested to me that a few teams may be considering an old-fashioned offensive mentality that might be more from the Vince Lombardi school than the spread offense of 2007. It just might be time to send two big in-line tight end types out on to the field with a big old-fashioned fullback and a power runner. It might just be time to punch these quick defenses right in the nose with some smash-mouth power football.

One coach told me his team's divisional opponents dictate this switch -- tighten the line splits down so quick defensive linemen can't penetrate a gap, and roll a short-yardage philosophy out in the middle of the field.

It's still in the formative stages, but here's the plan as I understand it: Force the undersized weak linebacker to play on the line of scrimmage; make the hybrid safety play in the box, make the undersized pass rusher play over the offensive tackle with a tight end able to block down on him and send a fullback, who is bigger than the middle linebacker, right at him. It might not be exciting football but it would be a very interesting way to attack speed defenses.

The first team that came to mind when I had the discussion about attacking defenses this way was the Miami Dolphins. Picture the right side, with Justin Smiley at guard, Jake Long next to him and tight end Anthony Fasano next to Long. In the backfield, 250-pound FB Boomer Grigsby is leading Ronnie Brown. There would be some running room over there -- and it might look just as inviting going to the left.

The Dolphins could shorten the game, not expose their quarterbacks and keep the team in games a lot longer. Everyone knows Bill Parcells always loved big defensive players; when he sees all of the undersized defenses popping up around the NFL, he knows they will struggle with bulk and power offense.

The true test will come when a team uses this philosophy when they are down by six or seven points, deciding not to panic and throw more than they are capable of, risking turnovers. Last year, we saw the Raiders stick with the run when they were down in games and at times they were able to climb back in games by staying committed to the run. They had no other choice at the time; a team like Miami could be in the same boat this year.

It's too early to tell if it will be a trend in 2008, but I do know offenses are getting very tempted to bring a power game to the undersized defenses around the NFL. As one offensive coordinator said to me: "Everything that goes around comes around, and it just might be time to dust off the tight splits and heavy personnel."

80 is not enough

Teams around the league actually have more than 80 players floating around the facility right now for the OTAs and minicamps. Until the rookie draft picks are signed, they don't count in the 80-man roster. But sooner or later a team like Kansas City, with 86 players on the roster and 12 draft picks, is going to have to cut players.

Keep in mind NFL teams have been going to camp with more than 80 players for years because they got an exemption for every player they sent to NFL Europa. It was not uncommon for 86 players to head off to the long month of two-a-days. "Eighty is going to be tight, very tight this summer," is how one coach described what's ahead.

2008 NFL schedule

By team: AFC | NFC

NFL Network games | Video

Preseason schedule

Carucci: 43 must-see games

Schefter: Dissecting the schedule

Promising Browns hit prime time

Inside the schedule: AFC | NFC

Video: Madden breaks down key games

The extra five or six players would allow teams to load up on extra receivers and defensive backs to offset the number of strained hamstrings that occur every summer. It's possible we will see practices cancelled around the summer camps this year. Check your team web site before you get the kids in the car to go watch your favorite team practice.

Another issue here is coaches worried about getting players injured while pulling double duty. Here's an example: A team takes 12 defensive linemen to camp instead of 13 or 14. Eight of them are the probables to make the team while the other four are there to act as the scout team; if they flash any talent, one or two might make it to the practice squad. A few days into camp, one of the scout-team tackles goes down with an injury. A year ago, because of the Europa exemption, there is an extra tackle to step in as a replacement. Now a player expected to make the team has to pull the extra duty as a scout-team player while also taking reps with his own defense. The risk of injury to him goes way up.

If that happens, roster depth for the season is affected and an older starting tackle who may be going just once a day through camp to keep him fresh for the season has to take more reps in camp and that creates even more risk of injury.

Protests mean little

The months of May and June are slow when it comes to breaking news in the NFL and it should be a great time for fans to learn more about the Xs and Os -- but instead it has become the protest season. Every year, there are more and more players upset with their contracts who decide to show their unhappiness by not showing up at the club facilities.

For the most part, there is very little financial risk or punishment for players who stay away this time of year, but very little gets accomplished by handling issues this way.

The more I talk with GMs and contract negotiators, the more I get the feeling they have developed a tolerance to this behavior and they know the protesting players will show up for camp in late July.

Does anyone in Chicago think Brian Urlacher is going to pass up any of his weekly, $235,000 game checks? Do Earnest Graham (Tampa Bay), Chris Baker (Jets), or Paul Spicer (Jacksonville) have any leverage at all at this point in their careers? Not really, but it's easy to understand their frustration. As one GM said, "All the money thrown around on average players during free agency and all the money first-round draft picks will make before ever lining up for a play in the NFL has locker rooms unsettled."

But this GM also went on to say that teams just don't react to the protest season anymore. Pete Kendall might be one of the last guys to get his way by protesting, when he finally got the Jets to trade him last year. Don't expect much real action for any of the players who have decided not to show up in the months of May and June.

More cuts coming

Already this week, CB Duane Starks got cut in Oakland and Kenny Wright in Cleveland. It looks like Greg Wesley is right behind them in Kansas City. With the OTAs getting ready to start, it is time to release players that are not in the plans for 2008. Teams can't afford to let such a player participate and incur an injury -- making the club liable for his salary. Wesley is scheduled to make $2.8 million, Wright $730,000.

Personnel directors around the league all take a look at the high-salaried players on other rosters and predict which guys will be let go very soon -- and be prepared to go after one or two of them if need be. How long can LaMont Jordan remain on the Raiders roster when they drafted Darren McFadden, extended Justin Fargas and have Michael Bush looking healthy? No team is going to trade for Jordan and his $4.7 million salary when they believe he can't go on the field for the June 3 mandatory minicamp.

Look for a steady flow of terminated players over the next few weeks.

Chiefs already tried in the 80's and early 90's and it did'nt last long, and hte only team that actually did it well was Cowher's Steelers.

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