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How Rob Ryan is two players from bringing his daddys D back:

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 1:47 am    Post subject: How Rob Ryan is two players from bringing his daddys D back: Reply with quote

Rob Ryan is a guy that marches to a beat of his own drum so to speak. He’s a very unique and supremely confident coach who truly believes that he’s one of if not the best at what he does. These days’ people throw out names of defensive schemes to associate with certain coaches across the NFL. Monte Kiffin runs the Tampa 2, - LeBeauf is the ultimate 34 guy & Mike Zimmer still earns his living running a base 43. Somewhere along the way Rob Ryan was branded a 34 guy and while that statement is semi accurate, it’s not totally true either.

Most of the truly great coaches in the NFL are schemers by nature. They evolve and adept their schemes around defensive personnel and situational football. Sean Payton is the best at this offensively in the NFL and Rob Ryan has quietly been one of the top defensive minds in this area of coaching football as well. Ryan is the son of the great defensive mind Buddy Ryan who’s famed 46 defense turned out to be a revolutionary scheme that took the NFL by storm in the early 80’s and got to the height of its success in 1985 with the coined “Monsters of the Midway” defense that helped the Chicago Bears capture the world championship that season and has gone down as arguably the greatest defense of all time. Rob Ryan still to this day uses many of the same concepts from his dad’s 46 schemes and I’d go as far as to say that this is the scheme that the majority of Ryan’s defensive alignments and personnel groupings originate from. Ryan also served under another great defensive mind in current Patriots head coach Bill Belicheck as linebackers coach. It’s here where Ryan learned the nuances of the 34 defense and the importance of situational football. After his time in New England, Rob Ryan finally got his first of many defensive coordinator positions in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders where he installed a base 43 defenses with many different pressure and situational packages stemming from his time in New England and what he learned from his father growing up. After his time in Oakland he bounced from Cleveland to Dallas where it was pretty much the same except for the fact that now Ryan had switched his base package from a 43 to a 34 to better accommodate the defensive personnel with those teams. So honestly we can sit here all day and debate 43 vs. 34 under Rob Ryan but the true nature of his schemes, concepts and blitz packages still generate from the famed 46 defense his dad created. The problem with any defensive scheme in the NFL though is personnel. Even the best coaching minds need good personnel in order to be truly successful. Good schemers like Ryan can get away for a while with disguise and confusion but ultimately in this league you will eventually be figured out.

Looking at the defensive personnel Rob Ryan has inherited in New Orleans, most outsiders had no idea what Rob Ryan had to work with. All they knew was that it was statistically the worst defense in NFL history last season but Rob Ryan saw the potential. While most will credit Ryan for the quick turnaround in New Orleans and he is the major reason for it) I also give credit to the underrated personnel Mickey Loomis has been able to acquire on this team defensively over the past few seasons. To me, the main reason for the vast improvement of this unit stems not from the so called “switch” from a base 43 to 34 but how more so how the current defensive personnel here was a perfect fit for all of Ryan’s 46 concepts instead. Remember, former Saints defensive coordinator Greg Williams who was here when many of the current core defenders were acquired is also a pupil of Buddy Ryan’s 46 scheme and ran many similar concepts we see being run today. In other words, this is what this grouping was built for and in my opinion the Saints are two key players away from bringing back the famed 46 defense as a true staple of an NFL franchise.

In many ways the NFL actually phased out the 46 through the evolution of the spread offenses and crack down on physical defensive play. Most feel the scheme is not applicable in today’s NFL because of this but times are beginning to change again as the fads and trends of the NFL continue to repeat it. In today’s NFL, defense has basically been boiled down to just two ideals and objectives and that’s applying pressure and generating turnovers. Even the best defensive’s in today’s NFL surrenders yardage and points, it’s the way the corporate NFL wants it to be and the better defenses now have come to understand that you have to be an opportunistic defense. You have to be as physical as the rules will allow and your scheme must focus its objective to pressure and turnovers in order to be successful.

If anything, the 46 concept allows its defensive personnel to do just this but more so than any other defensive alignment in the NFL, you have to have the right personnel to succeed in implementing it. Like any other defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan would still use his multitude of different defensive concepts and personnel groupings in order to create confusion and disguise for opposing quarterbacks but here’s how the Saints can be the first in years to called the 46 there base defense.

Bringing back the 46…

For those who don’t know much about the original 46 defense the Bears employed under Buddy Ryan, here are a few tid bits you need to know… The 46 phrase was not coined due to the personnel alignment like all other defensives today. It actually came from Buddy Ryan’s admiration of then Bears safety Doug Plank who wore the #46, hence the 46 defense. This scheme had multiple Hall of Famers on it such as MLB Mike Singletary and DE Richard Dent but even Buddy would have told you himself, the two cornerstones that made this concept work were S Doug Plank and DE Dan Hampton.

Doug Plank was considered at his time the most feared safety in the NFL. He was an ultra-aggressive player with no regard for his body and was considered one of the best tacklers in the game. His versatility set him apart because he could play any position in the defensive secondary as well as come down in the box to play linebacker. He was also what they called a tweener who truly didn’t have a true NFL position but he was the type of talent that could not be kept on the sideline so Buddy Ryan devised a scheme which would allow the Bears to better utilize the talents of one of their best assets.

Dan Hampton on the other hand was the key to the defense. A super versatile defensive lineman for his time who possessed the ability to play in any scheme and at any position on the front line. He was a power player who while never garnered high sack totals like bookend Richard Dent but his ability to apply quick pressure from anywhere on the line and the brute force in which he played the game is what allowed the other guys up front to excel. Hampton was truly a unique talent and in my opinion one of the NFL’s most underrated players of all time.

Now if while you were reading the last two paragraphs you began to notice some similarities between Doug Plank and Dan Hampton compared to our two young defensive cornerstones, then you now see why these concepts that Rob Ryan is implementing is working in the Big Easy. Kenny Vaccaro and Cameron Jordan have very similar skill sets and personalities that Plank and Hampton had. Now while I’m not saying that either of them is on the same level as those NFL greats were, I’m simply pointing out that the skill sets of the 4 are very similar and that Rob Ryan can and do use those two players very much in the same way that his daddy used the others.

Now that I’ve stated the reasoning why I feel the Saints currently have the two most important cornerstones needed to run an effective 46 in today’s NFL, let’s look at how the rest of the defensive scheme is laid out and how our other defensive personnel fit and what are those two key components that are missing.

Below is a basic layout of how the famed 46 is aligned on the field…

Now before we go any further I have to make one thing perfectly clear. In order to make this scheme work in today’s NFL with the way the spread offenses make you defend the entire football field you need two things…

1. Versatile defenders across the board.
2. A very confident and aggressive defensive coordinator.

Go ahead and mark the Saints down for double checks for those. Now let’s break down the 3 different levels of the defense and what would be expected, how the personnel fit and what is needed.

Saints defensive front:
The key to the defensive front lies with its best player and defensive cornerstone Cameron Jordan at the SDE position. Here Jordan would be expected to showcase his tremendous run defending ability as well as his ability to get after the quarterback in passing situations because he’s more or less left out on an island with no immediate line backing help behind him. This position requires a dominate player and Jordan is quickly becoming just that. The 5T opposite Jordan would be manned by Akiem Hicks whose size and strength would be needed here in order to cause disruption and double teams in order to free up the weak side rover linebacker / pass rush specialest that will be flanking him. Inside at the NT position Jon Jenkins has a very similar skill set to the man who once made this position famous in William Perry. Both players were considered surprising athlete’s for men their size as each possessed playing weights of 330+ lbs. Their ability to push the pocket and draw double teams is a key factor to what the concept needs from the position next to them. At the 3T, this concept requires an explosive DT who can generate quick pressure through the strong side A gap and his job is usually assisted by the double team required from the NT. Tyrunn Walker, Glenn Foster and Tom Johnson all possess the necessary skill set to excel at this position.

The line backing core:
The Mike position (Singletary’s role) must be manned by a solid tackling stout player who is the quarterback of the unit. Curtis Lofton is a very underrated player and while he’s no Mike Singletary, he’ll fill this role quite well. The WLB / Rover position is basically your teams best pass rusher. This position was once occupied by Otis Wilson back in the heyday and the player occupying it needs to be a stout run defender and quality pass rusher but coverage skills are not a necessity. Junior Galette has this position sewed up and once Victor Butler returns from injury the Saints will be set here. The SLB position is somewhat in question though. David Hawthorne is an adequate player and his experience as an inside linebacker is valuable but this position requires speed, length and coverage ability in order to make this scheme work in today’s NFL. In certain offensive formations, this is the position that will be required to cover tight ends and backs out of the back field and due to the fact that he’s slightly shaded inside another requirement is a free flowing backer with sideline to sideline range. Although I like David Hawthorne and what he’s done thus far, I see him as a stop gap player for now. Martez Wilson was recently released and while it was a head scratcher at first when I looked at it with this 46 thinking it made a lot of sense. Wilson could not have played the WLB position due to the fact that he is incapable of setting the edge in the running game. Far to many times I’ve seen Wilson absolutely mauled in that area (Jamal Charles 80 yard TD last season). At SLB it would have seemed Wilson would have been the ideal fit due to his length, speed and experience at ILB but for as good an athlete as Wilson was he was extremely stiff and his instincts were subpar at best. Maybe the real reason he was released was due to the fact that he fit nowhere in this defense nor in the future plans of it.

The Secondary:
Here is where because of the new aged offense’s in the NFL, Rob will have to tweak things a bit from what his daddy did in order to make this unit efficient. At the corners, it remains the same as all Ryan based defenses have been. Look for the Saints to employ two physical press man corners on the edge with size and length in order to jam and disrupt the receivers out of their routes but also have the ability to flip their hips and mirror them down the field. Keenan Lewis is a great fit here but the Saints currently have a major hole opposite him. Jabari Greer isn’t a natural fit in this scheme and I feel Corey White (while talented) is better suited in a reserve role as is Patrick Robinson. With that said, it’s the safety position that will make or break this scheme. Looking at the SS position that Plank made famous, I honestly feel the Saints have 3 players that can fill this role depending on the team the Saints are playing and the offensive personnel they employ. This is where Rob Ryan’s time in New England learning situational football and the versatility of his safeties will separate his defense from his fathers. Kenny Vaccaro, Malcolm Jenkins & Roman Harper all have the versatility to play the Plank role. However, against teams that employ an elite tight end like say New England and Atlanta, Vaccaro would then be called to play it due to his coverage ability and physicality. Those elite tight ends are too much to allow the SLB to cover and Harper is not the guy you want there either in that situation. Jenkins could do it but Vaccaro would be the way to go. Against offenses that don’t employ elite tight ends, the SLB and or Harper and Jenkins could handle the Plank position as Vaccaro slides back to the deep FS position in order to act as the last line of defense against the opposing wide receivers. Rafael Bush is also a valuable asset in this scheme giving the Saints a solid 4 man rotation at the most critical position in the concept. The versatility of both Vaccaro and Jenkins as coverage players allow Ryan to implement audible that his father never could and will protect this scheme from being exposed on the back end.

Moving on…
Now like any other DC, expect to see Rob Ryan continue to employ his 4-2-5, 34, dime and nickel packages but the true base concept is two players away from a new aged 46. Of course if you’ve read the entire post you likely have figured out what those two players are… right?

To make this a reality… the Saints lack another physical press man coverage corner with size and length as well as a SLB with the skill set to set this defense apart and protect the strong side behind Jordan. If the Saints can fill these two remaining voids this upcoming draft, Rob Ryan and the Saints could be on the verge of doing something revolutionary themselves in the big easy.

Only time will tell…


Last edited by whodatworm23 on Sat Oct 26, 2013 4:01 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 2:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very informative post. I enjoyed reading it, and anything that gets me thinking about the draft is cool in my book. If only we had taken Daryl Washington instead of P Rob.. He and Lofton would be a great duo inside. It's far too early to predict what we'll do with our first couple picks, but I think it's quite obvious we need to go OL early on. I like the idea of going with a CB, but from what I hear Purifoy has fallen off a bit. Not sure if that's accurate or not, but another physical CB is definitely a need. Greer's been great for us on and off the field, but he'd me much better as a NB in Rob's scheme IMO.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tru Dat Flood... Washington should have been the pick! I remember the Saints were high on Jerry Hughes (Washington's TCU teammate) but Indy grabed him a pick before us. Washington's character is what is rumored to keep him out of the 1st round and I guess the NFL guys got that one right.

Hell of a player but can't stay out of trouble. Thinking of Hughes, good thing he didn't last. He's a prime example why when evaluating and projecting talent to the next level you can't get to caught up in college production. Hughes was a sack master at TCU and Ingram was a Heisman Trophy winner, now both are NFL bust!

I see players like Clemson's Vic Beasley and Missouri's Michael Sam soaring up draft boards and I think to myself... which one of these guys will be the next Jerry Hughes and Aaron Maybin?

I'm like you there flood... I truly enjoy the draft process, love college football and our Saints. Hate to get ahead of ourselves in the mist of a great season but with a transition of a new defense still, a semi youth movement with in the teams personnel, a solid and deep draft class coming up and the fact that we actually have picks this year!!! We need to get some draft talk going on here for the guys like us who love it.

Yes, I get the fact that some don't but some do... Wink
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2013 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You'll get my vote for post of the year! Great great post, very informative!

For our upcoming draft, I wouldn't mind taking an OT in the first, but would prefer a corner here. Give Rob Ryan another great player with potential and our defense will be Top 10 for years to come. Someone we should keep looking at is Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech. Everybody is talking about Purifoy, but he's having more of a down year in 2013. This freshmen kid Hargreaves is playing great and Roberson is better to me as well. Fuller is playing a very good season and the Virginia Tech defense is playing great this year! Season is still going, but already very excited for next years draft!
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2013 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome write up man. Lots of good info here.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2013 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Appreciate the kind words about the post guys... Man, watching this game against Buffalo, you see these 46 concepts all over the field between Ryan and Mike Pettine. The difference though like I've stated is personnel, the Saints versatility and depth at the safety position truly makes this a unique squad and I can't wait to see how it evolves over the next year or two!
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