Analyzing The Gene Chizik Defense
The last few years has seen a lot of criticism over the Auburn defence led by Ted Roof/Gene Chizik. It has seen opposite teams eat up yardage, teams scoring early, teams pass the ball with ease and teams even taking advantage of Auburn’s somewhat poor tackling. I decided to do some research behind the defence and show what tendencies it has in terms of strengths/weaknesses.
Here is basic quote that describes the Chizik Defence which some like to call, the “Tampa 2”.
“Typically, the (Tampa 2) players don’t have the prototypical size of other NFL defenders. Instead, stress is put on speed, smarts and flawless tackling (…) A quick defensive mind is a must, but the middle linebacker position is the straw that stirs the drink”
– Bryan Mullen, The Tennesseaan
I find that quote interesting in terms of last saturday’s game. Jake Holland got a lot of stick for not “shoring up” the middle because of how much inside yardage we gave up (227 net rushing yards gave up). As well as the comment on tackling. Auburn missed a lot of tackles last week at key times and that is a big reason why we couldn’t get the vital stops. In terms of the size comment, it does speak true of several of our players. Bates is listed at 205 pounds, Jonathan Evans is 225 pounds, Jake Holland is 235 pounds, and even some lineman aren’t as big as they should be. Corey Lemonier plays at 240 (NFL prototypical DE’s are between 250-280).
It is key for a middle linebacker to have speed as well as good tackling. The middle man must also be able to cover the middle of the field about 11-20 yards out from the outside linebackers as well as being able to run up to the line of scrimmage and stuff the run.
Pete Prisco, senior NFL writer for CBSSports.com, says “It takes a special kind of linebacker to do that, a guy with speed”. Prisco (regarding the cornerbacks) says:
“They don’t have to be great man to man cover guys, but they have to be guys that can tackle”
That’s another comment about tackling. It pretty much proves the point that this defence needs to prevent as little big plays or as little additional yardage as possible to be effective. It is key that for a successful Tampa 2 defence the players (apart from the safeties) need to all be above-average tacklers. Tackling has been an issue at Auburn the last few years, I can remember countless times when we haven’t wrapped up or finished the play.
Corner’s also always have a 5-10 yard cushion on the defensive-backs. I am not entirely against this, but on 3rd and short (maybe 2-5 yards) it is useless using this type of strategy. If the receiver catches the ball its a first down and the defence has to start all over again.
Strong Safeties are also described to having to be “hard hitters”. When I think about it Bates is a hard-hitter but recently got moved from Strong Safety to Linebacker. Interesting? DeMetruce McNeal (current starting safety) is known to be a hard-hitter as well.
Tampa 2 is a defence that prevents the big plays. Did Auburn give up any big passing plays to Utah State? Not that I can remember, we did give up a huge inside run through the middle and that is an example of the Tampa 2 failing. Last year Auburn were victims of long sustained drives but the defence relies on offences making mistakes as the game goes on. Luckily, last year Auburn had the luxury of having a very solid inside pass rush. Nick Fairley wrecking havoc as always, as well as Mike Blanc and Zac Clayton being solid inside men (Clayton got drafted).
Last year you saw several offences commit turnovers, which Auburn took advantage of. Such as the two 4th quarter interceptions committed by Tyler Wilson, both of which Bynes caught. Getting a good pass rush on the quarterback may allow him to make some bad throws or mistakes. The pass rush just was not there friday, which is why true freshman Chuckie Keeton looked flawless (even against a young defence).
The common theme to stopping the run from a Tampa 2 standpoint is directing traffic to the weak-side linebacker. “It is therefore necessary to have a skilled tackler at the WLB position”. One of which, is Bates who still has major tackling issues at this point in his career.
There are several ways to beat this defence, some teams take advantage by using mis-direction plays or the defensive players “over-running” the play. Such as a middle-linebacker rushing to the line of scrimmage to stop the run when it ends up being a play-action on offence.
Right now, Chizik is the one who implemented this defence, not Ted Roof. If Roof got fired, we will still stick to this strategy any way. The real thing to think about is that Ted Roof is the linebacker coach. Is it a problem with him, or is it just young guys making expected mistakes? I think, yet hope to think it is the latter.
Gene Chizik allows his co-ordinators a lot of freedom, Chizik was able to use this defence effectively in 2004 but maybe Roof just doesn’t know how to run it properly? Who really knows, I don’t want to get into that.
Hopefully I helped you understand more about what we run on defence. I tried to make it as simple as possible, but it isn’t necessarily a terrible strategy. Like many, I myself have been screaming out for more man-to-man coverage which I think could help. The key to running a successful Tampa 2 seems to be stopping the run. Something Auburn didn’t do well last week, but did do well last year.
Here is a article about Chizik and his involvement in his past defensive jobs.