Offense: West Coast wrinkles & Defense: All about attitude
[size=10pt]Offense: West Coast wrinkles[/size]
The term "West Coast offense" has become such an accepted part of the football fan's lexicon that any mention of this system usually results in a knowing nod and a mention of former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh -- largely thought of as the godfather of this scheme.
If only it were that easy.
Those who have followed the NFL for many years will tell you versions of the West Coast offense were run long before Walsh arrived on the scene in the late 1970s -- former Vikings offensive coordinator and head coach Jerry Burns was among those who utilized the system -- and it's largely accepted that pure versions of the scheme are few and far between.
Plenty of teams still rely on the West Coast, but each has puts its own tweaks into the system. For instance, Vikings coach Brad Childress has made some alterations to what he did as the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia because in that case, Eagles boss Andy Reid ran the show.
The Packers ran a West Coast offense under former coach Mike Sherman when Darrell Bevell was their quarterbacks coach. Now Bevell is Childress' offensive coordinator, bringing his own tweaks to the Vikings' version of the West Coast.
"It's probably half-and-half," Bevell said when asked how similar the Vikings offense is to what Green Bay did. "There are a lot of similar plays. As Coach always says, 'Everybody has the same plays, but it's how well you detail them and what we call them.' "
The simplest explanation of the West Coast is that it's a ball-control offense that can involve every eligible receiver in the passing game and can rely on the running back to catch the ball as much as run it. What it doesn't do is result in many big vertical plays, something Vikings fans became used to in the days of Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss.
Rather, receivers run quick patterns toward the sideline or crossing routes and then try to gain extra yardage after the catch. The success of the Vikings offense will start with quarterback Brad Johnson, whose sound decision-making should make the transition that much easier.
[size=10pt]Defense: All about attitude[/size]
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"Tampa-2" is a bit of a misnomer since the safeties don't line up in a deep Cover-2 zone nearly as often as the name of the defensive scheme suggests.
"It's the attitude that gives it the character," said Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, who brought the scheme with him after five years as Tampa Bay's defensive backs coach.
"Yeah," Tomlin said. "It's big guys running fast, little guys hitting hard. It's meant to be played fast and with a frenzy."
Athletic personnel and simplification of the game plan are paramount. Linemen have only one gap to worry about, linebackers must decipher run or pass instantly, and defensive backs need to be physical in addition to being fast. Blitz packages are kept to a minimum, so the pressure must come from the front four.
"We're going to be fundamentalists, as opposed to schemists," Tomlin said. "We're not going to trick people. Our execution has to be at a high level. We'll outexecute them."
The top two defenses in the NFL last year -- Tampa Bay and Chicago -- used the Tampa-2. Bears coach Lovie Smith is a former Bucs assistant.
Detroit, which hired former Bucs defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, also switched to the Tampa-2 this season. That means Green Bay is the only NFC North team that won't use the scheme this season.
"I know people want to see the whole package to see how we play it compared to those other teams," Tomlin said during the preseason. "They're a little impatient, probably. But they'll have to deal with it until Sept. 11."
Re: Offense: West Coast wrinkles & Defense: All about attitude
[size=13pt]Inside the defense[/size]
Last update: September 07, 2006 â€“ 5:51 PM
Vikings defensive linemen love this one-gap scheme. And who can blame them? They have one gap to penetrate, as opposed to other defenses that require linemen to occupy blockers, control two gaps and react to blocking schemes. "One-gap football allows the linemen to play on edges [of the offensive lineman across from them]," Tomlin said. "They get to use leverage and their athleticism against bigger offensive linemen."
The Tampa-2 typically is identified by its playmaking linebackers, a trait that creates some skepticism about the scheme's ability to succeed with the Vikings. "The linebackers have to be instinct players; their see-to-do, as we say, has to be extremely quick," Tomlin said. "They have to trust their instincts and play fast, be it run or pass. We put a lot of pressure on them to play fast and tackle well in space but at the same time be very physical."
Deion Sanders, one of the greatest shutdown cover cornerbacks in NFL history, would have hated this defense. "We need complete players, guys who can cover and be physical, particularly from a corner standpoint," Tomlin said. "More than anything in this defense, we talk about creating a frenzy. To create the frenzy, our little guys have to hit people. That's always been the battle for little guys. But I like our little guys."
Re: Offense: West Coast wrinkles & Defense: All about attitude
[size=13pt]Inside the offense[/size]
Last update: September 07, 2006 â€“ 5:48 PM
â€¢ Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on Brad Johnson being able to manage a game: "I think that's the whole deal with the West Coast. When Brett [Favre] was taking [Green Bay] to the Super Bowl, he was making great decisions, throwing a lot of touchdowns and minimal turnovers. The same thing here with Brad. Brad has always been a high completion- percentage guy; he's going to protect the ball, he's not going to turn it over, and he's going to get the ball where it's supposed to go. That's what you look for from that position."
â€¢ Bevell on Chester Taylor: "He went to Toledo, and they threw the ball a bunch there. I don't know how many catches he had. He definitely has the ability to catch the ball; he has been a solid runner. His evolution as a runner is parallel to the evolution of the offensive line coming together. How well they begin to jell is how well he'll get a feel for all of those guys."
â€¢ Bevell on the running backs' main role in the West Coast, and how fullback Tony Richardson fits in: "[Richardson] will be asked a lot in the run game to run up there and lead the way for Chester. Some of the two-back protections, he's stellar in that. He has been blocking forever so he does a nice job of that. Really where it comes into play, I think, is with those halfbacks having a willingness to stick it up in there and protect the edge with Mewelde [Moore] and Chester and Ciatrick [Fason] and those guys. Even Wendell Mathis has done a nice job."
â€¢ Is there anything unique the offensive line does in the West Coast offense? Bevell answered: "Probably not. There is a lot of pressure on the center to make the calls, to get us in the right protections and to make adjustments in those protections, to get us targeted in the run game. So that guy has a lot of pressure. I think they are doing a nice job of stepping up in there and picking up the protection. Besides picking up the protection, if their guy doesn't come, then they have to be a viable part of the route. So they have to be able to quick-check the protection and get out into the route and be able to catch the ball and do something with it then. They have to be pretty dimensional to do that."
â€¢ "They help open the things up outside, so the defense can't just sit on the outside receivers, so we have a nice set of tight ends that can wiggle open for us," Bevell said.
â€¢ "I think they're improving," Bevell said. "I think they are buying into the system. I think they are seeing how the system can work for them. I think they are seeing it's going to be an opportunity for all them. You're probably not going to have one guy that's running away with catches and all the balls go to him. Whether it's the tight ends, whether it's the X, whether it's the Z, they all have the ability to get ball in this offense." Asked if they have the most to learn, he said: "I don't know because they all have their intricacies that you have to learn. Whether it's the protection for the backs and then being able to recognize, 'Oh, that guy is not coming, I have to get out to here.' Receivers, landmarks, routes, techniques, conversions to coverage. They all have their own little deals."