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Home Football / Soccer Establish the Fun: Penei Sewell headlines your Thanksgiving Day things to watch

Establish the Fun: Penei Sewell headlines your Thanksgiving Day things to watch

by foot.biz
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Welcome back to Establish the Fun, where football is fun and we’re establishing that more than Chase Brown and the University of Illinois. We’ve made it to everyone’s favorite football watching day, the biggest day to eat all you want and plop yourself in front of the television to watch football: Thanksgiving.

On a holiday that’s meant to be about being thankful for everything that we’ve been given, I’m gonna take a moment and say that I’m thankful for everyone reading. Not too often that you get a column on your first job out of grad school and it gets a warm reception from everyone that reads. I’m thankful for the opportunity to keep sharing schemes and players in the NFL that are fun, and hopefully I’ll keep bringing you the content.

Before you sit down with your first plate in front of the TV on Turkey Day, these are the players and schemes you need to watch on Thanksgiving Day.

A Penei for your thoughts

Penei Sewell has a very good argument for being one of the most valuable non-QBs in the entire NFL this year. The Detroit Lions right tackle has been one of the best linemen in the league this year, and the Lions lean on him in all assets of their offense. The Lions are third in the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards and have the second lowest total sack and sack rate numbers in the entire league.

How important is Sewell to this entire thing? Well, using Football Outsiders’ metrics, when the Lions need yards they’re running on Highway 58. They run behind their right tackle at the second highest rate in the NFL and are second in the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards behind Sewell at 5.17, despite running behind Sewell almost five percent more often than anyone else in the top five.

In the Lions win against the New York Giants, Sewell’s dominance was on display. The Lions throw a Thanksgiving level platter of run schemes at teams, and Sewell is the lynchpin behind that. They get him out in space on tosses and screen passes, where his athleticism is on display, they pull him on gap scheme runs, and if you don’t like that he’ll just run you over.

This is a counter play where the Lions are running behind Sewell and pulling guard Jonah Jackson. Watch the explosion out of his stance to cave in the 3-technique DT and open this hole up. That’s what running on Highway 58 does for you.

The Lions also run a lot of zone schemes too, and if Sewell can get to the second level of the defense then it’s wraps for your linebacker or DB. The Giants are in an over front with the 3-technique DT set to the tight end, and the EDGE is on the outside of the TE in a 9-technique. This leaves Sewell uncovered and with so much space to climb to a second level defender. This is where he stonewalls the Giants DB and the Lions get a big run.

Where I’ve been really impressed with Sewell is in the passing game. Because Sewell was so aggressive at times in college, he would duck his head and lose reps. However, in his second year, he’s cleaned up his technique and improved drastically as a pass protector. Combining that with his athleticism, and the Lions have an All-Pro right tackle for the next ten years. Watch this snatch trap on (/checks notes) 280-pound Henry Mondeaux of the Giants. If only the throw were a little better.

Sewell will face one of his biggest tests of his career on Thanksgiving in the Buffalo Bills. Although Greg Rousseau isn’t playing, the Bills have a guy named Von Miller who’s pretty good. In addition, Buffalo has a stable of solid pass rushers that could give Detroit problems. If the Lions are going to shock the world, they need Sewell to play like the best right tackle in the sport.

The Dak Attack

So, I think the Cowboys offense had a good day in the office on Sunday.

Dak Prescott had two touchdowns and only three incompletions as the Cowboys blasted the Minnesota Vikings 40-3, in a game that got out of hand quickly. What’s so impressive about the way the Cowboys won was how many answers they had for anything the Vikings threw at them. Dak was masterful on Sunday, and the Cowboys weapons were unleashed on a Vikings defense that couldn’t keep up.

One of the biggest problems with the Cowboys offense last year was that it made things too hard on Dak. Not that Prescott is a bad QB, or that he needs a lot of help to be successful. In fact, I’d argue the opposite. However, every QB needs help from his playcalling, to widen the margin for error the offense has. When Dak returned vs. the Lions, I outlined it here, but incorporating more RPOs and play action was important for the offense, especially with the supporting cast not as strong as it’s been in previous years.

Now that the margins are wider, Dak is playing with razor sharp efficiency. He’s one of the best processors in the NFL pre and post-snap, but now the game is on easy mode. This is a double slant RPO, but it’s so important because the Cowboys have rarely thrown RPOs with Dak. In 2021, Prescott had 34 RPO attempts in 13 games. In the three games he’s played this year, he’s almost gotten a quarter of the way to last year’s total. It’s given the Cowboys easy answers.

In addition, the Cowboys are incorporating more play action and using Dak’s legs as a part of the offense. A reminder: Prescott ran for almost 1,000 yards in 2014 at Mississippi State. He’s changed the way he’s played the game, but using his legs more often elevates the ceiling and floor of the Cowboys offense. On this play action pass, the Cowboys are running a double post, with Schultz running an over to the other side. Prescott doesn’t see the window come open immediately, and so he bails on the pocket and delivers a strike.

On this double slant RPO, Dak just pulls it and runs. This is a massive development, because now he’s keeping on some of the zone reads, or taking off. It keeps the offense on schedule.

This was my favorite play of the game, and an example of the Cowboys having all the answers. Dallas lines up in a 3×1 formation to the field. Minnesota counters by running Cover 8, or Half-Quarter-Quarter. This defense is good against 3×1 because the backside safety can rotate over the trips side. The Vic Fangio tree calls it “getting 5 over 3”, meaning there are five defenders vs. 3 receivers.

The Vikings play Cover 2 to the trips side, and Cover 4 to the backside. However, in their Quarters defense, it plays out like man-match. Meaning, on the backside, if the solo receiver runs a vertical route, the corner has to match it. Normally, most offenses don’t run their backs vertical on these plays, but not the Cowboys. Dak changes the play at the line of scrimmage, and then the ball is snapped.

When the ball is snapped, you can see Harrison Smith, the backside safety, opening up to the trips side. Schultz runs a skinny post, taking away the corner. This leaves Tony Pollard one on one with a linebacker, the matchup Dak and the Cowboys want. Next thing you know, 68 yard touchdown.

If Dak and the Cowboys offense continues to operate like this, paired with an equally talented and dynamic defense, they could emerge as the favorites in the NFC. When America’s Team lines up against the Giants on Thanksgiving, watch Dak and how he operates. He’s basically a textbook on superb QB play.

The Patriots can’t keep getting away with this

Speaking of Minnesota, their next opponent’s defense is arguably better than the one they just faced.

The New England Patriots once again have the NFL’s best defense by any metric you want to measure. DVOA? Number one. EPA/play? Number one. The comparisons to Emperor Palpatine are apt for Bill Belichick, because his evil empire of dastardly defense has risen again. On Sunday, they put on a clinic, beating the Jets 10-3 and holding New York to TWO YARDS TOTAL in the second half.

That’s six feet.

That’s the length of a twin-sized bed.

Zach Wilson could walk from his bed to the bathroom and it would probably be more yards than the Jets had on Sunday in the second half.

What’s so impressive about the Patriots defense is how they change the picture up front, paired with sticky coverage on the backside. They play the ninth-most snaps of man coverage in the NFL, but it’s their front that helps set the action in motion.

Against the Jets, the Patriots would line up in four and five man fronts. However, they would use late stems (shifting the front right before the snap) to change blocking assignments without shifting personnel. They have the personnel to do this as well. With bigger off ball LBs like Jahlani Tavai and Ja’Whaun Bentley, they can shift and stem without losing the edges of their defense.

The Patriots defense is full of guys that are superb against the run. It allows them to play lighter box counts, because they have the personnel to. They also do a great job of stealing gaps. On this play, the Patriots line up in a Penny (5-1) front with Kyle Dugger walked into the box, but before the ball is snapped they shift to a Mint front, a variation of the Tite front. What this is, is a nose tackle head up on the center, two 5-Technique ends, and an EDGE.

The Jets try and run split zone, but the backside guard and tackle can’t climb to the second level, allowing Ja’Whaun Bentley to slip into the backfield and make the TFL.

Matthew Judon is the Pats’ best defensive player, but I would argue that Dugger is one of, if not the most important player on this defense. His hybrid ability to come into the box and play the run well, while taking away any intermediate routes. This play is a perfect example of what the Patriots are against the run.

The Jets run a very cool counter to a traditional Shanahan play, a handoff to the wide receiver or running back behind the QB, kind of like a sweep. The Jets run GH counter with this motion, to try and draw eyes away from the counter.

Matthew Judon “boxes” the guard, meaning he hits the guard with his inside shoulder and keeps his outside arm free to get the back to cut inside of him, to his help. This is risky considering the Patriots are in a lighter box and Dugger is playing from depth, but they make it work. Then Tavai shocks and sheds the left tackle, which draws the attention of the pulling tight end. Then Dugger comes in and tattoos the RB for a minimal gain.

Having a safety that can come into the box and play like Dugger does here on GH Counter again is so valuable to a modern defense. This is textbook. Watch how Davon Godchaux at nose is able to stifle the double team, allowing the second level of the defense to get into the action.

We haven’t even discussed the Patriots top ranked passing defense by both DVOA and EPA/play. The Patriots do a great job of designing one on one opportunities for Judon, and creating simulated pressure looks to pair with their coverage. The Patriots had the Jets in HELL when they went empty, and it’s largely due to the way they manipulated the front.

On this sack they line up with three defenders on the right side of the ball, including Judon. The Jets are in five man protection, but TE Tyler Conklin chips before releasing into the formation. What the Patriots do is run a tackle-end (TEX) stunt on the left side of the ball. This occupies the attention of the left guard and tackle. On the right side, the Patriots run a stunt to get Judon free, knowing the Jets are man protecting. The two interior linemen attack the linemen to their left, and Judon wraps around for an almost unblocked sack.

The Patriots also stifled the Jets a lot with whip fire zones, where the defense brings a second level defender and drops an edge player. On this play, the second level defender is Kyle Dugger from the field side, and Jahlani Tavai drops from the short side of the field. This cloudies the read for Zach Wilson because Tavai drops right into the passing window, and before you know it he gets decleated by Dugger.

In the Thanksgiving nightcap, the Patriots are going up against the Vikings, who have a coach from the McVay/Shanahan tree in Kevin O’Connell. There are a lot of similar bones and philosophies in the Jets and Vikings offense, but the Jets don’t have a Justin Jefferson.

Expect the Patriots to pull out a lot of “One Double 18”, where they play Cover one but double Justin Jefferson. In addition, Kirk Cousins’ time to throw last week was almost two tenths of a second higher against Dallas, due to the Cowboys’ simulated pressures taking away what seemed to be easy answers. Bill Belichick sees that and is plotting on ruining Cousins’ Thanksgiving with a heaping lump of pain.

Source : SBNation

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