One of the readers over at BleedingGreenNation put together an excellent post that piggy-backed off my post about Iowa and Juan Castillo. Route36 says that he thinks the Eagles will run some version of the Cover 2 / Tampa 2. He offers good insight and gets an A+ for his use of visual aids.
I think we have to be careful when using the terms Cover 2 and Tampa 2. People have very set ideas of what those phrases mean, despite the fact they aren’t necessarily as simple as we make them out to be.
All defenses are tweaked based on personnel and circumstances. Think about how many teams run some version of the West Coast Offense and how varied they are. Andy Reid and Jon Gruden’s offenses are quite different. Both guys learned under Mike Holmgren, but each took different ideas away.
The Tampa 2 as Tony Dungy envisioned it is different from what the Bears run. The basic concept is the same, but with variations. Last year Bears LBs had 8 sacks. The great Bucs defense of 2002 had 3 sacks by LBs. The Bears have big, physical guys that blitz really well. The Bucs had lighter, faster players that stayed off the line of scrimmage (LOS). Chicago likes to walk LBs up into gaps to confuse the QBs and blockers. They don’t blitz a substantial amount of the time, but do it enough to be disruptive and produce some sacks.
Tony Dungy didn’t always go at things the same way. When he ran the Vikings defense in the early 1990s, Dungy had a pair of DTs that were under 280 pounds. Those guys were very quick and disruptive. Those Vikings teams were great against the run.
Dungy had 300-pound DTs in Tampa with Warren Sapp and Booger McFarland. Booger was the guy who ate blocks while Sapp was the playmaker.
Tampa was solid vs the run, but they stood out on pass defense, in part because Derrick Brooks was such a gifted LB. Suddenly there was a player in the middle of the field who could cover backs, TEs, and WRs. He tackled anything near him and helped limit RAC yards.
Think about CBs. Dungy at Tampa had Ronde Barber, Donnie Abraham, and Brian Kelly. All went in the 5’11, 185 range. Lovie Smith in Chicago has had bigger players. Peanut Tillman is 6’1, 196. Zack Bowman is 6’1, 197. Corey Graham is 6’0, 187. L0vie did have a couple of small guys start from time to time, Nathan Vasher and Tim Jennings. The Bears have actually struggled to find stability across from Tillman.
Chicago and Tampa both run/ran the Tampa 2, but they did it in different ways. Lovie Smith likes bigger guys. Tony Dungy believes in speed, first and foremost. Smith will blitz more. Dungy used Ronde Barber to blitz, but preferred to rely on his front four.
We know that Castillo has said he likes the Bears style of defense. I’ve said before that I think the majority of that comment is in relation to the effort with which they play. Bears players relentlessly pursue the ball. That kind of effort can be contagious. Players come off the bench knowing that maximum effort is the minimum requirement. Not every guy can be skilled, athletic, or talented, but effort should be universal.
I also think Castillo likes the fact that Chicago has a healthy balance of blitzing and Cover 2. They don’t over-expose their CBs in man coverage, but also don’t sit in the same zone play after play.
We also can’t forget that Jim Washburn and the Wide Nine are the foundation of the new defense. We know that for a fact. The rest is all speculation, conjecture, and plain old guesswork. The Wide Nine will dictate certain things. The LBs will mostly be off the LOS because the DEs are walked outside. That puts the OLBs in the DT/DE gap, but back off the ball a few yards.
I really can’t wait until we get to see the new defense in action. I know some people have a fear of us becoming a finesse defense because they hear Cover 2 / Tampa 2, but that isn’t the case. Reid specifically said one of the reasons the Eagles targeted Jaiquawn Jarrett is because of how physical he is. Reid knew that we needed to be tougher on the back end.
As for size…we will get smaller. We had a big defense in 2008. That group played really well, but fell apart. We’re now going more for speed than size, but Antonio Dixon is a big anchor at 325 pounds. We might make a push for Albert Haynesworth who is in the 335 pound range. We might keep Stew in the middle. He’s one of the biggest MLBs in the league. Chaney is 240 at WLB. That’s a good build. Nate Allen has very good size for FS. We do need a big CB. Curtis Marsh is a guy for the future and we might add a big CB in free agency. We won’t have a bunch of Tiny Tim’s running around out there.