Let’s run through some notes from Monday night’s Cardinals-Titans preseason game in Nashville…
Vince Young: The Titans QB had a good night. Young was able to react to pressure and hit a wide variety of throws: the flat, the slant, the deep crosser, etc. As a No.1 QB in August, he led two scoring drives and looked polished dropping back when he was under center. VY is going to be tough during the regular season when he is in the gun on 3rd down situations—because he can tuck the ball and run—but what I noticed last night was a QB who could stay in the pocket and throw the ball. Remember, we have talked about technique and fundamentals this August when it comes to preseason games, and we saw that from Young last night. He will grade out well when they turn on the tape today.
ICONLeinart and the Cards saw plenty of pressure from the Titans' defense.
Matt Leinart: Let’s not sell the idea of Leinart as the Cards starter after limited time in the second week of the preseason. Was he good enough? No, of course not. But, the Arizona QB was a victim of a running game that looked extremely soft up front, and the result was an offense that was stuck in 3rd and long situations—which leads to pressure. The ball has to come out quickly, and when you are facing 3rd and ten-plus, throwing the slant or the quick seam vs. Cover 0 isn’t going to produce a first down. Tough to really even judge that performance, but Leinart will get to make corrections off of the tape. The Titans defense gave that first-team offense plenty to work on.
Pressure defense: What we saw last night from the Titans brings up a great coaching point. As we talked about above, Tennessee played some Cover 0 (no safety help in the middle of the field) vs. Leinart and the Cards against a four wide receiver look in a 3rd and long situation The key here is that the Cards are now faced with a 7-man pressure. The ball has to come out quickly—and the DBs know it. Both corners play with inside leverage and flat foot read (read through the 3-step game with no backpedal) and the safeties drop down out of a Cover 2 look. Let the QB throw the slant, the hitch, the smash, etc. It doesn’t matter. Break on the throw, make a tackle, and get off of the field. The only deep ball threat is the one-step fade. It is great defense in 3rd and long—because there isn’t enough time to run multiple breaking routes. Just have to tackle.
Derek Anderson: The former Browns’ QB made a nice read vs. Cover 1 pressure and threw a great ball on the “9” route to set the Cards up in scoring position. But, he couldn't follow it up. If you watched them game, you saw Anderson miss on a slant inside of the 5-yard line off of play action that was a simple throw. And, he came back on the next play and missed on another slant—a play you have to make when a WR beats a CB inside on the release. Anderson did make some good throws throughout the night, but can’t miss on opportunities that make you stand out.
ICONThe Titans' Chris Johnson.
Titans’ personnel: Tennessee is going to run the ball out of their two-back sets in the off-tackle power game. But, I see a team that is very effective when they can get into their “Ace” or 212 personnel (2 WR, 1 RB, 2 TE) where RB Chris Johnson can run the ball. The inside and outside zone, along with the counter. Johnson can run lateral to the line of scrimmage, let his blocks develop and then pick a hole. One cut and get up the field. Plus, it also allows him to cut back vs. defenses that over-pursue to the football. In the passing game, "Ace" personnel will give the Titans the ability to run their movement passes (the boot) and show a three wide receiver look with TE Bo Scaife in the slot.
More Cardinals: Two questions I have in terms of play calling from last night. I understand that coaching staffs want to get certain plays on tape. That is part of football in August in the NFL. But, the first-team offense was unable to convert on two 3rd and short situations. In the first situation, they went with a four wide receiver look and ran the whip options (WR stem hard inside to create leverage and break to the sidelines). In the second, threw the “9” route off of play action. Solid play calling? No, but in the preseason that is how it works. Go back to the film room and see if it makes the cut in the regualr season game plan.
- Titans LB Stephen Tulloch is a player. Reminds me of Redskins’ LB London Fletcher when we talk about guys who are active and around the football. Plays like a leader.
- The Cards might have something in undrafted rookie WR Stephen Williams. Has some speed outside of the numbers.
- Tennessee will be tough to game plan from a defensive perspective. On first and second downs, the Titans will see a lot of Cover 1 and Cover 3 where the defense walks the SS down into the box. Have to get this team in 3rd and long situations.
- I am biased when it comes to the safety position, but I love seeing a young guy make a play in the fourth quarter. Titans’ safety Nick Schommer made an INT coming off of the numbers. Doesn’t look like much late in the game, but those plays will get you a roster spot and a paycheck come September.
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