Sunday, October 28, 2012

Horton's thoughts on Niners Oline

I saw Kent Somers report on Horton in the paper on Sunday.  He asked him what he thought of the Niners Oline:

 "There is no mystery to what to what they're doing. They're just big guys who are very physical. They come downhill and they just pound you and pound you. It's a game of submission. They will try to trick you with an unbalanced (line). They'll put three extra linemen with unusual numbers in. But, really, there's no mystery about it. It's big men on big men. It's a pounding, physical game... And they're O.K., they figure 13-10 is a good win. Kind of what we want to do."

Somers then said, "Horton raved about the 49ers offense, calling the offensive line 'talented' and 'huge'".  Talented?  Huge?  Now just how did those Niners get those guys?  Oh yeah, I remember, the NFL draft.  Being a Cards fan, I'd forgotten that you could address the line through the draft.

Here's how they did it: 
#1)  they stole Joe Staley with the 28th pick in the first round (2007), about 20 picks after the Cards "reached" for Levi Brown.  Staley was an All-Pro in 2011.
#2)  In the 2010 draft they had two first round selections.  They used one on Guard Mike Iupati, the other on Right Tackle Anthony Davis.
#3)  Via Free Agency they grabbed Center Jon Goodwin, a former Pro Bowler from the Saints. 
#4)  They address their depth by drafting Looney in the 4th (2012) and Kilgore in the 5th (2011).  Sign Boone as an UDFA (2009) and sign Leonard Davis in FA.

And since the line is a major indicator of success in the running game, let's look at their 2012 stats.  They are currently:
#1 in Yards per Attempt (5.9)
#2 in Yards per Game (176.6)
#6 in Overall Attempts

Obviously, they have been very productive this year, but these numbers also reflect the last few years. 

But there is one more thing I feel compelled to point out.  Did you notice Horton said, "Kind of what we want to do."  Really?  The Cards want to build and run an offensive line like the Niners?  Funny I've never seen anything remotely close to what the Niners did.  At least not here in Arizona.  In fact, the Cards have been the exact opposite, throwing a whole lot more than they run.  So if this is what they 'want' to do, we sure are inept at doing it.  Funny how the Niners formula for success on the Oline looks NOTHING like the Cards formula.

That is:
#1)  "Reach" for Levi Brown at #5 when we could've have traded down and gotten him later.  Not to mention pick up Joe Staley.
#2)  Pick up an 'okay' guard out of Green Bay and overpay him.  And Colledge was on a line that never really ran the ball well.
#3)  Pick up a backup Guard/Tackle in Snyer from S.F and REALLY overpay him. 
#4)  Rely heavily on a backup in Jeremy Bridges.
#5)  Add depth by picking up Sendlein as an UDFA and signing Ohrnberger
#6)  Finally 'address' the line by drafting Massie (4th), Kelemete(5th), and Potter (7th) in 2012.

The Cards running game?

# 31 in Yards per Attempt (3.6)
# 27 in Yards per Game (89.3)
#17 in Attempts

It's ridiculous to say the Cards want to do it like the Niners when the Niners actually INVEST in the line.  And I call three 1st round picks and one PB FA an INVESTMENT.  The Cards are completely incompetent at investing.  They've taken No Offensive linemen in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rds since 2007 (Levi).  And they've signed and overpaid guy after guy, most recently Adam Snyder.  I'm sorry Horton, but the evidence weighs heavily against your statement.  However it is apparent that Whiz's propensity to "spin facts" is started to convert you to the Dark Side.  Don't do it Ray.  Resist the temptation of the Dark Side.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

An early look at the 2013 draft.

There isn't any point putting it off.  The inevitable is looming.  Just like every year since I was a kid we need to start talking about who the Cards are going to draft 7 weeks into the season.  I'm excited it took this long.  It means we've had one of our better seasons.  Unfortunately, it means that our season appears to be over. 

All right, I'm exaggerating quite a bit.  We're 4-3 and can lead the division with a win next week against the Niners.  But I don't see this ending well.  I mean like a 2-7 run kind of bad.  This offensive line is really really bad.  Its easily the worst in the NFL.  It might be the worst in the last 10 years of any NFL team. 

So let's look at the draft shall we?

With the first round pick the Cards better pray that Luke Joeckel falls to them.  He's a left tackle out of Texas A&M and looks to be the real deal.  Even if he's just average he's a major upgrade at the position.  If he's not there then hopefully Taylor Lewan is.  He might be just as good.  They are both juniors who haven't declared, but they most likely are coming out early. 

In the second round, they're gonna have to get even luckier.  They better pray even harder that one of the two 'Bama guards falls to them.  Guards tend to slip in drafts like DeCastro last year, so it may play into their favor.  Chance Warmack is a monster.  He's the guy you want at guard because he will bite ears off... through helmets.  He's got all the tools to be great, but since he's a guard no one cares.  The Cards better.  Because right now neither Colledge nor Snyder are looking very good.  If Chance is gone then they better hope to get Barrett Jones.  This guy is versatile.  He's started at just about every position on the line and done very well.  While I like Chance a tad better, I won't cry if Barrett falls to them. 

And in the third, they will draft a center.  WILL.  Sendlein isn't good enough.  They need new blood there.  They can go after a guy like Khaled Holmes out of USC.  Strong and steady and not easily moved.  Sounds good to me. 

If we're dreaming, and we are, the line will look like this:

  LT              LG                C            RG          RT
Joeckel     Warmack     Holmes     Brown     Massie

Massie hopefully will show enough improvement to keep his job at right tackle.  I'm not sure he'd make a good right guard.  But Massie/Brown on the right seems to make sense. 

With the next 4 picks I'd pick the best available Tackles and Guards.  I'm not kidding.  A whole draft dedicated the Oline.  I wouldn't bother scouting other positions (totally lying).  This pathetic excuse of an offensive line needs a massive overhaul.  And I'm hoping they will FINALLY see it too.

Grimm's Fault

It sure seems like Grimm is getting a ton of heat from the fans over the offensive line.  I guess that makes sense since the line is the worst in the NFL.  But is it all his fault?  If it isn't, how much belongs to him?  Let's take a look at him.

Grimm is a Hog.  He played in an era where linemen were built for mauling not finesse.  I think his coaching style reflects that.  Oh sure, he'll coach guys to block in complex patterns, but I think in his heart of hearts he wants BIG linemen who can clear a path.  He wants a run heavy offense that likes to pound the ball.  Three yards and a cloud of dust kinda stuff. 

Whiz on the other hand was a tight end.  You know, the guy that is supposed to block but hates it because he'd rather be catching the ball downfield.  I think his offensive philosophy reflects that too.  He says he wants to run, but in his heart he wants to pass.

Here in lies the problem.  Grimm wants to run.  Whiz wants to pass.  This is where I see the problem starting. 

In 2007, Whiz and Grimm took what would end up being their only offensive linemen in the first three rounds four 6 consecutive drafts.  They took him over Adrian Peterson, which I surmise is an unfair way of looking at the guy.   Levi Brown came out of Penn State as a mauler.  He's big and strong.  He is a star run blocker.  However, he is a terrible pass blocker in the NFL.  Levi epitomizes the problem of what I call grimmwhiz.  That is, a player who is designed to have one strength, but is told to do the complete opposite of that very strength.

Levi is exactly what Grimm is looking for.  He's the prototype for a right tackle.  Grimm probably talked Whiz into getting him under the false assumption that Whiz would actually commit to the run.  It makes sense if they ran the ball 55% of the time.  Levi Brown is the perfect right tackle in a run oriented system.  And even when he played there with Kurt Warner in that pass heavy system he performed rather well.  No one was labelling him a complete bust yet. 

Then Warner left.  Levi gets moved to left tackle.   That created three major problems for Levi. 1) He was now guarding the best pass rusher.  2)  Derek Anderson had a much slower delivery than Kurt so Levi had to guard his man for much longer.  3) Whiz called for pass plays 64% of the time.  So now he had to guard the best player for much longer for most of the game.  A true recipe for disaster.  Let's just say he didn't do so well.

I'm not sure what Grimm said during all this.  I'm not even sure what he's been saying for 3 years.  And that's the rub.  What has been Grimm's position during all this?  I can only see three plausible positions.  1) He has been crying out that they are using Brown in the wrong position and needed to draft a better left tackle or 2) He's the mastermind behind it and continues to preach to Whiz that you can give him whoever and he'll make them work. 3) Some kind of combination of the two.

I'd be shocked if he's the one saying Brown is fit to play left tackle.  I mean Brown is really really bad at pass protection.  But let's just say Grimm is.  Is Brown at left tackle Grimm's fault?  Well, my follow up question is what is Whiz doing about it?  Why isn't he in Grimm's face?  Is he?  Does Whiz cower to Grimm?  Somehow I don't think so.  But if he is, then I say Whiz is a terrible head coach.  He should be the Man.  The buck stops with him.  So why hasn't he overruled Grimm?  He should have gone in and said, "look, I know you like Levi and all, but he ain't cutting it at left tackle.  We need to go a different direction."  The problem is he didn't.  So that leads us to believe, in this scenario, that Whiz agrees with Grimm on Levi.  They both believe he's a good left tackle.  In which case, both of them should be fired for sheer stupidity.

He also could have been telling Whiz that Brown is not a good left tackle.  In which case Whiz is ignoring his lead assistant coach.  That isn't much good either.  It shows that he has hired someone that he has little regard for his opinion on the very thing that he's hired to do. 

The truth probably lies in the middle.  That is that Whiz listened to Grimm about Levi, but constructed an offense that plays against his strengths.  Whiz blows a lot of smoke that they are going to run the ball, only to totally betray that statement by running 5 times in the first half against Washington in 2011.  I think Grimm trusts Whiz to help him out and Whiz trusts Grimm to "coach up" the line.  However, neither have addressed the true problem: Whiz's offense. 

And this is the true heart of Grimm's problem.  This is where the real blame lies.  If Whiz was honest with himself he'd say that his offense is pass oriented.  They throw more than 60% of the time.  I don't know why he wouldn't.  What I've never understood is why he continues to draft guys that don't match his offense.  Levi is a perfect example.  Why draft/resign a guy into a pass heavy offense that belongs in a run heavy offense?  The answer: Whiz doesn't know what he wants.  He has no clear vision as to what his offense should be.  He has a bunch of guys that are built for the run, but then proceeds to follow the mantra that "it's a passing league".  The result is a bunch of guys like Levi, Wells, and Skelton who don't fit into the system.

So how is this Grimm's fault?  It isn't.

If Grimm is saying that he doesn't need top picks for the line, then Whiz should either tell him he's stupid or fire him.  Result: Whiz's fault. 

If Grimm is asking for line help and Whiz is ignoring him then Whiz is stupid.  Result: Whiz's fault. 

This all rests on Whiz's shoulders.  And for all the people crying for Grimm to be fired, I actually agree.  But NOT because he isn't doing his job.  Rather Whiz is making his job impossible.  Grimm is a run oriented guy with run oriented players in a pass oriented offensive system.  And, I might add, who never gets prime picks for the line.  Grimm needs to go for his own good.  He needs to go to a system where the run game thrives.  Where maulers are actually used to maul.  He needs to get away from Whiz who has languished him to years of confusion.  Because right now Grimm is... well, grimmwhizzed.