The offense always lags behind the defense. This has been an axiom of football since the days of leather helmets and Wing-T’s. But this has not been the case in the National Football League in the year of Our Lord, 2011.
Offenses have been lighting up defenses like a South Phoenix searchlight. Fourteen quarterbacks threw for over 300-yards in week one of the NFL season; 4-quarterbacks threw for over 400-yards (a new record for any week of the season); and Tom Brady threw for over 500-yards.
What is going on in the National Football league? Are we seeing some seismic-shift in the talent of quarterbacks, some new laws or stipulations that rule a paradigm we have never seen?
We are seeing the impact of the lockout. Defensive coordinators are loathe to show their collective hands while in preseason. They strive to keep things as vanilla as they possibly can, hoping the element of surprise will benefit them – especially early in the season.
But not wanting to show their hand also had a practical element. With 90-players in training camps, no OTA’s or Mini-camps and a ton of new faces acquired via free-agency or through the draft, coordinators had to keep their defenses benevolent.
Base defenses had to be taught before more complex schemes could be unveiled. Throw in the fact that players did not have the benefit of repping-out these complex schemes live in practice and you have a black cloud forming, a cloud that clogged the brains of linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties.
After all, that’s where the problem was and is: the mind.
Mental errors were why NFL quarterbacks torched the league like never before. Players were blowing assignments for all the reasons mentioned above and receivers were running down the field with nary a defender around them. Game-plans went from idle-to blastoff in a matter of hours and it had a profound impact on the players.
If I am right – which I think I am – the avalanche of big-plays we saw over the weekend also included corners and safeties that appeared indecisive, making them a step slower than they normally would be, even when they were covering the right receiver. Indecision is the sworn enemy of sound coverage and sound coverage is not what we saw in week one.
As the weeks unfold, I think we’ll see quarterback play come back to earth. Pass-rushers will be more in tune, schemes will be repped in games and executed with conviction, players will adjust and receivers will not be running around NFL secondarys unscathed.
But week one was fascinating, wasn’t it?
Finally, tangible evidence of how the lockout impacted the 2011 season in the NFL. I was starting to think offseason programs, OTA’s and Mini-camps were not relevant anymore. They are: I was just focusing on the wrong side of the ball.