Audibles Audio: NFL Films’ Greg Cosell previews Week 2 of the NFL season
In our ceaseless chase to bring you the best NFL game preview content anywhere, Audibles is happy to talk with Greg Cosell of NFL Films, and the executive producer of ESPN’s NFL Matchup, about football as much as possible. There are few people more qualified to do so — Greg has been with NFL Films since 1979, and he and Steve Sabol invented advanced football analysis on television with the “Matchup” concept, which premiered in 1984. The most important part of his job is the insight he grabs from watching as much or more coach’s tape than anyone not actually working for an NFL team. It’s this insight we draw heavily upon for our weekly Friday podcasts, which preview the upcoming Sunday and Monday games and review the Thursday night contests.
We’ll start with the New England Patriots’ 13-10 Thursday night win over the New York Jets (yes, there were things to talk about schematically, even in an ugly game like that) and proceed from there.
A few words of wisdom from Mr. Cosell:
On the Jets’ front seven: “People are going to sleep on this defense, but it has the chance to be one of the better defenses in the NFL. It’s extremely well-coordinated by Rex Ryan, who, contrary to what people might think of him as a head coach, is a terrific defensive coordinator. This defense has talent, and much more speed than it had in the last year or two. Just better players. [Defensive lineman] Sheldon Richardson is a man, and [linebacker] Demario Davis gives them far more speed than Bart Scott did. It’s a good defense that will only get better. It’s a lot more multiple … people said that Sheldon Richardson doesn’t fit a 3-4 defense, but you have to watch the tape to see exactly what they do. There were a ton of 4-3 gap concepts in the game against the Buccaneers. I haven’t yet gone into detail on the Patriots game, but Rex is not stupid — he’s not going to put a square peg in a round hole.”
On Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder: “He’s going to remind some people — and I know this will sound bad — but he’s going to remind some people of Mark Sanchez. If people can separate the football from the other stuff when I say this, I would appreciate that. He’ll certainly make some good throws, but it just seems at times that he’s not getting a clear picture, and defined looks, and he makes some head-scratching throws. Obviously, that’s a problem. Matt Cassel’s the backup, and I don’t think they really want to put him out there, but time will tell.”
On the things about the Eagles’ offense that will give defenses pause: “These are the same plays to start. The Eagles go into a game with about 25 plays, using the same two or three run concepts, and about five or six pass concepts. They don’t change the play; they just change the presentation of the play. Here’s the evolution of the NFL: I’m not going to get caught up in this ‘revolutionary’ talk — we don’t know any of that, and I don’t know how people are using that word. But here’s what it is. With Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, [quarterbacks] were doing all their stuff pre-snap. It was no-huddle, but it wasn’t speed. They would manipulate the defense, and they didn’t want to waste a play. They wanted to get their offense in the right look against the defense that they were reading pre-snap. But the Eagles are doing everything fast, and the quarterback doesn’t do anything before the snap. His evolution is, it all happens after the snap. Every play has four or five parts to it — the quarterback could hand it to the back, or he could run, or throw the bubble screen, or throw the slant to the wide receiver on the other side. He could throw the pop pass or the seam route to the tight end. Everything I just said is in every play for the most part, but it’s up the quarterback after the ball is snapped to decide what to do. That’s why they play so fast — because they want the defense to be totally static.”