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Teams know they can't win with just defense

By John Clayton

ESPN.com

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=clayton_john&id=2910089

The Colts might have opened a new era by winning the Super Bowl this year.

They are the first Super Bowl winner since the 1983 Raiders to not finish in the top 10 in scoring defense. In a league that usually evolves into defense-dominated games in the playoffs, offense carries more importance than teams want to admit.

As the cliché goes, defense wins championships. While defense is obviously still an important part of the equation, a defense not accompanied by a top-level offense isn't going to get it done. And having a top-level offense starts with the quarterback position. To win a Super Bowl in the 2000s, you need a quarterback who can beat Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

The days of building a defense alone to win a Super Bowl ended at the turn of the century when Brady started winning Super Bowls and continued last season with Manning. Their presence ended a brief dark ages at the quarterback position that plagued the late 1990s.

It sounds simple, but the stat to watch is points scored. If an offense can't score at least 21 points a game, forget about winning a Super Bowl.

In the past four years, five teams averaged less than 20 points per game and still made the playoffs. Four of those teams were eliminated in the first round; the fifth, the 2004 Rams, got past the first round as an 8-8 wild-card team by beating a 9-7 Seahawks team in Seattle. The next week the Rams were blown out by the Falcons 47-17.

The NFL competition committee gets worried when team scoring drops to an average of around 20 points per game. When that happens -- and it often does -- the league considers rule changes to add more offense. The most recent example is when the NFL tightened up the interference and illegal-contact rules against defensive backs. Throwing more flags for tight coverage provided a brief offensive spike.

General managers countered by drafting more speed on defense, and to a certain degree the strategy is working. Teams that use the Cover 2 defense (such as the Bears) have acquired lighter and faster athletes who can cover more ground. The good 3-4 defenses also are finding quicker players in an effort to create a few more big plays.

Perhaps the biggest reason the AFC has held an edge over the NFC in interconference play and the Super Bowl is because it has quarterbacks such as Manning and Brady who can produce points. It's hard to rank Ben Roethlisberger in the hierarchy of great quarterbacks after just three seasons, but he has led an offense that has averaged 22 points or better when he starts.

Despite a motorcycle accident and an appendectomy, Roethlisberger ran an offense that averaged 22.1 points last season. His offenses put up 23.3 and 24.3 points per game in his other years as a starter. With Roethlisberger taking more control of the passing offense this year, it's not surprising that the Steelers are talking about getting back to the playoffs.

Last season, 16 teams averaged 20 or more points. Eleven of those teams made the playoffs. Ten of the 20-point teams were in the AFC. Before last season, the Bears focused on being able to score the 21 points they tallied in their 2005 playoff loss to Carolina. If they could do that, they'd win. The Bears jumped from 16.3 to 26.7 points per game, finished 13-3 and reached the Super Bowl. Sure, Devin Hester's returns and defensive touchdowns contributed to that, but the bottom line is that they scored more points, and that made them a Super Bowl contender.

It was also easy to figure out the Ravens and Chargers were going to be playoff teams last year because of the improvement of their offenses. Coach Brian Billick and the Ravens added QB Steve McNair, and the Ravens' scoring average went from 16.6 to 22.1 points per game. QB Philip Rivers boosted the Chargers' scoring average from 26.1 to 30.8.

QB Drew Brees had an even bigger impact in New Orleans, helping boost the Saints' scoring average by more than 11 points (14.7 to 25.8 points per game) and leading them to the NFC title game.

The teams to watch in 2007 that scored less than 20 points per game last season (and missed the playoffs) are the 49ers, Cardinals, Broncos and Redskins. They all averaged in the 18- or 19-point area and should be better on offense. If they can get three or four points better, they will be right in the playoff hunt.

The Buffalo Bills are another team that could take a big step forward on offense. QB J.P. Losman looked great running a version of the Rams' offense last week in minicamp. With the talent on hand and improvement by Losman, the Bills could easily jump from 18.8 points per game into the 20s. But that improvement on offense might not be enough for a Buffalo team that lost three key defensive starters.

Say what you want about defenses winning championships; the top teams in the league are getting better on offense. The Patriots have added receivers Randy Moss, Donte' Stallworth and Wes Welker to give Brady more targets. Manning and the Colts could score even more points if first-round draft pick Anthony Gonzalez works out as a slot receiver. Meanwhile, the Chargers added a deep scoring threat for Rivers by grabbing wide receiver Craig Davis in the first round.

While I'm not predicting a year in which scoring will improve leaguewide, improving on offense will be key for a number of teams looking to move forward. A good defense alone isn't enough to get through the playoffs and win a ring.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Personally, I think the Jets offense will be better and good enough to be able to score at least in the low 20's on average this year, even with the harder schedule...

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The JETS totaled 316 points/16=19.75 points per game, we were not that far off according to linked story guidelines. I think we will definitly be there this season on offense.

Our defense allowed 295 points/16=18.43 points per game, if our defense can tighten up a little bit more (run defense) it should be a good year! I am very optimistic about this upcoming season!!!!

Semper Fi

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The JETS totaled 316 points/16=19.75 points per game, we were not that far off according to linked story guidelines. I think we will definitly be there this season on offense.

Our defense allowed 295 points/16=18.43 points per game, if our defense can tighten up a little bit more (run defense) it should be a good year! I am very optimistic about this upcoming season!!!!

Semper Fi

Guys Guys, we are winning the whole damn thing this year

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Did Clayton just suggest that Philip Rivers replacing Drew Brees is the reason that SD's offense went up 4 pts/game? Idiots like this just look at stats & don't consider that SD only played 3 games an "on paper" top defense (2 games vs Denver & 1 game vs Baltimore). Denver was #8 in pts scored on the season but was only that low b/c SD lit them up for 83 pts in 2 games. To everyone else they gave up <16ppg. Now look at SD's 2005 schedule: 2 games vs a better Denver team (rank #4), a much better Colts defense (rank #2), Pittsburgh (rank #3), Washington (rank #9), Miami (when they were hot), and a slew of teams with much better offenses (Giants, Pats, Chiefs x2).

Never read into anything Clayton says too much. When you only look at half the story, you only get half of the truth.

The Colts aren't opening up any new era of all offense/forget about the defense. To say teams are going to model after that is absurd. Sure, if every team could get their own Peyton Manning in his prime, then it might work. But even then, it's a rarity. Usually you just end up with the Dick Vermeil Chiefs or like the 2006 Rams.

And barring an unusual collapse by NE (with zero at WR) in the championship game, Indy's no-defense/all-offense would have bought them yet another year of regular-season glory & playoff letdown. The two games prior to that (and the superbowl), they won because they held their opponents' offenses to 10 pts or less, not because they ran up the scoreboard on them. If they won all their playoff games 38-34 like in the Pats game then he might have an argument. Forget the final score in the SB. Anyone who watched it saw a Bears offense that was totally man-handled other than a single 50-yd run by Jones.

Clayton = idiot

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http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=clayton_john&id=2910089

Teams know they can't win with just defense

Clayton

By John Clayton

ESPN.com

(Archive)

Updated: June 20, 2007

The Colts might have opened a new era by winning the Super Bowl this year.

They are the first Super Bowl winner since the 1983 Raiders to not finish in the top 10 in scoring defense. In a league that usually evolves into defense-dominated games in the playoffs, offense carries more importance than teams want to admit.

As the clich

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but but but but whats about trent dilfer??? If he can do it, so can chaddy boy!

I'm curious about what so many on the boards had to say about Peyton Manning last year and every year before he won a world championship-what was Barton's stance on his ability from 98 to '05

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I'm curious about what so many on the boards had to say about Peyton Manning last year and every year before he won a world championship-what was Barton's stance on his ability from 98 to '05

I said peyton would win a superbowl, thank you. Not a good comparison to compare the best regular season QB (peyton) to a mediocre one (chad). Peyton had the goods to deliver in the postseason, it was just a matter of time. Chad just doesnt have the goods.

http://www.jetnation.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19156&highlight=peyton+will+win+a+superbowl

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In the second year with a very innovative system that will no doubt have some new interesting wrinkles and most of the starters and back-ups returning will produce more than enough points. Chad is coming into a season without having to rehab for the first time in 3 years and no doubt has a full understanding of how Schottenheimer thinks. Brian also has 16 games of reference to work with on Chad to fine-tune the schemes. He will have at least three receivers returning with familiarity. You would have to think that Brad Smith and his play-making ability will be more involved. Stuckey can end up being a huge addition in the slot. Chris Baker is better than people give him credit for. He may not be Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzales but there are only 4 or 5 TE's in the league that have close to the talent they have. Baker is better than what a lot of teams have. Then you can add in Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. Barnes is also a pure fullback which will help out tremendously in the run and passing game. Say what you will of the O-Line but it is the first time in a while that they will be returning all of the starters (well maybe 4 of them if Petey takes a hike). That cohesion and experience together along with a top-flight HB behind them is much bigger than people seem to realize. The whole team has a lot of players returning (especially starters) which is something that is very underrated in the NFL salary cap era. This team will score a good amount of points this year and the Defense will be a lot better. Judging by the second half of the season the Defense learned the system and executed it well (with the exception of the Patriots game in the playoffs). A lot of the guys never played in 3-4 type of system before and now they know how it works. They added more depth and are returning the majority of the Defensive Starters too. The Jets have the potential to compete with any team in this league now. Let's see if that potential comes to fruition this year or if they are still a year away.

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In the second year with a very innovative system that will no doubt have some new interesting wrinkles and most of the starters and back-ups returning will produce more than enough points. Chad is coming into a season without having to rehab for the first time in 3 years and no doubt has a full understanding of how Schottenheimer thinks. Brian also has 16 games of reference to work with on Chad to fine-tune the schemes. He will have at least three receivers returning with familiarity. You would have to think that Brad Smith and his play-making ability will be more involved. Stuckey can end up being a huge addition in the slot. Chris Baker is better than people give him credit for. He may not be Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzales but there are only 4 or 5 TE's in the league that have close to the talent they have. Baker is better than what a lot of teams have. Then you can add in Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. Barnes is also a pure fullback which will help out tremendously in the run and passing game. Say what you will of the O-Line but it is the first time in a while that they will be returning all of the starters (well maybe 4 of them if Petey takes a hike). That cohesion and experience together along with a top-flight HB behind them is much bigger than people seem to realize. The whole team has a lot of players returning (especially starters) which is something that is very underrated in the NFL salary cap era. This team will score a good amount of points this year and the Defense will be a lot better. Judging by the second half of the season the Defense learned the system and executed it well (with the exception of the Patriots game in the playoffs). A lot of the guys never played in 3-4 type of system before and now they know how it works. They added more depth and are returning the majority of the Defensive Starters too. The Jets have the potential to compete with any team in this league now. Let's see if that potential comes to fruition this year or if they are still a year away.

Wow. If there was a Homer of the Week Post award, I would nominate you.

Mixed in there with some valid points, is some conclusions drawn from pure speculation.

The Phins, a team that is rebuilding mind you, thought so much of Barnes they went and signed a 34yo FB over retaining Barnes. Kyle Eckel, an undrafted free agent from last year, was retained over Barnes. I am not sure Eckel is even out of the Navy yet.

Stuckey, the 32nd WR drafted in the draft, "can be huge in the slot." Really? There has to be a reason a guy who had a solid college career slipped to the 7th round behind a guy from Florida International, Boise State, East Carolina, Miami (O), UTEP, Fresno State, Central Florida, San Jose State, Illinois State and Lane? Where the F is Lane and why was Stuckey drafted 162 spaces behind him?

Then there is Chad. :rolleyes: Chad is good as he is going to get. His arm is not going to become Peyton's cannon. It is what it is. Barely adequate.

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Wow. If there was a Homer of the Week Post award, I would nominate you.

Mixed in there with some valid points, is some conclusions drawn from pure speculation.

The Phins, a team that is rebuilding mind you, thought so much of Barnes they went and signed a 34yo FB over retaining Barnes. Kyle Eckel, an undrafted free agent from last year, was retained over Barnes. I am not sure Eckel is even out of the Navy yet.

Stuckey, the 32nd WR drafted in the draft, "can be huge in the slot." Really? There has to be a reason a guy who had a solid college career slipped to the 7th round behind a guy from Florida International, Boise State, East Carolina, Miami (O), UTEP, Fresno State, Central Florida, San Jose State, Illinois State and Lane? Where the F is Lane and why was Stuckey drafted 162 spaces behind him?

Then there is Chad. :rolleyes: Chad is good as he is going to get. His arm is not going to become Peyton's cannon. It is what it is. Barely adequate.

1) Barnes fits our system better than he fits the Dolfags. 2) Stuckey was drafted in round 7 because of being injury prone in college. Most predict he would've gone in rds 3-5 if he hadn't gotten a foot injury his Sr. year. Plus, Brady was drafted in Rd. 6, and there were probably a good 10-15 QB's selected before him and none of them have been nearly as succesful.

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Well just look at the Ravens when they won the Super Bowl the only weapons they had on offensive is Lewis and Sharpe and they had Dilfer as QB. But they had the number 1 D-Fence in the league. The same thing with Tampa Bay when they won there Super Bowl.

The Jets have made big moves this off-season starting off with Jones (A huge steal). And with additions of Revis and Harris (along with others) will make the Jets a very dangerous team next season. But we are still 1 or 2 years away from being in the Super Bowl. Anyone care to add anything i might have left out.

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1) Barnes fits our system better than he fits the Dolfags. 2) Stuckey was drafted in round 7 because of being injury prone in college. Most predict he would've gone in rds 3-5 if he hadn't gotten a foot injury his Sr. year. Plus, Brady was drafted in Rd. 6, and there were probably a good 10-15 QB's selected before him and none of them have been nearly as succesful.

You better hope so.

Barnes does not look like he is the next Sowell.

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