The Master of the Matchup
Putting Bill Belichick on the list of greatest coaches of all time has been a tricky proposition for a number of reasons, particularly in the area of innovation. These lists that networks love to put out generally need that clear factoid that separates a player or coach from others in their era. Innovation is paramount for being included on a list of best coaches, and coaches like Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Don Shula, Bill Parcells, and Chuck Noll have imprinted their DNA on what we know of as the game today. By now, though, it is becoming clear what is the primary component of Belichick’s success and that is he is a master of the matchup.
Utilizing the Erhardt-Perkins offense and especially 12 Personnel, Bill Belichick comes out of halftime better than any coach in history. His game plans from week to week and within the game are based on finding the weak spots in a defense and attacking them. He does this with an offense that allows him to move pieces around, primarily to get a matchup advantage against a smaller corner, or slower linebacker. The most successful player types in this system has been tight ends that can block and catch, and running backs that can catch. As teams scramble to account for this, he kills you with what Al Davis cultivated as an indispensable tool- the slot receiver.
This draft looks to be loaded with offensive weapons that are going to keep defensive coordinators up at night- if they find themselves on a team with an offensive coordinator that knows how to use them. Here is a list of players to watch:
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State – Dalvin Cook is an extremely productive running back that can bounce it out and recover with an impressive ability to change gears and accelerate. Superior vision and patience, Cook is an out of the box, NFL ready running back that can be highly effective running the ball in most any NFL offensive scheme. A proficient pass catcher, Cook will be effective as part of any passing attack, but needs to work on pass protection skills.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford – Off the charts burst, acceleration, balance, and agility. Possesses a more solid build than expected. Excellent change of direction skills, coupled with superb vision. Very good receiver out of the backfield. Versatility will be a huge attraction to creative offensive coordinators. Averaged 30 touches a game for two years, so familiar with being used in many different ways. Will be used heavily in the slot and out wide.
Taquan Mizzell, RB, Virginia – Nicknamed “Smoke” Mizzell is an offensive weapon that is a quick twitch type of running back / slot receiver. His size, speed, and build is typical of the versatile type players that are taking over NFL rosters. He can line up in multiple spots as a running and receiving threat. He lived up to his potential in the NFLPA All Star Game
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama – Superior ball skills, big hands, and natural pass catcher. Excellent ability to snag the ball, turn and accelerate for yards after the catch- big play ability for a tight end is elite.
Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi – Not a true tight end, nor a true wide receiver, but could find a role as a big slot receiver, especially in Erhardt-Perkins type offenses. Aggressive blocker, but doesn’t have the size to be counted on regularly for that, he is much better suited to be moved all over the line, especially in slot as a potential mismatch with linebackers or smaller slot corners.
David Njoku, TE, Miami – He lacks the experience of the top tier tight ends in this draft, but might have the best overall physical attributes. A physical freak that can be moved all over the line for a team that knows how to use tight ends in the passing game. Excellent yards after the catch threat, and more than competent inline blocker.
Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama – Smooth athlete that runs crisps routes which he comes out of with an athletic burst. Gifted pass catcher that has the athleticism to succeed as a pass catching tight end, but still has the willingness to block when required.
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan – Excellent mismatch type tight end that can move all over the line of scrimmage, wreaking havoc on defensive coordinators. Very good at getting out of breaks, and runs crisp routes. Good ball skills and reaches up for balls at the right time, and quickly tucks in the ball to gain yards after the catch. Decent blocker, but probably won’t be used much as an inline blocker at the next level.
Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland – An surprising prospect, that at first looks like a big bodied blocking tight end. It doesn’t take long to see this is an athletic, basketball player with excellent skills in the passing game. Huge frame that easily boxes out defenders, and catches the ball easily. Should be a seam route nightmare for defenses.