Breaking Down Mike Pettine (Part 2)

Mario Williams will be the key no matter what formation the Bills run in 2013 (Photo: US Presswire)

BBD Editor Matt Elder

When you talk about the Buffalo Bills of the 1990’s one of the first thing that comes to mind is Jim Kelly and that K-Gun offense. What most don’t think about though is how dominant their defense was led by the Bruce Smith.  The Bills defense from 1990-1993 accumulated 154 sacks, 87 INT’s, and forced 63 fumbles and now the Bills are hoping to get back to that with the hire of Mike Pettine as Defensive Coordinator.

If you miss Part 1 Click Here!

Yesterday we released the first part breaking down how Pettine’s defenses with the Jets performed. Before we get into some of the schematic changes we can expect we wanted to give our readers an idea of just what Pettine is walking into compared to what he left. For the following table we’ll be using the 2011 New York Jets defense compared to the 2012 Buffalo Bills. The reason we are using the 2011 Jets defense is because with all the ridiculous off the field stuff the Jets dealt with last year I fear their 2012 numbers are skewed.

Football Outsiders – DVOA 2012 Bills 2011 Jets
Team Defense 10.6% (27th) -16.1% (2nd)
Pass Defense 13.1% (22nd) -16.0% (2nd)
Run Defense 7.9% (31st) -16.2% (4th)

 

Pro Football Focus 2012 Bills 2011 Jets
Team Defense 49.9 (9th) 62.8 (6th)
Pass Rush 39.7 (2nd) -39 (25th)
Pass Coverage 32.2 (9th) 37.2 (5th)
Run Defense -9.3 (23rd) 58.8 (4th)

 

FO – WR Breakdown 2012 Bills 2011 Jets
v. #1 WR 20.7% (26th-76.2 ypg) -44.2% (1st-56.6 ypg)
v. #2 WR 2.7% (15th-53.1 ypg) -21.1% (5th-41.6 ypg)
v. Other WR 24.2% (29th-44.8 ypg) 2.9% (15th-32.6 ypg)
v. TE -24.5% (2nd-51.9 ypg) 12.1% (27th-58.8 ypg)
v. RB 20.7% (26th-25.3 ypg) -14.0% (6th-27.5 ypg)

Now as you can see from the above charts the Bills rank below where Pettine’s 2011 Jets were. So how does he get the Bills to where he had the Jets in 2011? The answer to that may be simpler than most think.

When Mike Pettine took over play calling duties for the Jets in 2011 he was given the keys to a very good defense that loved to attack and get after the QB. The one thing the Jets weren’t however was versatile, they ran a lot of the same formations and brought pressure from a lot of the same places. In 2011 Pettine changed all of that when he introduced some of oddest and most unconventional formations you’ve ever seen.

Our friends over at Pro Football Focus once again came through with the formation tracking for the 2011 Jets and Bills

Formations Jets (Percentage Used) Bills (Percentage Used)
3-4-4 37% 2%
4-3-4 0% 26%
5-2-4 0% 7%
2-4-5 3% 1%
3-3-5 19% 9%
4-2-5 0% 3%
1-4-6 6% 0%
2-3-6 7% 5%
3-2-6 4% 21%
4-1-6 0% 21%
1-3-7 16% 0%
Other 8% 5%

Comparatively the style the Bills used were pretty basic, the 4-3 acted as their base formation while both the 3-2-6 and 4-1-6 acted as their nickel and dime package. Pettine had a tendency to go a little more unconventional. The 3-3-5 is a stack defense that has been used primarily by West Virginia over the past few years. The 3-4-4 is their base set and the 1-3-7 is a formation that no other team in the NFL used more than 1%, Pettine used it 16% to combat the spread sensation that many NFL offenses have been experiencing.

Let’s look into the multiple formations Pettine uses in a bit more detail;

3-4-4
As the Bills sit right now they are best suited for a 4-3-4 alignment but that’s not an alignment Pettine ran at all in 2011,though he did run it 16.54% of the time in 2012. Pettine still stayed in a 34 over 20% of the time in 2012. The Jets 3-4-4 alignment is a 2 gap scheme that is built more off of Buddy Ryan’s 46 scheme than a traditional 3-4-4 scheme.

Along the line both DE’s line up in the 5 Technique which is over the outside shoulder of the OT. The defensive tackle, or nose tackle in this scheme, is lined up directly over the center also known as zero technique. Both OLB’s are set to the outside of the OT’s in 7 or 9 technique while the interior LB’s stand over the interior guards a few yards off the line of scrimmage.

The difference between the how Pettine runs his 3-4-4 and a traditional 3-4-4 is how far into the box the SS traditionally plays which is something that is directly taken from Buddy Ryan’s 46 scheme. Pettine uses the SS like an extra LB and overloads the box with at least 8 while working out of his base set.  Here is a quick example of how the defense looks lining up with the LE kicked inside to a 3 Technique spot.

With that in mind here is how the Bills would line up in this alignment if the season started tomorrow;

DE-Marcel Dareus
DT-Kyle Williams
DE-Mario Williams
OLB-Kyle Moore
ILB-Kelvin Sheppard
ILB-Nigel Bradham
OLB-Shawne Merriman
CB-Stephon Gilmore
CB-Ron Brooks
SS-Aaron Williams
FS-Jarius Byrd

Some may wonder why I have Mario Williams as a 3-4 DE at the 5 tech and not standing up as a OLB and it’s because we know he doesn’t like playing OLB in this alignment. On the inside he can use his power and speed to give offensive lineman trouble. In this alignment the biggest hole is at OLB where the Bills would need to add some pass rush ability or pray that Shawne Merriman somehow regains his form from five years ago.

2-4-5
The 2-4-5 set is a pretty basic nickel set for a 3-4 team. In this alignment the NT is removed from the formation both DE’s move inside to 1 technique positions and an extra DB is added to the field to cover the slot WR. Every other player in the defensive formation remains the same for the most part. Here is a look at how the subtracted and newly added defenders all line up courtesy of Behind the Steel Curtain via SBNation.

With this formation you would subtract Kyle Williams from the 3-4-4 formation and add in Leodis McKelvin.

DE-Marcel Dareus
DE-Mario Williams
OLB-Kyle Moore
ILB-Kelvin Sheppard
ILB-Nigel Bradham
OLB-Shawne Merriman
CB-Stephon Gilmore
CB-Ron Brooks
CB-Leodis McKelvin
SS-Aaron Williams
FS-Jarius Byrd

This is a pass coverage formation to combat a basic three WR set, the issue for the Bills here is that not all four of their LB’s are capable of running into zones like the Jets or Steelers LB’s were capable of doing. Much like the 3-4-4 formation the main focus continues to be on the Bills improving their LB’s and adding athleticism and versatility.

3-3-5
The 33 stack defense is a defense intended to use smaller and quicker defenders in an effort to fly around the field and make plays. It uses a combination of three down lineman, three traditional LB’s, two cornerbacks, one free ranging safety, and two hybrid LB/SAF who most refer to as Bandits. This defense is an attack defense that is designed to creating blocking assignment problems for the offensive lines. This defense is predominantly used in the collegiate ranks and has been made famous by schools like West Virginia and TCU. The advantage this scheme has in the pros rank is that most offenses don’t coach up how to block it or adjust to it. Here is a good example of the alignment, the Michigan Wolverines ran this defense in 2010.

If the Bills were to take up this alignment it would probably look something like this.

DE-Mario Williams
DT-Kyle Williams
DE-Marcel Dareus
OLB-Shawne Merriman
MLB-Kelvin Sheppard
OLB-Kyle Moore
Bandit-Bryan Scott
Bandit-Nigel Bradham
CB-Stephon Gilmore
CB-Ron Brooks
SAF-Jarius Byrd

I could harp on the LB position being deficient in this formation like it is in every formation but truthfully the bandits scare me a lot more than the LB’s here. The Bandits are the most important part of this formation as they have responsibilities in attacking the running game, dropping into coverage, and rushing the passer depending on the call. The acquisition of these hybrid role players could be a calling card of the Pettine defense.

1-4-6
No team in the NFL ran more six or seven DB looks than the New York Jets in 2011. To be exact the Jets ran a six or more DB set 33% of the time in 2011 which was second only to their base 3-4 front.  The 1-4-6 is one of the dime defense versions that the Jets ran in 2011. They went with one down lineman, their traditional four LB’s, four CB’s, and two SAF’s. The down lineman is traditionally one of the DE’s from the base set. As you can see in the image below one of the way to disguise this is to have the front five line up along the line of scrimmage and make the offense think you’re potentially bringing pressure.

DL: Mario Williams
OLB: Kyle Moore
ILB: Nigel Bradham
ILB: Kelvin Sheppard
OLB: Bryan Scott
CB: Stephon Gilmore
CB: Ron Brooks
CB: Leodis McKelvin
CB: Justin Rogers
FS: Jarius Byrd
SS: Aaron Williams

In this formation I’d sub out Shawne Merriman who struggles in coverage for the hybrid LB/S in Bryan Scott. Scott offers more athleticism, coverage ability, and instincts that Merriman does at this point in his career.

2-3-6 & 3-2-6
These are different variations of the 1-4-6 from above, what they offer is different combinations of DL and LB’s to help disguise the coverage and call. I’m only going to post a picture for each one along with showing how I would align the Bills in each formation.

2-3-6
DL: Mario Williams
DL: Kyle Williams
OLB: Kyle Moore
ILB: Nigel Bradham
OLB: Bryan Scott
CB: Stephon Gilmore
CB: Ron Brooks
CB: Leodis McKelvin
CB: Justin Rogers
FS: Jarius Byrd
SS: Aaron Williams

3-2-6
DL: Mario Williams
DL: Kyle Williams
DL: Kyle Moore
LB: Bryan Scott
LB: Nigel Bradham
CB: Stephon Gilmore
CB: Ron Brooks
CB: Leodis McKelvin
CB: Justin Rogers
FS: Jarius Byrd
SS: Aaron Williams

In both defenses I continue to sub Bryan Scott in at LB because he offers more coverage ability than almost any other LB on the roster. Kyle Moore is maybe the most versatile player we have on the team with his ability to play as a stand-up LB or as a hand down DL. I also think moving Bradham inside in order to get Scott onto the field is a necessary switch though I do worry it leaves the defense susceptible to a spread disguised running attack.

1-3-7
This was the final formation Pettine used predominantly in 2011 with the Jets. As you can see in the chart above the Jets ran this formation a staggering 16% of the time and it definitely worked as the Jets had their best year since Pettine came there in 2011. The 1-3-7 is obviously a passing down defense that allows the defense to disguise coverage and potential blitzers. As you can see in the picture below the Jets have eight men in the box despite playing a pass dictated defense.

With the Bills you start to worry about running out of defensive backs but for the time being I’d see this defense as;

DL: Mario Williams
OLB: Kyle Moore
ILB: Nigel Bradham
OLB: Bryan Scott
CB: Stephon Gilmore
CB: Ron Brooks
CB: Leodis McKelvin
CB: Justin Rogers
SAF: Da’Norris Searcy
FS: Jarius Byrd
SS: Aaron Williams

You finally see the introduction of Da’Norris Searcy in this formation which is a player I’m not very high on but with the pure amount of defensive backs needed to even run this formation it becomes a numbers game quickly. Williams remains the lone DL on the field with other staples like Moore and Bradham playing as LB’s. While there isn’t a lot of variation in the pass defense lineups there are a lot of ways you can have them line up to try and fool an offense.

So what does all of this mean? Well it means that Pettine is going to run a complex and constantly changing scheme. In 2012 he ran 25 total defensive formations and added in some 43 looks to playbook as well. It also means that endlessly debating the 43 v 34 argument is pointless when it comes to the 2013 Buffalo Bills defense. The Bills must get better at nearly every position and need to add some serious defensive backfield and LB depth in order to play this many different formations. The main needs as I see them now would be DE/OLB, ILB, CB, and SAF along with another DT to play on the line.

What the Bills need though is more than just players who play a certain position they need players who can play multiple positions, players who can do multiple things, and players who can most of all make plays. A few of the better options in this draft at each position include;

Defensive End
DE Ezekial Ansah-BYU
DE Corey Lemonier-Auburn
DE David Bass-Missouri Western
DE Cornellius Carradine-FSU
DE Brandon Jenkins-FSU

Defensive Tackle
DT Shariff Floyd-Florida
DT Jesse Williams-Alabama
DT Kwame Geathers-UGA
DT Bennie Logan-LSU

Outside Linebacker
OLB Jamie Colins-Southern Miss
OLB Barkevious Mingo-LSU
OLB Khaseem Green-Rutgers
OLB Kenny Tate-Maryland
OLB Ty Powell-Harding
OLB Justin Tuggle-Kansas State
OLB DeVonte Holloman-South Carolina

Inside Linebacker
ILB Arthur Brown-Kansas State
ILB Jonathan Stewart-Texas A&M
ILB Jon Bostic-Florida
ILB Steve Beauharnais-Rutgers
ILB Terrence Garvin-West Virginia
ILB Kenny Cain-TCU

Cornerback
CB Dee Milliner-Alabama
CB Xavier Rhodes-FSU
CB Logan Ryan-Rutgers
CB David Amerson-NC State
CB Tharold Simon-LSU
CB Sanders Commings-UGA
CB Terrence Brown-Stanford

Safety
SAF Kenny Vaccaro-Texas
SAF Tony Jefferson-Oklahoma
SAF DJ Swearinger-South Carolina
SAF Matt Elam-Florida
SAF Kejuan Riley-Alabama State
SAF Duke Williams-Nevada
SAF Ray Polk-Colorado

Tags: Buffalo Bills

3 Responses to “Breaking Down Mike Pettine (Part 2)”

  1. Grif says:

    Well this makes sense:

    SAF – LaRon Landry
    DE-OLB – Paul Kruger
    DT – Mike Devito

    That would be a productive free agency period.

    • TJN says:

      That would be productive….but I wonder where that would put the Bills in terms of Cap $ next year, and the year after…..these free agent contracts effect you for 3-4 years. They would be on top of Mario’s contract.

  2. Freddyjj says:

    Wow a lot of work here. Thanks

    Really think this would need to be done after we get through FA and draft. Why? For starters I doubt Bryan Scott, Merriman, McKelvin or K Moore are on opening day roster.

    And in that Bandit formation, with Merriman, Moore and Shep the Bills would get gouged to the outside due to lack of speed

    Expect a lot of mid level signings on D in FA – Devito NYJ, Butler LB Cowboys, B Jones LB GB, Smith S NYJ, Toler CB AZ to build up our depth and get solid footbal players with some years left on the tread




  • Categories

  • Search BBD Archives

  • Archives