Hey gang, it's the Commish back finally writing a post for C3 again. Dealing with storm repairs, a busted water heater, and a chimney fire as well as school has kept me away for a while, but here I am again...this time to talk not about the upcoming NFL Draft (there'll be plenty to come on that later), but a fantasy idea we've all likely had at one time or another: building our own NFL team.
I was just talking with a friend and we'd both like to see another team, should we be able to just "invent" one, in the southeast. Market size is a concern, since even Charlotte is just 23rd in market size in the NFL. Anyhow, it's a fantasy, so just follow along:
Drafting, Personnel, and Scheme
Assuming our team, call it the "Southern Slayers" for now, has Carolina's draft order this year, I'd build around LSU star RB Leonard Fournette. Some say he's too "fragile" for the NFL, but he has simply had his share of dings one would expect when you're the workhorse of a run-heavy offense. Some say Dalvin Cook of Florida is the top RB this year, but I did a little digging, and he has had three torn shoulder issues since high school, so durability is a concern for him, too. Fournette is a transcendent player, likely even more gifted than Todd Gurley. Some compare him to Adrian Peterson, but I think his ceiling is even higher than that and he's the closest thing to Bo Jackson I've seen yet. He doesn't have Bo's speed, and probably doesn't quite have Bo's strength, but he's only a couple of pegs below Bo on both, and that's still an outstanding combo.
So, we're a power-running team, but Carolina's current WRs would be the style I'd go with as well. The idea here is the passing game doesn't need fast guys (except for that one just for a deep threat out of the slot most likely, in play-action). We need the Kelvin Benjamin-types to "play above the rim" throwing high balls in short/intermediate passing routes that smaller DBs simply cannot contest unless they're in absolutely perfect position. Sure, they might be nearby, but can they elevate & get their hands up eleven or twelve feet off the ground?
Even on short, easy curl or slant routes, big-bodied receivers can use that big body as a shield to corral a pass, and use their size & strength to fall forward to turn a 5 yard completion into an 8-yard gain.
So, we're talking "small ball" on offense, with an occasional big play off play-action due to an established, multi-threat running attack while a top-end RB, like Fournette, would naturally create some big plays with his athletic ability. That's the icing.
Future drafts would need TWO GOOD QBs. Why? Because they BOTH need to be the hybrid runner/thrower types. Neither one has to be an elite passer, but two are needed because we'll be doing a lot more QB runs, and a backup QB is likely to see action due to injury of the starter taking hits.
Why would I insist on this type of offense? Simple:
When a QB becomes a runner, the game truly becomes an 11-on-11 match-up that you do not get any other way. If he passes the ball or hands it off, it's a 10-on-11 game, with the defense having the edge. Make the QB a running threat consistently, and it's an even-Steven contest.
Also, doing so automatically gives our Slayers the edge because we'd be playing 11-on-11 when we have the ball, but 11-on-10 when the OTHER team has the ball.
The offensive line wouldn't need but one premier pass-blocker to play at left tackle. All four of the others need to be run-blocking maulers, with the right tackle needing average feet to be able to pass-block against all but elite edge-rushers.
The offensive playbook would be power-running first, second, and third if possible. Wear down the opposition, much like the Carolina Panthers attempt to do. We're just putting more emphasis on having TWO starting-quality QBs, but that shouldn't be a problem, given the parameters we look for in those QBs. Sure, a starter like Cam would be ideal, but guys like that don't pop up often. A couple of 2nd-3rd rounders should do the trick, and they'd be played at random times, depending upon their strengths compared to each other.
Since the offense is a ball-control, no-mistakes, physical, punishing team, the defense should be similarly built. The strengths here should be in the defensive tackles and defensive backs, with lighter, faster OLBs than most teams have. Speed on the edges, brute force up the middle with a large MLB, assuming no Luke Keuchly is around. There's even a chance I'd consider going to a defense I hate, the 3-4, *IF* I could find three athletic 300+ pound DL to employ. I have always thought the DL, not the linebackers, were the real key to a GREAT 3-4 defense. I've said putting people like Julius Peppers or Jared Allen at OLB is foolhardy as they're playing out of position and being paid a ton of money.
At any rate, the idea would be to have a defense built to stop the run and be a ball-hawking turnover machine. The offense is supposed to not turn the ball over while the defense is designed to create exactly those mishaps. A great pair of safeties would really help there while keeping facing the offense in a zone or a zone-blitzing scheme in order to better be able to react to the run than you can in man-to-man coverage. Deception and running multiple coverages out of the same formation would keep the enemy offensive coordinator busy and the QB and skill players guessing.
The Overall Idea
While the NFL is a passing league, teams' rosters reflect that. In being a counter-type team, in that the power run is emphasized on offense, most teams won't match-up well against us. They'll be built to stop these fleet-footed WRs not these 240lbs-plus ball carriers and will wear down in the second half from the sheer physical brutality of it all.
The One Weakness
All teams have it...this team would face some difficulty in coming from behind, but only if down by multiple scores and late. But face it, most teams lose in those situations anyway, and the idea is not to get put there to begin with by being tight with possession of the ball, running down the clock, and keeping the chains moving.
Atlanta's weakness heading into the Super Bowl is their inability to consistently stop the run. I think New England's Legarrette Blount could have a huge day, if Bill B and Josh McDaniels are going to do what I think they may....run more than they throw. If they do that, they keep Julio & the Gang off the field, unable to do any damage as they watch. When you limit their chances in a tight game, they'll automatically feel like they have to press, may play tight as a result, and that's exactly how turnovers are more likely to happen.
New England's weakness is in their lack of big-play weapons on offense. Sure, they've got the likely GOAT in QB Tom Brady, and it's his skill along with smaller, quick rather than fast (as Mike Mayock says) slot-type WRs. They're near-impossible to cover working from the inside and have enough speed to make some yards after the catch, but are unlikely to make a lot of people miss or flat out-run many DBs.
So, my idea of a team would match-up well against BOTH squads. Atlanta would have trouble outscoring the Southern Slayers due to lack of possessions, and Brady's Deflatriots would have trouble out-playing our scheme.
We'd have a uniquely powerfully-built offense that only would get stronger as the game progresses, so the other team would have to burst out to an early lead to have a good chance of winning.
Defensively, being strong on the back end would help limit opponents' big-play opportunities by making the tackle before a TD results, most of the time, at least. TDs still happen. Strong DTs and an MLB up the middle would force the enemy offense to try off-tackle our outside runs, where the fast OLBs and DBs playing zone would have time to read & react, largely frustrating rushing attempts all game.
This plus a lead would certainly make the enemy offense one-dimensional in the passing game, and that's where bringing pressure from various spots (ie: an "overload" blitz or "A-gap/B-gap" blitz) would keep them guessing. The key as I said on defense, however, is showing the same pre-snap "look" while being able to actually call multiple coverages from it, keeping their offense guessing. Enough wrong guesses will result in turnovers.
Sounds Easy - What's the Catch?
The "catch" is drafting great players at the key spots. The key spots are having the two starting QBs due to their running, a star HB because he'll be the one with hands on the ball the most by FAR of any single player on the team, an above-average RB2 who may not be fast, but has the power to run between the tackles in case of injury to the RB1. Otherwise, the team's offense just needs "hybrid/tweener" WRs, good run-blocking OL, and run-blocking TEs, but one of which can be a receiving threat in the short/intermediate passing game. He needn't be a Greg Olsen, but of course, that would be nice. I'm just trying to be realistic about manning this type of team.
Defensively, the "star" needs to be a free safety, ideally, to be that "center fielder" who can swoop in and snag errant passes to create havoc and uncertainty in the mind of the enemy QB. The DL should be the strongest overall unit, if nothing else, to read & react quickly against the run or the pass and to help give the back-seven an extra beat to get into position to make plays. If there are the right guys for the 3-4, it might even be better to have the extra defender upright for some flexibility in both scheming and zone play calling, but no 280 lb OLBs PLEASE!
What's the RESULT?
The RESULT should be a unique team, with two starting-quality interchangeable QBs. The QB position would be the only one that really might be difficult to hold year in and year out, but since we're looking for slightly different qualities than the top picks usually are, it might be easier to swing since there will be more emphasis on the QB's running ability and slightly less on his passing ability than most incoming rookies. The QB won't HAVE to have the elite arm strength or accuracy, but short/intermediate accuracy.
We'd need a couple of pass-rushers just as any team does, a stout defensive interior, and good zone-corners. The great part of it is my "Anti-Chump Kelly" approach would actually decrease the need for depth on defense, since having a ball-control offense keeps your own defense rested. There's always a drop-off in talent and/or experience when you go to your bench (else they'd be starting too, duh) anyway, so the offensive scheme helps that side of the ball. I'd still want the best defenders I could find, but mainly, I'd be hunting those two QBs and HB to set the table with.
The GM could always have a third "project" or young QB on the roster/practice squad, using him as leverage against the two "starters." Also, he could use the two "starters" as leverage against EACH OTHER to keep salary demands down.
Also, since the team's QBs' skill sets aren't going to be the most in-demand by other teams, due to the unique scheme the Southern Slayers use, free agency won't be so palatable to them as it might otherwise be, but the GM could come back and point out that, with the two-QB system, each QB takes fewer snaps than a normal starting QB would (every snap, obviously). Therefore, salary demands should be somewhat suppressed.
It's How the Panthers SHOULD LOOK!
Yep, other than the two-QB idea, my idea is basically taking the Panthers' team to the extreme. Most of the pieces are already in place, and if we just take Leonard Fournette if he's available come draft time, we might actually be able to see what the idea looks like in-practice!
I have deactivated my Twitter account because of the infantile "political discourse" going on.
When people learn how to act, I'll be back. Don't hold your breath. I'm not.
-- Ken Dye AKA "The Commish"