Reads Listens Views 7/20/12 – Booher, Aurora, and More Pot

Thoughts and Prayers for the Town of Aurora, Colorado

Last night’s shooting in an Aurora, Colorado theater during the midnight screening of Batman is the second massacre of this sort in a Denver suburb in recent years. Aurora was my second home as a child. My father lived there for at least 20 years and worked just five miles form that theater. He still doesn’t live far from there to this day. My brother grew up in a suburb pretty much between Aurora and just a highway exit away from Columbine.

And my friend and colleague Cecil Lammey lives in Littleton, which isn’t far from there, either. In fact, he left our Audible Podcast early to see the midnight screening of Batman and many of us wondered if he was in that theater upon hearing the tragic news. Thankfully, he was not, but dozens more weren’t as fortunate. Please keep the victims of this crime in your thoughts and prayers today.

On a related note, David and Shevelle, I’m sending my prayers your way. My wife and I met this Aurora couple last Friday at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. If you didn’t know, the museum is at the site of the old Lorraine Motel, the place where Martin Luther King was assassinated. We saw a documentary featuring the Reverend Billy Kyle, who was at Martin Luther King’s side when the shot was fired. The film included a spine-chilling sermon Kyle gave about bearing witness to this tragedy.  I found it here and considering the events of last night, I think it is fitting to share.

We met David and Shevelle in the lobby. They were getting a photo with Reverend Kyle, who was coincidentally at the museum for a visit as we were all exiting the theater. David was kind enough to take a photo of us with the Reverend Kyle and after we got to talking, we found it was his birthday and we decided to get lunch together.

Despite the fact that I had to have another serving of humble pie about the Cleveland Browns of the 1980s at the hand of David’s beloved Denver Broncos, we had terrific meal at Gus’s Fried Chicken. So David, if you’ve checked out my blog before I can get your contact information from my wife, let us know you guys are okay and hopefully no one you knew was at the Century 16 last night.

More on Ryan Booher’s RSP Team

Get to know more about Chip Kelly’s practices and a great drill from Mike Leach. Photo by Wade Rackley.
Ryan Booher delivered a terrific RSP Reader’s squad, but I had additional questions for him after reading his Q&A. Booher, like many football-obsessed writers, analysts, and fans has a limited football background. He played in high school and roots for the Dolphins. That’s essentially it. However, his understanding of the game is highly nuanced and he’s another example of the knowledgeable community I hope to foster with this project. His knowledge exceeds that of many football writers I have met.
Here’s his Q&A.
What is your background with football or writing about football (if you have any)?
Aside from playing through high school, my background with football is simply as a rabid fan. Having endured my fanhood with the Miami Dolphins, I have seen both the ups and the downs that come with the sport. I think that as with anything in life, if you are going to voice your opinion or displeasure, you should be able to offer an educated reason as to why you feel that way.
Anyone can say that your team should just sign Peyton Manning, or trade a boatload of picks for RG3, but is that actually plausible for your team to accomplish? I like to scan both college football and NFL to see what trends are being set and who is breaking the mold. Who has true vision and the accompanying courage not to go with the masses.
From finding the prospects, to what it is you are going to ask them to do on the field, IMAGINATION is a quality that all the legends in coaching and personnel have. We live in such an amazing time in that we have an infinite amount of resources at our disposal, and many, many smart minds who are more than willing to share their opinions. I mean I can follow Wade Phillips on twitter, how cool is that?
So that is a long-winded explanation saying that I am a highly-educated fan, although people like Pat Kirwan would not like to hear that.
What is essential for your team to execute these spread plays effectively so you can achieve these no-huddle drives that wear defenses down? How do you avoid situations where you generate a lot of three and outs, leave your defense on the field too long, and then have to use Luck to bring your team back from a deficit?
Andrew Luck and T.J. Yates. The first thing I want Luck paying attention to every time he gets to the line of scrimmage is where we have an advantage in leverage and in numbers, secondly are they showing blitz. If we have an advantage in numbers, their is no shame in a run for three yards off tackle. I sought players that could do damage after the catch and really making defenses pay for trying to attack. Luck has to be of the understanding that we need to stay ahead of the down and distance, that defenses are just too good to expect to make a living converting third & longs more than a couple times.
One excerpt from this Smart Football article in particular, sums up the benefits that the no-huddle really offers.
Modern defenses want to match offenses in terms of strength and speed via personnel substitutions. They also want to confuse offenses with movement and disguise. The up-tempo no-huddle stymies those defensive options.
The defense doesn’t have time to substitute, and it’s also forced to show its hand: It can’t disguise or shift because the quarterback can snap the ball and take advantage of some obvious, structural weakness. And when the defense is forced to reveal itself, Tom Brady can change into a better play. The upshot of this tactic: Brady, of all people, sees defenses that are simpler than those most other NFL quarterbacks go up against.
While Luck is no Tom Brady, his intelligence and understanding of not only what we are trying to do, but what defenses are trying to do to him is very high. Anything that slows the game down, simplifies what he sees, only goes to enhance his probability for success.
Having Yates and his mental acumen readily available as another set of eyes will also help ensure that we understand what it is the defense is trying to do to us. Given the sheer number of plays we are trying to run, some three-and-outs are inevitable, but our defense has to face our offense and the myriad of possibilities we offer everyday in practice. The high number of reps that our no-huddle requires only goes to help both our offense and defense.
Conditioning for our team is something that has to be critical, and I placed a high emphasis on finding players who not only understand this, but embrace it as well.

While football success can be attributed to certain doses of execution, athleticism, and strategy and you acknowledge this very well, you also seem to be placing a lot of focus on strategy with a variety of looks. How do you ensure that execution will be successful when there’s so much to learn?

The pace of practices is one of the core ideas behind everything that we are trying to accomplish. Being able to gets as many reps as possible, to be able to implement all of the different things we want do do, can be a very challenging task. Chip Kelly was very advanced in his understanding that there is no need to bring practice to a screeching halt to correct a mistake, but to maximize reps, and go back and do the proper corrections and coaching later.
The meeting rooms, the classrooms, and the film room is where we strive for perfection. We want our players to be as comfortable and understanding of what we ask them to do before they ever set foot on the field. All of the coaches I chose are very good teachers, not rah-rah guys who have to give a long-winded, motivational speech. The time we put in making sure the players minds get it will go to ensure minimal mistakes on the field. Any coach will tell you they want the players reacting, not thinking, and all of the time we put into this will hopefully go to accomplish this.
I love the pace of the practices that we hear about from your coaching staff talk more about that.
It is the pace and structure of these practices that is essentially the heartbeat our football team. Every player on the team will be able to have maximum opportunities to earn his spot. Running a higher number of play helps give us even more of an idea on the areas in which we are strong and we are weak. We want highly competitive, game-like situations during practice.
No player is locked into his starting position; his spot will have to be earned. A seventh-round draft choice will get far more reps than he normally would without such a fast pace, and he can have a much bigger hand in his success. We place an emphasis on leaders who will challenge their teammates to get the best out of themselves during their chance to shine. Given the multitude of things we ask of guys like Bush, Clay, and Reece, they can gets optimal reps at different spots on the field because of the pace we undertake.
One of the toughest things about using a lot of shifts is getting skill players to run good routes or execute sound blocks on either side of the field. Some players are better route runners to the left than the right. Some have a tough time making reads or executing on a certain side. You have two young receivers and young tight ends. Bush, Clay, and Reece I have no concerns about, but Jean and Little might be a different story. The concern for Luck learning the system early enough to win is valid, but what would you say to those that wonder if some of your key skill players might have an equally difficult time?
When picking the players for the offense, the main essentials were versatility, football IQ, and work ethic. Little showed his ability to be adaptable undergoing a position change, and has always shown the willingness to block when called upon. Jean’s blocking skills are somewhat of a concern, but the coaching staff will spend a great deal of time on fundamentals and technique.
Teaching these players proper hand usage and correct leverage can be more than enough for us to accomplish our desired goals on a lot of these run plays. The high volume of reps we offer each player in practice and in game situations will help give us as much info on each player as possible. When we find that a player runs certain routes better to one side of the field, we will try and utilize him as much as possible on said side.
Mike Leach had a drill that I think it is fantastic on many levels. He talks of how it gets each quarterback a rep during the drill, but I would also be rotating the receivers and backs as well, helping acclimate them to each route and running it from different spots on the field. These are the kinds of things our coaches can do to try and find each players comfort level, and what they are best and worst at.
It begins with five quarterbacks with a football on the line of scrimmage and they drop back.  All five receivers run the routes.  Each quarterback has a different read and a different place he’s going with the ball.  We have dummies out there to represent zone defenders.
If I have the first read I drop back and throw it to the receiver on the first read, but then my eyes go back and read the second read, third read, fourth read, fifth read, etc.  Now the QB that has the fifth read will take his footwork then look through all four reads before hitting the last read with the ball.  This way you’re teaching them a full-field read.
I stand behind the dummies representing coverage.  I may not know where their eyes are but I do see that the balls are thrown in order which is an indicator that their eyes are in the right place.  You just rotate the quarterbacks and the receivers so that each QB sees the different reads.  We will do this with all our full-field pass concepts.  You can get through 30 reps easily in ten minutes.  We will do it everyday.
How would you defend your offense in the red zone? I would think a free-wheeling safety could cause a little havoc when playing in a confined area. What do you think?
I would have my corners utilize bump and run, and have my linebackers and safeties run Cover 2 zones. My linebackers would have the ability to play run first, and if and when my offense were to motion, I could keep the look of man, hoping to bait the quarterback into not recognizing the zone.
When defending goal-to-go situations, Cover 0 with bump and run would be able to wreak havoc on my timing based passing attack. It again gives my linebackers the ability to play the run first. Defenses with the Troy Polamalu’s of the world could be very effective, as his ability to be anywhere on the formation can cause confusion for my offense. Against diamond formations that I want to run to get single coverage, I would try and double team both outside receivers, or bracket an underneath guy like Bush.
I love the description of all the players you have on defense to account for the varieties of offensive skill players you’ll see, but who is doing what? And more important, how are you going to prevent defenses from locking you into a scheme with a no-huddle attack of their own and finding match ups that you can’t stop as well because your Swiss Army piece is standing on the sideline?
In my base 4-3 defense, my line will have Cam Wake and Nick Perry as bookends, with Jared Odrick and Linval Joseph manning the interior. K.J. Wright will be the WILL, Rey Maualuga the MIKE, and Demario Davis the SAM. My starting corners will be Earl Thomas and Sean Smith, with Jairus Byrd at free safety and Reshad Jones at strong safety.
In 30 fronts, I will have Odrick and Joseph kick out to five-techs, with Mt. Cody coming in to play the nose. Wake and Perry would then move to standup pass rushers, with Demario Davis kicking inside along with Maualuga. In obvious passing situations, I am more than confident in walking Byrd down over the slot, and allowing Jones to play center field. Iloka and Cook are my hopeful answers for teams like the Patriots who have multiple threats at the tight end position.
I tried to safeguard against being locked into a certain scheme by having such flexible players on defense. Having Thomas, Smith and Byrd on the field at the same time is my counter move against a team with good receivers, and Reshad Jones has shown me the ability to play effectively in both man and in zone. I have concern that a team with a power running game could line up and bowl me over, but my hope is my front seven is stout enough against the run to help prevent that. Additionally, my high-tempo, no-huddle is designed with the idea of scoring bunches of points, and quickly, and if a team wants to pound the rock on me, that is fine by me.

RSP Project

On a far less somber note, the following heavy hitters have submitted their RSP Projects and will debut soon:

  • CBS fantasy analyst Dave Richard
  • and Football Perspective blogger Chase Stuart
  • Footballguys and Second Opinion blogger Jene Bramel
  • Bleacher Report Draft Analyst Matt Miller

Former NFL scout Russ Lande is working on his, as is former NFL player and Bleacher Report columnits Ryan Riddle. Thanks to Lande, I may have another former scout joining the project, too. More on that later.

Non-Football Reads

Pot Scares Big Business Pharmaceuticals: According to a friend of mine who heard about my blog post on pot and athletes, a retired academic and practicing that psychologist, low dosages of marijuana does a better job of increasing serotonin than the leading pharmaceuticals that treat anxiety and depression. Here’s the published research if you’re interested in details. What’s fascinating about this is that while many people see the dawning of an age where marijuana will someday be as legal as alcohol – me included – there’s a huge speed bump looming.

Major pharmaceutical companies would lose significant revenue to a natural herb that does a better job than its highest-selling products. Pharma has a lot of money invested in our legislative branch of government. They won’t be letting it happen unless they begin growing their own legally while figuring out a way to keep the average citizen from doing the same.

Third-Party Assassins, Inc: In an unfortunately related story that I found before the Aurora massacre, here’s a story about our country outsourcing assassins.  Although I’d like to hope we don’t need assassins, I’d at least prefer they are officially part of our government and our leaders are accountable to them rather than hiring them off the street so they didn’t have to let the buck stop with them.

McCain Shows Some Class: We don’t need any more witch hunts in this country. Nice to see someone stand up to it and it doesn’t surprise me that McCain was the one to do so. If you read about his imprisonment and torture in Vietnam then you know he is made of rare stuff. The link in the last sentence is to David Foster Wallace’s essay “Up, Simba.” Well worth an extended read this weekend when you have time.

Fantasy Season Revving Up

The hardest of the hardcore fantasy owners in dynasty leagues have already had rookie drafts, but I know there still many of you diehard fantasy owners in competitive leagues are often just getting started. To get the lowdown on the rookie class of skill position players with a level of detail that you’re unlikely to see anywhere else, download the 2012 Rookie Scouting Portfolio and 2012 Rookie Scouting Portfolio Post Draft.

I’m still getting “thank you” emails from first-time readers that are blown away at the level of insight and detail that the RSP delivers with its rankings, tiers, skills analysis, player comparisons, and play-by-play notes that, depending on how the reader uses it, makes this both a handy magazine-style read and a vast resource that you can access years from now as a reference for players that emerge into starters later on.

iPad friendly with the Good Reader App, the RSP is worth every penny. Speaking of money, 10 percent of each sale is donated to Darkness to Light an organization that combats sexual abuse through community training of parents, teachers, coaches, and other organizations about the dynamics of this crime to foster more preventative environment as well as create greater awareness about handling the issue appropriately when it happens.

Views – Something Worth a Smile

Intelligence isn’t just a human trait.

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