Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft Lead Writer, Matt Miller is the founder of the NFL draft site New Era Scouting. Matt’s work has been featured in Madden 13, on ESPN radio, SiriusXM, NFL.com, SI.com, and USA Today. NFL, CFL and AFL teams have utilized his services. Matt was the secondary and special teams coordinator for the three-time league champion Joplin Crusaders of the Central Football League.
Miller went big and bad on defense and young and unproven on offense. I know that the edges of my offensive line will be severely tested if facing Miller’s team. In fact, if my team were fortunate enough to come away with a victory, even a 14-6 win might feel like a three-point loss.
However, it’s not fair at all to characterize Miller’s offense as one that can only score six points. There’s some quality talent on this offense that could grow up fast. If they all transition at the same fast rate, this squad could have the positives of the Houston Texans offense and San Francisco 49ers defense.
Describe your offensive system (Personnel formations, blocking schemes, bread and butter plays, pivotal players in the scheme, and coaching staff):
Our offense will be built around a three-wide and two-tight end system, with a single running back that will be expected to run, block, and catch with equal ability. Our offense will run on a zone blocking scheme, much like what the Houston Texans used during the 2011 season. Some of our bread and butter plays will be the sretch zone run (think Arian Foster) and play action off the stretch zone run with the tight end given an option route and outside receivers running deep routes if in zero coverage with post-corners if in zone coverage.
The offense is centered around the ability of Andrew Luck to read and diagnose plays post-snap. Luck’s ability to move in the pocket makes the stretch run and play-action a key to our offense. With speed at receiver in Mike Wallace, and then the size of Alshon Jeffery, we believe the offense can stretch coverage deep, which allows athletic tight ends Coby Fleener and Evan Rodriguez to get open underneath on option routes. I have followup questions sent to Miller and answers are coming soon.
The coordinators and coach that you’d likely pick to run it
Offensive coordinator – Rick Dennison (Houston)
Quarterbacks coach – Josh McDaniels (New England)
Running Backs coach – Wilbert Montgomery (Baltimore)
Wide Receivers coach – Edgar Bennett (Green Bay)
Offensive Line coach – John Benton (Houston)
Describe your defensive system within similar criteria as the offense
Our defense is a 3-4 scheme based on heavy pressure from the outside linebackers and defensive ends, identical to the one ran by the 2011 San Francisco 49ers. Our key play is a stunt between the outside linebacker and defensive end on passing downs, which we believe will free up athletes on the edge to make plays against mismatched blockers. With versatile defenders that can rush the passer, our third-down unit will be unstoppable.
It all starts with Justin Smith up front, where offenses must devote two blockers. This will free Aldon Smith and Von Miller, the two best young pass rushers in the NFL, to make plays. Should anyone sneak through, Patrick Willis’ range gives us flexibility in the middle.
Defensive Coordinator – Vic Fangio (San Francisco)
D-Line Coach – Mike Trgovac (Baltimore)
Linebackers Coach – Pepper Johnson (New England)
Secondary Coach – Ed Donatell (San Francisco)
Where do you believe your offense is vulnerable in terms of system and personnel and what specifically have you done to minimize the impact of those vulnerabilities?
With a very young offense, we’re susceptible to blitzes and robber coverage. With athletic tight ends we hope to minimize robber coverage by exploiting our size advantage match ups. To help with a young quarterback making reads, we’ve drafted a quarterback with a high I.Q. and placed him behind a veteran offensive line that is athletic enough to move the pocket and run play-action. We are also banking on an unproven back in Javon Ringer, someone who has shown great potential, but is largely untested.
Where do you believe your defense is vulnerable in terms of system and personnel and what specifically have you done to minimize the impact of those vulnerabilities?
Our cornerbacks are not world-beaters, but they are solid. If there is a weakness on defense, it’s here. Tramon Williams has to play with more discipline and make better gambles on the ball. If Mike Martin cannot draw double-teams on the defensive line, Justin Smith will have less room to make plays, which has a domino effect on the entire scheme.
Who are your stars and why did you invest so much in them?
Andrew Luck is the best quarterback prospect to enter the NFL draft in 25 years. Eric Winston is pound-for-pound the best right tackle in football and the key to our zone blocking scheme. Justin Smith is arguably the most impactful defensive player in all of football. Aldon Smith and Von Miller are young pass rushers who set the NFL on fire with their sack totals. Patrick Willis is a young leader at inside linebacker that will set the tone for our defense. And Eric Weddle is a play-making free safety who is a turnover machine
Name some of your offensive role players that might be role players now, but you believe could develop into much more as a starter or even star in your organization.
Javon Ringer is a great example of this. He’s never been a featured back, but he’s flashed the potential to be an every-down player for us. We’re relying on three rookies here too – Alson Jeffery, Coby Fleener and Evan Rodriguez – to make big plays early on.
Name some of your defensive role players who might be role players now, but you believe could develop into much more as a starter or even star in your organization.
William Middleton may surprise some people, but we feel he’s a top-10 starter at right cornerback. Mark Herzlich fought back to make a great comeback from cancer, and we think he’s a great fit at inside linebacker next to Patrick Willis.
Which of your starters or significant situational contributors on your rosters do you believe would be on the roster bubble in 2013?
Chris Polk has to prove he’s healthy. We’re expecting big things, but he could be a roster cut in the future. Same for Vontaze Burfict, who has to prove he has his head on straight.
What was the most difficult part of the selection process for you?
Building a cohesive offensive and defensive line that can fit within the schemes decided upon was very tough, but there were great value picks to be found with some digging and research.
Based on your roster what type of playing facility would you want as your home stadium (describe the facility as outdoors, indoors, turf, grass, climate)?
With our speed and strength on defense, an outdoor stadium using field turf would be ideal. The climate doesn’t matter when you have this front seven.
Name three risky personnel selections on offense and explain why (talent, off-field, age, injury, fit, etc.).
Javon Ringer is one because we’re banking on an unproven back to be our bell cow. Asking the big rookie Alshon Jeffery to be a solid No. 2 receiver, and a decent possession option opposite deep-threat Mike Wallace is another. And for all his ype, there is still a chance that Andrew Luck cannot live up to expectations.
Name three risky personnel selections on defense and explain why (see above).
Paul Kruger is one. Moving the versatile defender to a five technique position will be a new test for him. Trusting rookie Mike Martin to be a two-gap defender in the middle of the defense will be a risk. Since his past injuries are a concern and he’s never played in a 3-4 defense, inside linebacker Mark Herzlich is another player that might not pan out.
Name a few players you really wished to add, but couldn’t find the room due to the restrictions of the salary cap or the fit within your team’s system.
Darren Sproles was the one player who just didn’t fit. Navarro Bowman would have looked great in the defense, too.
Which players on your team would you have added even if they cost more than the listed price?
The core defensive players Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, Von Miller and Eric Weddle. I would have made cut to my offensive skill positions to fit them into the cap.
How do you think the makeup of your roster and distribution of your resources illustrates where your philosophy breaks with NFL conventional wisdom?
We’ve gone young on offense in order to field a dominant defense, which fits the old concept of “defense wins championships.” However, the offense is built for a high-performance passing attack with concessions made at running back to fit under the salary cap.
How much of a priority did you place on special teams, considering the restrictions of the salary cap? How would you rate your special teams unit?
Special teams were the last position filled, using whatever money was available after the fact. Almost no special consideration was given to the positions.
Coming Soon: Jene Bramel, Chase Stuart, and a murderer’s row from Draft Hub.