The Leos are being blitzed like I've never seen before. Its been the main reason why the Leos have given up so many sacks and our quarterbacks have taken so many hits. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at this topic, offer some observations, and read your thoughts on the subject.
All teams have a blitz package. Blitzes are designed to sack or pressure the quarterback, disrupt the offence, and hope the pressure results in turnovers. What is surprising is too see how often the Leos are being blitzed because blitzes are also dangerous and leave teams vulnerable to long runs if the back gets past the first line of defenders and is also suceptible to big passing plays. Let's examine why teams are blitzing the Leos constantly.
The Leos have a dynamic offence. Origniated by John Hufnagel ( a brilliant and innovative offensive mind who coached in Calgary and B.C.) the offence has been refined over the years. Using five and six-pack recievers with lots of motion, bunch formations, and a vareity of offensive sets its a difficult offence to defend. Throw in some of the best recievers in the CFL and two very skilled quarterbacks, combine it with offensive line talent and a multi-dimensional tailback like Antonio Warren and it can give defences fits. Teams believe that if they just send a four man rush and play zone defence Dickenson will methodically pick them apart.
Both Leos quarterbacks, while having tremendous talents, have tendancies which make teams want to blitz the Leos. Dickensen will hold on to the ball until the last second to make a throw. He'll also take a sack to avoid an interception and doesn't throw the ball away to avoid the sack. Teams are also not afraid of his running ability and are willing to give up his runs in order to get pressure on him. Casey Printers is most effective when he gets outside and buys time for his recievers. Teams believe, by blitzing him outside they can contain him in the pocket. They also put a 'spy' on him because they fear his running ability.. Printers also has a tendancy at times to scramble around in the backfield and bringing the extra bodies helps bring him down.
The offensive package of the Leos with its multiple formations also utilizes a lot of crossing patterns and mid-range routes which take some time to develop. Its a complex offence but often is willing to use only five lineman to block for the quarterback. This gives the Leos a lot of talented and speedy, smart recievers for teams to contend with. It leaves teams with the choice of bringing in extra defensive backs or blitzing the Leos. Most teams are choosing the latter in order to try to "beat on" the quarterbacks, force sacks to put the Leos in second and long, disrupt the offence, and not provide enought time for the Leos crossing patterns and other Leos offensive passing with the time to develop.
The Leos do not use a lot of screens, dumps, hitch screens, quick slants, and hot reads in their offence. They sometimes keep the slotbacks in to to block to provide time for the offensive pass play to develop.
The Leos rarely throw deep against the blitz, which is the ultimate fear of blitzing teams, giving up the long touchdown.
Opposition teams, for the most part, believe their best chance to win is to blitz the Leos relentlessly for the above reasons. While they sometimes change it upl, as all teams do, teams will continue to blitz the Leos because they believe its their best chance to win. Dickenson is going to pick you apart for a lot of yards, whether you blitz or not. The best strategy is to hope for sacks, bang him up, and not allow the recievers to get into their patterns. Blitzes on first down also provide good opportunities to work as run blitzes. Most teams are 'zone' blitzing, which means they are often playing a zone defence behind the blitz to try to avoid the big play.
In order for the Leos to reduce the number of sacks they are taking, reduce hits on the quarterback ( and recievers) and have the time to effectively run a number of their plays they need to counteract the blitz in the following ways:
a) Run more screens, hitch screens, quick slants to their slotbacks, and dumps to their running backs. They need to use both Warren and Green in the screen game and even add Clermont or Simon in the screen game with some slotback screens. They could even use the speedy Myers in soem hitch screens. All have the potential to make big plays from screens. The Leos had a wonderful game plan in the first Calgary game to couteract the blitz. Its the only game plan in which the Leos have utilized screens and dumps effectively.
b) be willing to hurt teams vertically with the long ball against the blitz on occasion. Nothing throws more fear into blitzing teams than giving up the long ball. Even if it isn't completed blitzing teams have to be challenged deep at times. High percentage passing is a wonderful thing but teams will continue to blitz the Leos if the offense only keeps throwing 8-10 yard passes. Sometimes the Leos should use maximum protection and use only a three receiver pattern against the blitz and throw deep downfield. A couple of long completions can put defensive coordinators in a less gambling mood and it saves sacks and hits on the quarterback.
c) throw in two or three unusual offensive plays per game that are designed to especially hurt overly aggressive, blitizing defences. Reverses, throw back screens, hitch pass and throow, counters, reverse plays with a throw are just some examples of the many offensive plays that can really create a big play opportunity when teams are hell bent on getting to the quarterback.
c) keep working with the offence and the quarterbacks to enable them to best utilize their talents. Have Dickensen throw deep early against the blitz and also give him more dumps and screens as his options. Get Prnters to scramle less at times and take off more quickly (as he did in the second half against Edmonton). Printers does challenge defenses vertically when they blitz.
The Leos have an impressive offensive package. With some adjustments to hurt blitzing teams more effectively and a better goal line offence they could become unstoppable. They have the quarterbacks, the recievers, the running game, and an offensive line, which for the most part, has handled four and five man rushes and blocked well in the running game.
Its a lot easier to make suggestions than it is to play or coach the game from the field. I'm very, very aware of that. However, if the Leos look at the game film, the hits their qb's are taking, and are willing to add in some plays from their playbook into their game plans that offer a more multi-dimensional approach to overly blitzing teams (and take that appraoch for each game as they did in the first Calgary game) they will be better able to hurt teams, reduce sacks, save wear and tear on their qb's, and eventually find teams are less willing to blitz them almost every down.
I hope this isn't seen as negative but only some suggestions to take a potent offence and make it even better. I'd be really interested on your thoughts on this topic!!!