As Broncos coach Vic Fangio prepares for Trevor Lawrence, ‘Mad Scientist’ aims to make things confusing for the rookie quarterback – Denver Post
Since joining the Broncos in 2019, Karim Jackson has regularly arrived at the team’s facility on Wednesday mornings and greeted him with a surprise.
new coverage. new pressure. New disguise. It’s all from coach/defensive caller Vic Fangio.
“He’s going to put something we haven’t done and I’m like, ‘Damn, where did that come from?'” Jackson said this week in an interview with the Denver Post. “This is week after week. It will be something new depending on who we play.”
Who plays the Broncos (1-0) next Sunday are Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, the top picks in this year’s Draft for the Jacksonville and New York Jets respectively. Lawrence is in the foreground.
Fangio may still be in proof mode as head coach (13-20 with the Broncos), but he is universally respected for feeling like he has 14 defenders on the field and how he can impress young players at full-back. – Comma errors.
Since Fangio began calling defensive plays in 1995, his team has gone 18-9 against rookie quarterbacks.
Sample: Carolina beat Peyton Manning. Indianapolis won by Donovan McNab. San Francisco defeated Andy Dalton, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tanehill. Chicago defeated James Winston and Sam Darnold. The Broncos defeated Justin Herbert and Tua Tagoviloa.
In those 27 games, the quarterback has compiled a rating of 73.7 (32 touchdowns and 24 interceptions).
“This is a testament to the groups of players he has, the scheme he has put in place and the way the players can implement them,” said Jackson, who has 152 career starts at full back and security. “He’s definitely a crazy scientist in how he sees things and when it comes to carrying out schemes.”
Fangio entered professional football with the NFL’s Philadelphia Stars in 1984, and often refers to Jim Mora, Sr., and Dom Capers as his primary mentors early in his career. Decades later, Fangio’s tree branched into the Chargers (coach Brandon Staley/defensive coordinator Reinaldo Hill), Chicago (coordinator Sean Desai) and New York Jets (coach Robert Saleh).
Staley was the Broncos’ outside quarterback coach in 2019 after following Fangio from Chicago. Sitting in a café not far from his Parker home two years ago, he detailed some key components of Fangio’s defense.
“One of the reasons it’s special is that we don’t have to push (with more lunges) to get an effective push up,” Staley said. “What it allows us to do is play in disguise and get the math to our advantage (in the field).
“If you look at it from the offensive side, when they don’t know 100% whether we have players dropping or rushing in, that gives us an amazing advantage and that’s why you’ve seen a reckless production wherever you are. We want to have the illusion of disguise and flexibility alignment.”
What makes Fangio unique as a Connected Game Designer / Game Plan Designer?
“He’s really attentive to risk mitigation and has the ability to be patient when others aren’t,” Staley said. “And I think he has the ability to anticipate problems and play a game of chess where he works strides ahead of the attack all the time. You can see that by the way he plays against the midfielders. The flexibility we play with, the camouflage – everything is supposed to be difficult for a midfielder. .and he will become aggressive when you do not rely on him.”
Show A (Aggressive) was the win last year in New England. Fangio called the “Zero Blitz” — a seven-man attack with full man coverage and no too much help — to stop the Patriots in fourth.
Show B (Patience) was last week’s win over the New York Giants. Confident in his four-man dash against quarterback Daniel Jones, Fangio kept things simple — two six-man dash in 42 men.
Figure C (camouflage) may be against Jacksonville. Have your inner quarterback Josie Jewell and Alexander Johnson positioned in the line of scrimmage before falling back into cover at the snapper. Since the Jaguars won’t know if they’re swinging, their in-house workers should stay in place and not aid the Broncos’ rim rush.
Concealment of the appearance before the hijacker is a hallmark of Fangio and he can trust his security veterans (Jackson and Justin Simmons) to execute the fake. Crime forces guesswork. Just before the snap, Jackson could drop close to the line of scrimmage, turning a deep gaze into one high advantage. The trap is set.
“When you can make the same look before the snap as you can and then get to different places on the field, you don’t just get rid of the midfielders, you get rid of the coordinators as well,” said defensive linebacker coach Christian Parker. “We can play the same defense and we can look in five different ways in five different games.”
Outside full-back coach John Pagano said: “You have to masquerade in this league. Fifty percent of the game is aligned and hidden and knowing your mission and the other 50% when the ball is caught and you are in a position to play. The Vic system is one of the systems where you can attack and going to present the play.”
Big bag of tricks
An easy prediction for Sunday is that Fangio will have some tricks ready for Lawrence, but not at the cost of confusing the Broncos’ players.
“There is no sense in making our men uncomfortable in order to (confuse Lawrence),” said Fangio. “Hopefully we can do a good enough job of hiding our intentions. A lot of people think that putting pressure on a rising midfielder is the way to go. But sometimes it makes it easier for him because he sets the coverage and gets the ball out quickly.”
That was Houston defensive coordinator Luffy Smith’s plan last week. He’s faster by four guys almost every time he’s down except for two full-backs who are late in the game. Lawrence had to throw 51 times because Jaguar trailed 37-7 after three quarters and lost 37-21.
“It was very simple,” CBS analyst Adam Archuleta said in a phone interview. “They played maybe three clips of men’s cover and did a good job of implementing area coverage and I have to say Jacksonville didn’t do anything to get them out of that. Trevor had a lot to do.”
Lawrence made several great passes, but also threw three interceptions. The latest spin appeared to have thrown right back Christian Kerksi, who was sitting in his area when the football found him.
“I was just trying to do a lot,” Lawrence told reporters after the game. “I just lost Mike’s (back) playing area in front of me and just kind of had to.”
Archuleta, who was a CBS analyst for Jaguars-Texans, agreed with Lawrence about putting too much pressure on things in the field rather than taking short profits.
“I think the match turned out to be fast for Trevor,” Archuleta said. “He’s tried to get a lot going on the ground and that’s when those windows get really tight. He needs a little more patience. The other thing is I just felt like when he got under pressure he was really quick to slide and pedal back to his left and that’s when his accuracy got away from him.”
If Fangio remains confident that his four-man rush can harass Lawrence, a similar scenario will follow for the past two years. Five or more ran over 25.3% of dropouts in five games against a rising quarterback, roughly the same as his season total (20.1% in 19 and 23% in 20 in the Denver Post game chart). In those five games (scoring 3-2), the Broncos averaged four sacks and 12.4 “disruptions” (sacks/knockouts/pressures) per game.
What’s certain: Fangio’s plan for Lawrence will be different from the plan he would lay out for Wilson’s plane.
“Just when you think he has nothing else in his bag of tricks, he adds more stuff to his arsenal,” Jackson said. “If you have multiple calls to throw off the attack, now they are guessing where we are because everything looks the same before the ball is caught.
“It’s a luxury to have that kind of plan and that kind of bus.”
The upper hand vs. rookie QBs
During his NFL defensive playing career as coordinator and coach for Carolina, Indianapolis, Houston, San Francisco, Chicago and the Broncos, Vic Fangio has an 18-9 record against rookie quarterbacks. The Broncos will face overall top pick Trevor Lawrence on Sunday. A look at the victories:
|Tony Banks, St. Louis||1996||15 of 29, 163 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT|
|Tony Banks, St. Louis||1996||14 of 33, 160 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT|
|Danny Werville, New Orleans||1997||13 of 32, 132 yards, 2 intelligence|
|Tony Graziani, Atlanta||1997||4 of 18, 24 yards, 2 intelligence|
|Peyton Manning, Indianapolis||1998||17 of 34, 225 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT|
|Akelly Smith, Cincinnati||1998||12 of 24, 122 yards|
|Byron Liftwich, Jacksonville||2003||17 of 36, 231 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT|
|Andy Dalton, Cincinnati||2011||17 of 32, 157 yards, 2 INT|
|Russell Wilson, Seattle||2011||9 of 23, 122 yards, 1 INT|
|Ryan Tanehill, Miami||2012||17 of 33, 150 yards, 1 TD|
|Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay||2013||18 of 34, 179 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT|
|James Winston, Tampa Bay||2015||15 of 29, 295 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT|
|Deshaun Kaiser, Cleveland||2017||18 of 36, 182 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT|
|Sam Darnold, New York Jets||2018||14 of 29, 153 yards, 1 TD|
|David Plouffe, Detroit||2019||12 of 24, 117 yards, 1 TD|
|Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers||2020||29 of 43, 278 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT|
|Tua Tagovailoa, Miami||2020||11 of 20, 83 yards, 1 TD|
Rising midfielders to beat Fangio teams: Patrick Ramsey (Washington, 2002), Liftwich (Jacksonville, 2003), Alex Smith (San Francisco, 2005), Wilson (Seattle, 2012), Derek Carr (Oakland, 2014), Carson Wentz (Philadelphia, 2016), Dak Prescott ( Dallas, 2016), Gardner Minshew (Jacksonville, 2019) and Herbert (LA Chargers, 2020).
Total stats: He scored 18-9, 32 touchdowns, 24 interceptions, 55.3% finishing, 4,783 yards and 73.7 PIR.