One of the things I miss most about playing is the unlimited access to all of the coaches' tape teams use to evaluate players and game plan for opponents. Watching games on television with the ever-increasing technology is outstanding, and you can certainly glean some information about players and teams in this manner, but it just isn't the same as the coaches' tape. To truly critique players and coaches at a deeper level, you have to check out the "all-22" and "end zone" cuts that are only available at NFL team training facilities and NFL Films headquarters in Mount Laurel, N.J.
The "all-22" look is a wide view from the sideline that allows one to see what every player is doing on every play. It is especially helpful in the passing game to identify coverages and evaluate receivers and defensive backs. The "end zone" angle is just that, a camera in the end zone that focuses on offensive and defensive linemen.
A guy who watches plenty of coaches' tape is Greg Cosell, an NFL Films employee who also happens to be both the creator and executive producer of the NFL Match-Up show that is popular among NFL players and coaches. I spoke with him recently to get his take on a few burning NFL questions. The beauty of Cosell is he does not work for an NFL team, thus he has no agenda, unlike some of the players and coaches I talk to around the league. He simply offers his opinions based on what he sees in his exhaustive film study with the likes of Ron Jaworski and Merrill Hoge in preparation for Match-Up.
Based on your film study, do you think the Eagles' trade of Donovan McNabb within division to the Redskins had more to do with their confidence in Kevin Kolb or their lack of faith in McNabb?
"I think the Eagles feel extremely comfortable with Kolb and that fueled the decision to trade McNabb. Once they made the decision to trade McNabb, it didn't matter to them where they traded him.
"I think Kolb allows the multi-dimensional West Coast offense to work more efficiently because he is a quicker decision maker and a more accurate short to intermediate passer.
"That being said, I believe where McNabb went, working under Mike Shanahan, will be an excellent fit. Shanahan is as good as there is when it comes to personnel packages, different formations and dictating matchups in the passing game that allow the QB to be very quick with his decision making."
Speaking of the Redskins, how much of an upgrade is former Washington signal caller Jason Campbell over the quarterbacks the Oakland Raiders had last year?
"He is a huge upgrade. Campbell was a square peg in a round hole in Washington. He is not a West Coast QB. A West Coast QB requires very quick feet and a quick delivery. Campbell is not that guy. He is a five-step and seven-step drop QB who can work effectively off of play-action, which better defines the reads and allows him to be better protected to throw the ball down the field."
What major schematic trend do you see teams doing offensively?
"The game has evolved into a chess match between spread concepts on offense and pressure concepts on defense, which is why it is so important to come up with pressure concepts that rely on fewer defenders rushing, not more defenders rushing. The poster-child for that is Rex Ryan and the New York Jets. The whole idea is to rush as few as possible while still getting someone free to the quarterback.
"I think because of the emphasis on pressure with fewer people and a lot of times smaller people, the trend will be on lighter and quicker offensive linemen who can adjust to the movement."
Given the NFL is a passing league, would you rather have an elite cover guy like Darrelle Revis or a stud pass rusher who demands double teams like Jared Allen?
"If the players are equivalent in terms of skill set and impact, I think you always have to go with the pass rusher. The goal is to speed up the quarterback. The quarterback is the most important part of the passing game, not the receiver. Everything you do defensively is predicated on hurrying the thought process and physical reactions of the quarterback because that tends to create problems for them."
What are the biggest areas second-year quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez need to improve upon, and did you see enough late last season to think they will?
"Stafford is a more gifted passer than Sanchez. He has a more complete skill set for the position. His issue, which was a function of his team last year, is that because of his big arm he has a tendency to too often try to make "stick" throws into tight windows. Normally, that trait is a positive in the NFL. When you are forced to do it too often because of the score of the game, it can become a negative.
"Sanchez is a complementary offensive piece. He has above-average arm strength but not much more. He needs to be part of an offense whose foundation is the running game. They got guys like Santonio Holmes because Rex Ryan believes you have to create and dictate explosive plays in the pass game to become a top level offense.
"There are different ways to do that. You do not have to spread the field formation-wise to do that. You can do it out of base personnel. While I think the Jets will try to expand their pass game concepts, I believe they have to be careful. Sanchez is a quick rhythm timing quarterback. He needs the offense to stay on schedule."
What did you see from Tim Tebow on tape and were you surprised the Broncos made the bold move to get back into the first round to snag him?
"On film, there is very little in Tebow's game that projects well at this point to the NFL. I could never draft a quarterback in the first round who does not show on tape the skill set and physical attributes that are demanded in the NFL.
"Number one, he has questionable and limited arm strength with a slow and ponderous delivery. Number two, in college he did not throw with timing or anticipation because the offense that he was in did not require it. In the NFL, there are certain throws in certain situations that necessitate that the ball is delivered before his receiver makes his break. He wasn't asked to do that at Florida. Thirdly, pocket movement in the NFL is far more important than running. Pocket movement is the ability to move within the confines of an area about the size of a boxing ring while at the same time maintaining your downfield focus so you can deliver the football. Tebow did not exhibit that trait in college, probably because he was a runner. Nobody is a great NFL quarterback because of the way that they run."