Commentary

Twenty things that jumped out in the film room

After looking at the film, Gary Horton tells you 20 things you might not have picked up on.

Originally Published: December 9, 2008
By Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.

After breaking down film, Scouts Inc. runs down what jumped out at us, including the Steelers' underrated inside defensive trio, Dustin Keller's relationship with Brett Favre and the Colts' newest offensive threat.

James Farrior
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesJames Farrior had 12 tackles and one sack versus Dallas.
• As good as the Steelers' edge pass rush is, they are underrated inside. The trio of NT Casey Hampton, LILB James Farrior and RILB Larry Foote make it very tough to run inside. Plus, they make it tough for a quarterback to step up in the pocket because their penetration skills are so good. Foote and Farrior are also excellent inside blitzers and they love to run X-stunts. They can either blitz for the sack or they can blitz to stuff the run.

• Packers CB Charles Woodson was forced to move to strong safety because of injuries, but that hindered the Packers' tight man coverages versus the Texans.

• Defenses seem to be loading up with eight-man fronts, while playing their corners up close with some press schemes to not only stifle Miami's run game, but also to take away the short passing game. The Dolphins' game plan is to run the football physically, while QB Chad Pennington dinks and dunks in the passing game.

• Without WR Plaxico Burress, QB Eli Manning did not see many rolled coverages before the snap. Instead, the Eagles played balanced coverages, which didn't allow him to make any pre-snap reads. He was forced to read the defense after the snap, which is a lot tougher.

• The Bills' running game continues to struggle and now they don't even appear to have any faith in it. RB Marshawn Lynch needs 25 carries per game to be effective and versus Miami he got only 13. The Bills' big offensive line struggles to create holes for Lynch and continues to be one of the biggest busts of 2008.

• Due to the Colts' injuries on the offensive line and pass-protection problems, they have resorted to an effective short passing game with quick outs and slants off of three-step drops. QB Peyton Manning is using those short passes as an extension of the run game.

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• The Saints have tweaked their already-potent offense with lead draws. RBs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas were effective on draw plays because the Falcons sat back in pass coverages.

• It seems like the Giants' secondary is becoming more aggressive each week. They play some press schemes, even though they are not great turn-and-run players, and they will even blitz off the edge on occasion. This is an underrated group of defensive backs, but they are also helped by a terrific pass rush up front.

• Philadelphia designed a game plan that caters to QB Donovan McNabb's skills. Their passing game has become short and safe with shovel passes and screens. The coaches also seem to be designing more rollouts and bootlegs to take advantage of McNabb's ability to extend the play and break down defenses.

• Falcons RB Michael Turner is an outstanding runner, but as a receiver out of the backfield he is struggling and he's not a natural pass-catcher. He is such a big part of the Falcons' offense that defenses put eight and nine defenders in the box, which takes away a lot of underneath space on check downs and dump offs.

• St. Louis continues to be very predictable on offense, which allows defensive players to jump routes and read the play before the snap. QB Marc Bulger locks on to receivers and makes it easy for the defense to game plan against them.

[+] EnlargeSteve Breaston
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireSteve Breaston has 67 catches and 863 yards this season.
• Arizona's No. 3 WR Steve Breaston has become a very good weapon. With WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald getting most of the attention, Breaston receives single coverage by a No. 3 corner and his speed is tough to match up against. This offense forces a defense to run east and west a lot, so when Breaston stretches the field it makes for a tough adjustment.

• Jets TE Dustin Keller is really developing into a good offensive weapon and part of the credit goes to QB Brett Favre, who loves to throw to his tight end. These two watch film together and Favre will advise Keller on which routes he likes and sometimes even how to run those routes. As Keller gets more comfortable in the offense, he will start to be used like TE Dallas Clark is used in Indy -- lining up all over the field.

• The Colts' tight ends had 10 catches for 98 yards versus the Bengals. Clark was his steady self, but little-used TE Gijon Robinson had his best day as a pro with six catches.

• Minnesota used a defensive philosophy that may be necessary in the last month of the season, if they lose DTs Kevin Williams and Pat Williams due to suspension. They brought a lot of blitzes, including some run blitzes, versus the Lions and they brought extra defenders into the box -- something that will be necessary if they are without their two big guys inside.

• The receivers that were supposed to take the pressure off the Giants with the loss of Burress -- Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon -- played poorly versus the Eagles. They had too many drops, lacked communication with Manning on routes and neither looked ready to make an impact.

• Baltimore's blitz package is creative and defensive coordinator Rex Ryan will bring pressure from all three levels. Washington tried to counter with shorter passes off three- and five-step drops and play-action, but it didn't work and QB Jason Campbell seemed uncomfortable.

• Houston has really turned up its blitz package in recent weeks and have had good results. The players seem to really like it and because they are getting solid play from their corners, the coaches have enough confidence in them to leave them on an island in man coverage.

• The Jets are really struggling on offense. There is almost no vertical element to the passing game and nobody is happy. Favre is struggling, the receivers are grumbling and there is no flow to the play calling. This looks like an offense trying not to lose instead of trying to win.

• FB Madison Hedgecock is an unsung hero in the Giants' rushing attack. He is arguably the best lead blocker in the NFL because he makes contact, keeps his feet on the ground and finishes his blocks well.

Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm, The War Room.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.