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Sunday, April 04, 2004

Further Dissection of 4th and 26

By Dave in Texas
PackerChatters Staff

***Note... I spent an hour or so reviewing the play. Literally frame by frame I did this play review for a discussion thread that generated a lot of additional posting by myself to answer questions. So… I wanted to put my later thoughts all together, for a more complete explanation***

Additional thoughts after I calmed down a bit…

Had I not watched that play again...I could've let it go. But...that replay is just too damning of Sharpier on that 4th and 26. One must wonder why all the attention was focused on Barnett, Hawthorne, Donatell, and lack of a pass rush. That was just so wrong it's unreal.

Some question why the staff didn't name Sharpier as partly to blame. I personally think it was a horrible play by Sharpier...regardless of who Mr. Ed singled out in public. But, IMO...coaches shouldn't call out players in the press. As far as what was said...maybe they made their remarks in the heat of emotion and could only concentrate on the blown assignment that started the chain reaction....rather that study it to conclusion to see someone fail to make a play.

1st...Sharpier is looking right at Mitchell...yet takes himself out of the play. I thought he was watching the outside previously. But, it is clear that the outside receiver is beyond Sharpier during this sequence and Sharpier doesn't turn his head even a tiny bit away from Mitchell the entire time. I'd say he thought his assignment was Mitchell (or anyone entering his zone) and the CBs had single man coverage on the outside. I'm not saying that was the call...but...after watching this play from the perspective of Sharpier's actions...it sure doesn't appear that he has even an ounce of outside concern/responsibility.

Some think Sharpier had too much momentum and couldn’t turn in time. No way! Jue changed directions and missed the ball by 2 feet. And Jue had come much farther from closer to the LOS and across the field. IOW...he was moving faster than Sharpier when he set down. Plus, Sharpier is side stepping, like a DB does, so he can turn on a dime whenever he wants.

Studying the tape....I recognized something amazing. Sharpier doesn't make the forward lean (the shifting of weight) to break towards Mitchell until Mitchell has gone way up in the air for the ball. IMO...it wasn't until this point that Sharpier thought Mitchell had a chance at the ball. IMO...that was a huge and selfish mistake, because, IMO...he was just playing center field up to that point and preparing to field a routine fly ball for an INT.

As far as Anderson being to blame, he's out of the picture up until the catch...so I can't say whether he was looking deep. I will tell ya that on my previous examinations I saw McNabb looking deep to Anderson's side before coming under to Mitchell. So it would follow that Anderson was understandably shading to the outside WR. Also...remember...Mitchell was on Sharpier's side of the field...so Anderson should really get a pass IMO.

Let’s follow the assignment thing a bit...Maybe this will shine some light on why I'm so down on Sharpier.

Now...focusing on what they did do...

3 DL’s rushed...KGB and Noworkie stunted...Hunt held the point and was in the passing lane forcing a lofted throw.

Naives had a slightly delayed Blitz and got around his man but was too deep too disrupt McNabb

Barnett...appeared to be guarding the TE (Lewis) and keeping a close eye on McNabb (spying?)

Hawthorne...lined up in the slot and pushed the slot WR (Mitchell inside...then released him in the vicinity of Barnett (Mitchell was within about a yard of Barnett when Hawthorne broke contact)....Hawthorne then broke back into an outside zone and appeared to be providing possible inside help on Pinkston.

MM and Harris lined up about 10 yards off the LOS and tightly covered the WR’s who ran straight up the sidelines.

Jue...lined up a bit off the LOS (5 yards?) then drifted back a couple steps before taking off to get back with Mitchell. I'm guessing he would've provided inside help for Harris on Thrash had he not alertly spotted Mitchell.

Anderson...he lined up about 18 yards deep (a couple yards deeper than Sharpier) on the opposite hash...and stays pretty much out of the replays...but...from what little I can see...it appears he shaded a bit outside to help with Thrash as McNabb was looking that way early on. I'd guess Anderson was twice as far away from Mitchell as Sharpier was...yet he arrived and hit Mitchell just a split sec after Sharpier.

Sharpier lined up about 16 yards deep right over Mitchell...drifted back 8 yards...then locks on Mitchell or the ball as it's thrown and continues to drift back another 5-6 yards before coming up to hit Mitchell after the catch.

I went through all of that to explain that everyone was covering someone in some way in front of the 1st down marker. Except Sharpier.

Now...in a thread 2 months ago...I watched Hawthorne and Barnett. I think Hawthorne thought he was handing Mitchell off to Barnett. But, instead Barnett stayed home and seemed to be spying on McNabb and waiting on Lewis. That was probably a screw-up. But, I can excuse Barnett to some degree because he was guarding someone. Sharpier wasn't. Barnett was on the guy that almost completed a 27-yard pass for a 1st down on 3rd and 26...plus in position to stop McNabb until Lewis released. McNabb had a 30 yard run earlier if I recall...and IMO...somebody should've been where Barnett was...even if it wasn't Barnett. You can't drop everyone 20-30 yards with a running QB.

Anyhow...I can't understand what prevented Sharpier from recognizing the breakdown between Barnett and Hawthorne...and moving into position to make a game winning PD. I can't come up with any other assignment he had...because he was looking right at Mitchell in front of him and/or McNabb 20 some yards in front of Mitchell.

So, what was Sharpier doing? I don't get it. The best I can come up with is he was either told to play prevent or he was looking for an overthrow and an INT. It doesn't look like he intended to help cover a wide-open Mitchell coming up the field only 10 yards from him. It doesn't look as if he's the least bit worried about the outside receivers. If Sharpier's assignment was to let a WR catch a ball for a 1st down in front of him then tackle him...then Mr. Ed deserved to be fired. Because...that's exactly what it looks like D. Sharpier did. That would be called a prevent defense. The only other explanation would be if Sharpier thought the ball was overthrown and was waiting on an INT.

I can't for the life of me understand why Sharper didn't make any attempt to engage Mitchell until after he caught the ball. Sharper was our most senior and experienced player on the field. One would think the moment he saw Mitchell coming up the seam uncovered he would've got off the bike and engaged him around the 40. From the tape you can see Mitchell was slowing down in the opening and looking back for the ball. Plus, Sharpier is used to watching the QB (and may have been...it's hard to tell)...so he should've recognized what was happening. Watching the tape...I'm at a total loss on what Sharper was trying to do...unless he was playing for an overthrow photo-op game sealing INT.

Some want to blame the completion on Barnett for not dropping into a middle underneath zone. I have no idea what Barnett's drop was supposed to be...but...what I do know is that Sharpier was the most experienced defensive player on the field and he was in a position to clearly see any blown assignments well before the ball was released...and since there was nobody else he was worrying about...IMO...there's absolutely no reason for him not to have covered the middle hole left by Barnett....if Barnett failed to do what the defense called for.

If you look at the replay...you will see that the ball is arched over Hunt's out stretched hands and would've had ample loft to clear Barnett's jump had he been 15 -20 yards down field. IMO Unless Barnett was right in Mitchell's grill, as Mitchell elevated pretty well to get it...he doesn't get to that ball. You can see it's kind of wobbly and floating...that's why I think Sharpier decided against cutting towards Mitchell to breakup the pass...and instead played for the overthrow. I think he miscalculated...thinking it was going to sail...and instead the wobble brought it right down to Mitchell.

Most are saying Barnett got his assignment wrong. Not that he sucked at his assignment. There's a significant difference. Sharpier's assignment had to have been that portion of the field the pass was completed to...he sucked at his assignment. Think about it....what sense would it be to have had Sharpier’s zone start beyond the 1st down marker unless Mr. Ed had them in a prevent?

Even if we say Barnett blew it. How does that excuse Sharpier for not making what sure looked to me as a routine PD for an experienced FS?

One thing Sharpier was not doing on the 4th and 26 was covering for Jue or Anderson.

OTOH...Jue was racing over to cover for Sharpier...IMHO

Anderson...IMO...wasn't being helped by Sharpier either...if he were...then Sharpier would've been shaded more to the middle to better cover the exact area the pass went to and over to the other hash marks. Because...Anderson was a bit deeper and farther outside covering the possibility that McNabb was going to the WR running up the sideline with Harris. (Note...McNabb was looking that way before coming under.)

Think about it...if Sharpier was watching McNabb and saw him looking deep across the field...then he should've shifted to the middle of the field automatically. That's what a DB in a zone does...he shades to the side the QB seems to be favoring. That's how QB’s often fool DB’s (in zones) by looking off their target.

In this case...the deep sell worked on Anderson to an extent...and rightfully so...because...that WR (Thrash?) going deep on his side was passing the 1st down markers...and was the only threat on Anderson's side of the field. So naturally...he should've been favoring Thrash...especially with McNabb looking at him. Not to mention he must've expected Sharpier to be covering the middle.

Sharpier has none of those excuses.

DS should've (IMO) recognized immediately that there were 3 receivers out.

1...A WR (Thrash?) on the far side was Anderson's (over-the-top), Jue (underneath), and Harris' (in man) responsibility.

2...A WR (Pinkston?) going up the sideline on his side was covered by MM (in Man) and himself (Sharpier) over-the-top...(Hawthorn was committed to the slot)

3...A split WR who was covered by Hawthorn, who was playing a shallow zone and bumping Mitchell inside to Barnett before turning up field...meaning he would become Sharpier's and Anderson's responsibility.

OK...now...on the tape...it is clear as day while watching Sharpier that he was not paying any attention to either WR after Mitchell broke free over the middle. So...at that point...he should've been moving up into the center of the field to be in a position to cover the open Mitchell. He didn't do that...not even close.

The WR was slowed down in the crease...so with Jue there and 3 DB’s (Anderson, MM, and Harris) already deeper than Sharpier...plus Hawthorne closing fast 5 yards out...there wasn't much (if any) threat of a TD on that pass...unless everyone missed Mitchell...something all our DB’s including Sharpier are prone to do.

Anyhow...there was no way the receiver gets behind him unless he blows the PD. And with Jue right there...plus...3 DB’s behind him...the PD and preventing the 1st down should've been #1 on any experienced DB's mind in the situation.

Instead...it looks to me as if he was playing a soft prevent type zone. That’s where the DB’s allowed the catch in front of them and minimizes the RAC (run after the catch). Either that or he was playing for the INT. IMO...there is no other possible explanation as to why he didn't move up to more closely cover Mitchell over the middle.

Anyhow...this may sound extreme...but...I'm so pissed after watching this play from Sharpier's point of view... I'm at a complete loss as to why MS will pay Sharpier $5.2M this year after seeing his 2 pathetic plays and costly mistakes in that big game. I can't possibly see anything that would excuse what Sharpier did or should I say didn't do on that 4th and 26 play. And the Pinkston TD also clearly showed Sharpier not moving up aggressively when Thrash crossed the middle in front of him wide open...then Sharpier took himself out of the play by reacting to a twist McNabb made to avoid KGB...Sharpier actually slid sideways away from all the WR’s and the direction McNabb was actually headed...rather than move aggressively forward when McNabb was in trouble while contact was made 1st by KGB then Hunt. Instead...Sharpier sat in the middle of the EZ with no WR’s near him...like a deer in the headlights watching McNabb eventually scramble towards the 2 WR’s and the flag where Anderson forced him to pass the ball. Funny...Anderson was in position to make the play...while Sharpier was lost and clearly not covering anybody.

As far as Sharpier’s grade of "B" from Tomlinson, he glorifies the 5 INT’s...by saying teams were throwing away from him, yet...fails to mention that 2 or 3 of those 5 INT’s were Hail Mary’s. And most of his tackles were the result of a piss poor run defense...and really say little about his ability as a FS. Plus...a bunch of the tackles were from completed passes...ya...they may have been away from him...but, do we know for a fact that he couldn't have been closer to the intended targets and prevented the catches? I saw a lot of medium throws into our 2ndary that should've been defended by the safeties...just like this 4th and 26th. And Sharpier pretty much got a free pass. Yet...watching the tape...that passes was completed to almost the exact spot Sharpier was in at the time McNabb let the ball fly. But...to read the GB beat reporters...you’d think McNabb was challenging Barnett, Hawthorne, Jue, ot Anderson.

Oh, back to my analogy...MS...gets away with dumping huge dollars on average talent as long as his W/L percentage stays above .500. Regardless of why it's above .500. Just like the CEO and Board get a pass or a golden parachute, regardless of the company's underlying fundamentals, as long as the stock price stays up...even if it's only because the market is artificially inflated...

anyhow...it seems to me that Sharpier is being given a free pass by many who dogged Freeman and his contract. MS rewards this crap from Sharpier with $5.2M. IMO...that's total BS...and I'm really pissed because I can't comprehend why MS didn't just cut Sharpier. It is honestly that bad.

Think about how we excuse Brett's mistakes...because he's been a 3 time MVP and led us to two Super Bowls. Well...what exactly has Sharpier done to deserve any excuses? Oh...that's right...he was selected to the Pro-Bowl a couple times. So he must know what he's doing. IMO He plays like a rookie, not at all like a top $$$ veteran FS.

I'm not at all happy with the way the money is being spent. Kind of reminds me of corporate boards and their CEOs...where the guy at the top and his board all have cushy jobs and huge incomes...and just want to do window dressing while the company rots...to support the stock price and keep their jobs.

Sharpier is a marquee player and in high standing with the public...so MS just pacified him...and doesn't rock the boat. But...compare this situation to Freeman. If Freeman hadn't fallen out of public favor...I seriously doubt MS would've played hardball with him in 2002 when he was set to make $4.2M. Sharpier this year will make $5.2M...after a weak season to be kind. But...Freeman's 2001 piss poor production that supposedly got him fired ...were actually pretty darn good. He would've led the Packer WR this past year in receptions and yardage...and he had as many TD’s in 2001 as Fergy and Driver had last season combined. And remember...that was Freeman's worst season under his mega-contract. The Pack finished 12 & 4 in 2001...this year we drop to 10 & 6...with some pathetic safety play...and MS rewards Sharpier with $5.2M.

Finally...after closely re-viewing what happened from the safeties perspective...I no longer feel that the result was caused by confusion or missed assignments. What Sharpier did and failed to do...would've happened regardless...IMHO. That's just the way he plays. OTOH...had the defensive call been changed...to a defense that put another player deep and brought Sharpier up into the slot...then I doubt we'd have lost that game. As I think Sharpier is a liability in a deep zone...and a huge plus in the slot. That's why I want a new FS. I want a guy who can recognize, anticipate, and react better than Sharper.

I have no problem with Sharper at or near the LOS as a traditional SS. He covers in man well, plays a good under zone, blitzes and plays the run well. But when deep...IMO...about all he does well is field Hail Mary’s and poorly thrown balls. I'd rather see him at CB or SS...And he'd be an ideal nickel back. I just think he's a major liability at FS because that’s almost always a deep zone. And I think he sucks in deep zones...and the proof is visible on both the Pinkston TD and the Mitchell 4th down play...both lapses contributed greatly to our loss.

May I add...MS signed Roman...so I hope he's finally recognized Sharper's shortcoming and plans on moving him to a more traditional SS position, up and out of the deep zones. Then hopefully we’ll see no more of the DDZ/cover 2’s, which include Sharper deep, this fall. Here’s to hoping MS and Slowik see it the way I do. But, since I’m just a fan, and they’re paid professionals…fat chance…LOL!

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