Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lessons from the Masters

What lessons can Columbia football learn from the remaining four teams in the NFL playoffs?

I know, I know, it’s apples and oranges mostly. Even though there are some Columbia players who may be NFL caliber, there’s no comparing an Ivy League team to a pro squad.

But learning is something a good Columbia student or alum should always try to be doing. So here goes:

From the NY Jets, I think the Lions can learn the great value of a big back coming out of the backfield and acting as a safety valve for the QB when the receivers are covered downfield. LaDanian Tomlinson is no longer the kind of player who can really get 100+ yards per game or even 20 carries per game. But he’s been somewhat dangerous as a receiver. Currently, the Lions are dealing with some serious turnover in the running back corps, and Nick Gerst is very quick but not big. Rising soph Marcorus Garrett is also super fast, but on the small side. Perhaps Gerst and Garrett could share the backfield with a bigger fullback adept at catching those kinds of dump off passes? Nathan Lenz filled that role a few times for Columbia last season, but he is graduating.

From the Pittsburgh Steelers, Columbia could learn how to thrive on 3rd down. The Steelers get themselves in a lot of tough 3rd down situations because they don’t really have a strong running game. These are not the Steelers of the Jerome Bettis era! But Pittsburgh does pretty well, even when everyone in the stadium knows they’re going to pass the ball. That’s the kind of confidence you’d like to have in Ivy League play.

Obviously the Chicago Bears are pretty solid on defense and Columbia’s coaches would die for the kinds of intimidating weapons Chicago has in Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher. But there is something that I think the Lions could really use, and that’s menacing kick and punt returner like Devin Hester. When Mike Stephens went down returning a punt in week one, Nico Gutierrez filled in quite well to make sure the Lions didn’t fumble punts. But Columbia lost the chance for having an explosive return threat. They’ll need that in 2011.

Finally, I think the best lesson for the Lions comes from the Green Bay Packers, specifically Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is a very mobile QB, like Columbia’s Sean Brackett. But Rodgers doesn’t really look to run the ball from scrimmage, he primarily uses his skills to avoid pass rushers and get more time to pass the ball. He did that to perfection Saturday night when he not only coped with the Falcon rush, he THRIVED on it! Play after play, Rodgers eluded unblocked blitzers and torched Atlanta by finding the uncovered receivers downfield. It was one of the most amazing performances by a passer that I’ve ever seen in a playoff game. Brackett is a great down the field runner, but his potential as a scrambler and passer hasn’t really been tapped yet. It’s a skill he almost certainly has and will be able to destroy Ivy opponents with if he learns to use it.


At Wed Jan 19, 09:41:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake - I know you are as enthusiastic about Sean as anyone on the planet, but his 57% completion ratio and more than 12 yard average per completion establishes him as a true passer. I expect to see him improve in reading defenses this year in the sense of spreading the ball around to multiple receivers. But that's just part of the maturity process for a QB. He's a real talent.

At Wed Jan 19, 10:15:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree about Brackett. He can make all of the throws. We need more WRs who are faster and can get separation and a TE to replace the great Andrew Kennedy. We alos need to teach our WRs not to give up on patterns.

At Wed Jan 19, 10:36:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on any up and coming freshman WRs? They will sophmores next year, and i hope to see some contributors from that class
It's going to be extremely hard to replace Kennedy, but hopefully a young TE will step up and do adequately

At Wed Jan 19, 11:37:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DeVeau, Muston, and Kurt Williams showed some promise.
Anyone know Mike Stephens' status?

At Thu Jan 20, 09:42:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On The Firing Lion it was announced that Stephens is not on campus, likely meaning he'll be back next year.

At Thu Jan 20, 10:10:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

Stephens is supposed to be returning for another year. That is what I heard in Novemeber.

At Fri Jan 21, 10:35:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gerst is your back for the flat pass as well as your every down back. Still hoping Columbia coaching staff understands the kid we have here.



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