|The NFL is quick to copy anything that's successful. So who in the NFL is setting the biggest trends? We asked the experts at Bristol University.
Who is the NFL's biggest trendsetter?
You can go back and see trends from the run-and-shoot, to the "46" defense, to the zone blitz. Now, it's what I call the "spread 'em and thread 'em" offense. Crowton uses a lot of receivers, he spreads them out, and the quarterback tries to thread the ball to one of them. It's the newest trend, and others are trying to copy it to a degree. Last season the Bears had 10 receivers with 13 receptions or more and three quarterbacks who threw for more than 1,000 yards each.
Defensively, it's still the Capers school of thought. Capers brought the
zone blitz into the NFL. Because he has continued to mold and develop
it, it's still the most feared weapon on the defensive side of the ball in
the NFL. The most successful offenses out there in recent years (including San
Francisco) have centered around a back who can do more than one thing.
Both Marshall Faulk in St. Louis and Edgerrin James in Indianapolis are capable of
running the ball and catching the ball, allowing their offenses to be more versatile.
Offensively, the Chicago Bears are ahead of the game with the quick screen.
Essentially, the offensive linemen let people through on the quarterback, but
the ball is delivered so quickly no one can get to it. As a result, you get a wall of blockers in front of a wide receiver who catches the ball out in space. Defensively, we're still in the midst of zone-blitz
concepts; I don't see any specific defensive trends, except that opposing
offenses are becoming more and more proficient at taking the hits off the
quarterback during a zone blitz.
It looks like everybody is taking some variety of his hitch pass. Last year Crowton was criticized for running a high school-style offense. Now everybody is running part of it. Even though Crowton's creative me looks like a passing offense, there are nuances in the running game that can make it look like a running offense too. The offense has a lot of different options. The short hitch passes look almost like running plays.
Martz has established a trend with his use of motion and of three wideouts. Look at all the teams that are trying to get more receivers. Having all those weapons makes it impossible for the defenses to focus on one player,
especially if you have a good running game.
You can look at what Mike Martz did last year as part of a trend, but Crowton's offense goes agains the norm. He spreads the Bears with four wideouts on a regular basis and moves the quarterback around. Crowton will get credit for his innovations; the Bears should be one of the surprise teams this year and be fun to watch.
|Norv Turner/Marvin Lewis|
Offensively, Turner is the top trendsetter because he creates offense with sophisticated
schemes that are difficult for opposing defenses to learn in three or four
days. He does a great job of using his personnel to create matchups and big plays not only in the passing game but in running game. He utilizes the running game to co-exist and blend with the passing game. By using
different formations and motions, he will expose a defense and give his quarterback opportunities
to make plays down the field that often result in touchdowns. Defensively, Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis has molded a bunch of young talent and maximized their strengths in a defensive scheme that is all about attacking
and pressure. He utilizes everybody on the field; there is not one guy unaccounted for on any given down. His schemes are difficult to pick up from a protection standpoint. Any time you can start challenging offensive
coordinators skills in terms of protection, you are going to have success as a defense.
Clayton: NFL trends for 2000
ESPN.com's NFL 2000 preview