Saturday, June 29, 2013

NexGen Filmroom: Chain Lightning

I'm skipping the Doublewide game for two reasons.  First, the film was terrible.  It jumped and skipped often and made it difficult to watch.  Second, the effort put forth by DW was not impressive.  They looked lazy and uninterested.  I hear it was stupid hot for the game so that probably played into it.  All the same DW lost despite what looked like a terrible performance by NexGen.  Dylan had something like 3 drops which is remarkably uncharacteristic.

But with that game behind them NexGen took on Atlanta's Chain Lightning to hopefully go over .500 for the first time this season.  Unfortunately they ran into a Chain team that had a solid game plan and just had a good game from its rookies. (Note: I am a biased commentator here since I am from Atlanta, have worked with Chain in the past and was at this game).

I have already written about NexGen's defensive strategies.  But Chain wins this game on the back of stellar hucks and a well communicated defensive scheme.  Normally NexGen is able to keep defenses on their toes by attacking forward.  They commonly run an open side reset and go (what is being called the Beau-and-go by Mario in the Revolver commentary).  Straight up man defenses struggle with this play because it requires the mark to be incredibly mindful and then also as fast as the person they are defending.  Both of those are hard to accomplish this early in the season against college players still close to prime after Nationals.  The first video shows how NexGen uses this strategy.  Here Chris Kocher (NexGen #7) and Simon Montague (NexGen #8) run it by Chris throwing to the open side reset and immediately cutting to the far side for the give and go.

This is a hallmark of their offense, run best when Dylan is playing the role that Kocher is playing.  They ran this play 11 times during this game.  Chain was playing a team defense that reduced the efficiency of that play.  In the following video you can see the play shut down in the same way a good pick and roll can be squashed on the basketball court, by switching.

In this case Byron (Chain #8) was the original mark and as Simon threw to Dylan in the center of the field Byron and Jared (Chain #13) perform an easy switch to neutralize the give and go.  This doesn't eliminate the benefit of the play.  Dylan correctly responds by throwing around the switch to the break side.  This reversal is still very useful, but isn't what NexGen wants to do and doesn't facilitate offense for them in the same way.  NexGen is at its best when they can run downhill, get the disc in power position and huck it to speed (see their first point against Ring last night and the first point after a timeout in this game).  By taking the reverse option rather than the desired give and go they are getting the disc in the hands of weaker throwers going the wrong direction.  This is a win for Chain even if it isn't directly a turn.

Back to some numbers.  NexGen ran the Beau-and-go six times in the first half with it being successful four of those times.  In the second half they ran it five times but only successfully twice.  This was the result of better defensive switching in the second half by Chain.

Chain's team defense slowed The Bus down on set plays as well.  In the next video Arenson and Snow (defenders at ~30 yard line) handle switches after a time out to prevent NexGen's timeout play.  The result is a hammer to the breakside and a whole lot of effort put in for the NexGen squad.  While these switches and defensive sets didn't produce direct turns (only one coverage sack on good reset defense by Mark Poole) it did require effort for NexGen to overcome.

So what does all this mean?  NexGen is a team that likes to attack the break space, likes to run give and goes to get to the power position and then huck it.  Chain implemented a defense that slowed the first two down and coupled that with a solid possession game to win a close one.  It is easy to look at the score (15-12) and forget that it was 12s at one point.  But a sound team defense was the adjustment that made a difference in an otherwise close game.  Here are the numbers:

The huck percentages work out to 57% and 58% for NexGen and Chain respectively.  We all know that Chain likes the long ball, even from a stopped disc (twice in this game if I recall).  Neither of these are percentages that I think are very good, but are to be expected with teams that throw a high number of huck attempts (14 for NexGen and 12 for Chain).  

Both teams hit a variety of receivers on their hucks (5 for NexGen and 6 for Chain) so it wasn't the same match up over and over.

Four Chain rookies caught hucks and 5 scored goals.

Chain forced only one coverage sack while NexGen forced two.

Thanks again to NexGen for getting this video out quickly and in high quality.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

NexGen Filmroom: Revolver

I'm going to try to more formally analyze the NexGen tour this year.  Last year was pretty haphazard but I got some benefit from it.  First, kudos to all of the U23 Worlds players who are on the team (Simon, Tim, Jimmy, Elliott, Eli and Dylan).  I had decided not to pay for the streaming option this year because I was disappointed with the quality of the games from last year's tour (that was entirely on the club teams, not on NexGen) and I was tired of watching people spike the disc.  But with some of my players (and U23 Open) on the team I felt like I should.  So with the games bought I also thought I should do some analysis.  If nothing else I get to watch more of my players and hone my film skills for worlds.  This round I'm going to focus on NexGen's defensive efforts with a little commentary on Revolver.

Defensively NexGen seems to give Revolver (and teams last year) fits.  They get a number of point blocks and poach off of cutters to get the disc.  Figure 1 is how they come into their defense off of the pull.
Figure 1: NexGen is always looking at the disc

Nothing to suspicious here, you have the handler defenders poaching the lanes, but the thing to notice is that every NexGen player is looking at the disc.  Jimmy is playing behind the far (rail) cutter in the H, Jay is playing behind the close (rail) cutter.  The two cutters in the center (lane) are being backed but at least playing man.  Both Chris and Neal are effectively sagging into the lane by not closing on their handlers.  By looking at the disc they are hoping to see the cutting lanes and get a jump on the disc.  By playing loose they are trying to stay in good position to pounce on a cut, but also are looking to help and switch often.

Figure 2 shows the result of this poaching.  Jay has drifted off camera to help Will (far left in black) bracket Beau.  Mac (offense: towards the right) has just thrown an invert flick to a slashing cutter who will effectively reverse the field.  This is a great way to abuse the poaching defense.  Using upfield breaks (where is Bart with is hammer when you need him) will facilitate getting the disc to the break-side poached players.  Especially when we see another common NexGen tendency.

Figure 2: Revolver attacks the poach by reversing the field.

The video below shows what NexGen wants to do with their defense: poach or sag off of inactive players to clog the throwing lanes.  In this situation (after a forward pass) Dillon stumbles to recover at the mark, but rather than find his man the first move is to go straight to the reset poach position.  This allows him to constrict the cutting lane and force the disc to move backwards.  He is still playing his man (or at least facing him) but his primary role is to clog this lane and in this case prevent any under cutters from slicing towards the open side.  Revolver correctly counters by moving the disc quickly, but if they have  handlers that aren't thinking with that mentality this can stymie an offense pretty quickly.  The key is not just to recognize the sag and keep your reset further back to exploit the poach, but to have something beneficial for the reset to do once they get the disc.  Just swinging to the open side is fine, but having something that is attacking the defense would be better.

Towards the end of the game (10s) Revolver has successfully pulled the sagging reset defenders out of the lanes.  In the picture below (Figure 3) both of the resets are off screen to the right and their defenders are no where to be seen.  
Figure 3: Defenders have been pulled out of the cutting lanes

NexGen's downfield defenders have started playing tight defense with the exception of Dillon closest to the screen.  Revolver feels the flick force and sweeps the open side cutter out of the way maybe to get an inside break but really to get a cutter in the open lane.  The defender stays with the initial cutter, but that is the last bit of good defense for a while.  What follows in the video below is terrible open side defense from NexGen players as three defenders over commit to deep fakes and lose positioning on the under cut.  The first cutter has an easy route because Jay's back is to the cutter, so a simple juke convinces the defender to cover the deep (it is Beau, though).  The second cutter has a better defender, but when Dillon turns his head to check on the throw the cutter blows right past him.  There is even a third open side cutter that loses his defender, but the disc had already begun to swing.

In this case Eli (the last defender) sets his positioning on the engaging cutter too high so the cutter can attack his back.  If Eli drop stepped into his positioning then the cutter would have to take a deeper line to attack his back which would slow down his overall cut.  But instead Eli turns to his best athletic stance level with the cutter so a shallow juke deep attacks Eli's back and the cutter can just push off of his foot to come back in without having to really negate his forward momentum (a more vertical cut would require multiple steps to stop the momentum making it slower).  But the worst thing here is that Eli turns the wrong was as the cutter fakes deep.  But taking the wrong turn (away from the cutter) Eli loses sight to see that it is just a jab-step rather than a full cut and can't recover because he loses his athletic stance.  I could talk about this play forever, but I'll get to my main point.

Figure 4: Jay helps Will cover Beau deep
Figure 4/5 will be my last point.  NexGen is often looking to help defenders.  With a roster of only 15 that will quickly whittle down to 14 if Elliott can't keep his hamstring in check it is no surprise that they want to reduce defensive effort (despite how athletic they are).  In Figure 4, Jay (circled) is correctly pulling off of his offender to help Will cover the deep option for Beau.  This will eventually lead to a switch for the two.  What is perplexing is why Jay's offender is running to him.  In Figure 5 we have what NexGen will often try to set up.  The disc is trapped and every one (even the circled player who is guarding the reset and again dropped to level with the disc despite it being trapped away from him) is looking at the disc.  In this case Revolver will swing the disc.  On the swing two people are wide open because their defender was so far on the open side.   This eventually leads to an unmarked backhand huck for the score.  

Figure 5: Everyone is looking at the disc