NFL coaches tapping into Saban’s defensive mind

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Nick Saban lasted just two seasons with the Miami Dolphins in ‘05 and ‘06 and finished with a combined record of 15-17, but NFL coaches are tapping into his wealth of knowledge this offseason.

The item on the agenda is stopping the read-option, something NFL defenses struggled stopping last season.

The read-option really evolved with Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, and Saban has had a history of being able to stop it and being a defensive guru in general, via ProFootballTalk.

“Several NFL coaches have come to visit this year to say, ‘How do you stop these guys?’ Because they’re not accustomed to seeing that,” Saban said.

“That’s a pass-rush oriented league,” Saban said. “People getting up the field to pass rush is what it’s all about because of the type of quarterbacks — the Tom Bradys of the world, Drew Brees, that’s what you’ve got to stop. You’ve got to put pressure on the quarterback. Well, that’s just what you don’t want to do against [read-option quarterbacks]. You have to play on the line of scrimmage just like old option football.”

Saban singled out the 49ers with quarterback Kaepernick as one team that really excels with the read-option, because front sevens are all built around getting to the quarterback and getting up field. But with mobile quarterbacks, even elite defensive linemen find quick signal callers running right past them. It changes the whole complexion of the way teams play defense.

“I think the teams that do a really good job like the 49ers, they do it from multiple formation looks, so they make more defensive players have to understand how to do it, and I think that’s the biggest challenge that they have right now,” Saban said.

In theory, Saban is right, but the constant threat of a running quarterback means defensive ends can’t even crash down the line, a primary key to the position they play.

Stopping the zone-read isn’t obvious, but what is obvious is the daunting task of stopping dual-threat quarterbacks like what the 49ers, Redskins and Seahawks possess.

Ironically, Johnny Manziel had much success against Saban’s defense, accounting for 345 total yards and two touchdowns last season. The Aggies racked up 418 total yards led by a running quarterback.

Photo Credit: Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

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