As Broncos coach Vic Fangio prepares for Trevor Lawrence, “mad scientist” aims to make things confusing for rookie quarterback

4 weeks ago 11
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Since joining the Broncos successful 2019, information Kareem Jackson has regularly arrived astatine the squad installation connected a Wednesday greeting and been greeted by a surprise.

A caller coverage. A caller pressure. A caller disguise. All from coach/defensive play-caller Vic Fangio.

“He’ll enactment successful thing we haven’t done and I’m like, ‘Damn, wherever did that travel from?’” Jackson said successful an interrogation with The Denver Post. “That’s week successful and week out. It’s going to beryllium thing caller depending connected who we play.”

Who the Broncos (1-0) play the adjacent 2 Sundays are rookie quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, the apical 2 picks successful this year’s draught by Jacksonville and the New York Jets, respectively. Lawrence is up archetypal this Sunday.

Fangio whitethorn inactive beryllium successful prove-it mode arsenic a caput manager (13-20 with the Broncos), but helium is universally respected for however helium makes it consciousness similar helium has 14 defenders connected the tract and however helium tin bait young quarterbacks into back-breaking mistakes.

Since Fangio started calling antiaircraft plays successful 1995, his teams person gone 18-9 against rookie quarterbacks.

A sampling: Carolina bushed Peyton Manning. Indianapolis bushed Donovan McNabb. San Francisco bushed Andy Dalton, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill. Chicago bushed Jameis Winston and Sam Darnold. And the Broncos person beaten Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa.

In those 27 games, the quarterbacks person combined for a 73.7 standing (32 touchdowns and 24 interceptions).

“That’s a testament to the groups of players he’s had, the strategy he’s enactment successful spot and the mode guys are capable to execute it,” said Jackson, who has 152 vocation starts astatine cornerback and safety. “He’s decidedly a huffy idiosyncratic successful however helium sees things and erstwhile it comes to implementing schemes.”

Disguising is critical

Fangio entered pro shot with the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars successful 1984 and often refers to Jim Mora, Sr., and Dom Capers arsenic his superior early-career mentors. Decades later, the Fangio Tree has branched retired to the Chargers (head manager Brandon Staley/defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill), Chicago (coordinator Sean Desai) and the New York Jets (head manager Robert Saleh).

Staley was the Broncos’ extracurricular linebackers manager successful 2019 aft pursuing Fangio from Chicago. Sitting successful a java store not acold from his location successful Parker 2 years ago, helium elaborate immoderate of the cardinal components to a Fangio defense.

“One of the reasons wherefore it’s peculiar is we don’t person to unit (with other rushers) to person effectual pressure,” Staley said. “What that allows america to bash is play with disguise and person the mathematics successful our favour (downfield).

“If you look astatine it from the violative side, erstwhile they don’t 100% cognize whether we person players dropping oregon rushing, it gives america an unthinkable vantage and that’s wherefore you’ve seen edge-rusher accumulation wherever Vic has been. We privation to person the illusion of disguise and alignment flexibility.”

What makes Fangio unsocial arsenic a play-caller/game program designer?

“He’s truly peculiar successful mitigating risks and helium has the quality to enactment diligent erstwhile others wouldn’t,” Staley said. “And I deliberation helium has the quality to expect problems and play that chess lucifer wherever he’s moving steps up of the discourtesy the full time. You tin spot that by however he’s done against large quarterbacks. The flexibility we play with, the disguise — everything is meant to beryllium hard connected the quarterback. And he’ll get assertive erstwhile you’re not counting connected it.”

Exhibit A (aggressive) was past year’s triumph astatine New England. Fangio called a “Zero Blitz” — a seven-man blitz with across-the-board antheral sum and nary over-the-top assistance — to halt the Patriots connected 4th down.

Exhibit B (patience) was past week’s triumph implicit the New York Giants. Confident successful the four-man unreserved against backmost Daniel Jones, Fangio kept things elemental — 2 six-man rushes successful 42 drop-backs.

Exhibit C (disguise) could beryllium against Jacksonville. Have wrong linebackers Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson stationed astatine the enactment of scrimmage earlier retreating into sum astatine the snap. Because the Jaguars won’t cognize if they are blitzing, their interior linemen person to enactment enactment and not assistance connected the Broncos’ borderline rushers.

Disguising the pre-snap look is simply a Fangio hallmark and helium tin spot his seasoned safeties (Jackson and Justin Simmons) to transportation retired the fake. It forces the discourtesy to guess. Right earlier the snap, Jackson could driblet person to the enactment of scrimmage, turning a two-deep look into a single-high feature. The trap is set.

“When you tin contiguous the aforesaid pre-snap look arsenic often arsenic imaginable and past get to antithetic spots successful the field, you not lone propulsion disconnected quarterbacks, you propulsion disconnected coordinators, too,” antiaircraft backs manager Christian Parker said. “We tin play the aforesaid defence and it tin look 5 antithetic ways connected 5 antithetic plays.”

Said extracurricular linebackers manager John Pagano: “You person to disguise successful this league. Fifty percent of the crippled is getting aligned and disguising and knowing your duty and the different 50% is erstwhile the shot is snapped and being successful presumption to marque a play. Vic’s strategy is 1 wherever you tin onslaught and spell marque plays.”

Big container of tricks

An casual prediction for Sunday is Fangio volition person immoderate tricks acceptable for Lawrence, but not astatine the disbursal of confusing the Broncos’ players.

“There’s nary consciousness successful making our guys uncomfortable for the involvement of (confusing Lawrence),” Fangio said. “Hopefully we bash a bully capable occupation of disguising our intentions. A batch of radical deliberation pressuring a rookie backmost is the mode to go. But sometimes that makes it casual for him due to the fact that it identifies the sum and helium gets the shot retired quickly.”

That was Houston antiaircraft coordinator Lovie Smith’s program past week. He rushed 4 connected astir each drop-back prevention for 2 late-game linebackers’ blitzes. Lawrence had to propulsion 51 times due to the fact that the Jaguars trailed 37-7 aft 3 quarters and mislaid 37-21.

“It was beauteous simple,” said NFL connected CBS expert Adam Archuleta successful a telephone interview. “They played possibly 3 snaps of antheral sum and they did a bully occupation executing portion sum and I person to accidental that Jacksonville ne'er did thing to get them retired of that. It was Trevor having to bash a lot.”

Lawrence made respective terrific passes, but besides threw 3 interceptions. The last turnover appeared beryllium thrown close to linebacker Christian Kirksey, who was sitting successful his portion erstwhile the shot recovered him.

“That was maine conscionable trying to bash excessively much,” Lawrence told reporters aft the game. “I mislaid the ‘Mike’ (linebacker) playing portion successful my show of imaginativeness and conscionable benignant of forced it there.”

Archuleta, who was CBS’ expert for Jaguars-Texans, agreed with Lawrence connected over-pressing things down the tract alternatively of taking the abbreviated profit.

“I conscionable deliberation the crippled got accelerated for Trevor,” Archuleta said. “He tried to marque excessively overmuch hap downfield and that’s erstwhile those windows get super, ace tight. He needs much patience. The different happening is I felt similar erstwhile helium got interior pressure, helium was truly speedy to descent and back-pedal to his near and that’s erstwhile his accuracy got distant from him.”

If Fangio remains assured his four-man unreserved tin harass Lawrence, it volition travel a akin publication to the past 2 years. He rushed 5 oregon much players connected 25.3% of the drop-backs successful 5 games against rookie quarterbacks, astir the aforesaid arsenic his play totals (20.1% successful ’19 and 23% successful ’20 per The Denver Post’s crippled charting). In those 5 games (3-2 record), the Broncos person averaged 4 sacks and 12.4 “disruptions” (sacks/knockdowns/pressures) per game.

What is definite: Fangio’s program for Lawrence volition beryllium antithetic from the program helium volition person for the Jets’ Wilson.

“Just erstwhile you deliberation helium doesn’t person thing other successful his container of tricks, helium adds much things to the arsenal,” Jackson said. “If you person aggregate calls to propulsion disconnected the offense, present they’re guessing what we’re successful due to the fact that everything looks the aforesaid earlier the shot is snapped.

“It’s a luxury to person this benignant of strategy and this benignant of coach.”

Upper manus vs. rookie QBs

During his NFL antiaircraft play-calling vocation arsenic a coordinator and manager for Carolina, Indianapolis, Houston, San Francisco, Chicago and the Broncos, Vic Fangio has an 18-9 grounds against rookie quarterbacks. The Broncos look apical wide prime Trevor Lawrence connected Sunday. A look astatine the victories:


Player, team Year Statistics
Tony Banks, St. Louis 1996 15 of 29, 163 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Tony Banks, St. Louis 1996 14 of 33, 160 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Danny Weurffel, New Orleans 1997 13 of 32, 132 yards, 2 INT
Tony Graziani, Atlanta 1997 4 of 18, 24 yards, 2 INT
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis 1998 17 of 34, 225 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Akili Smith, Cincinnati 1998 12 of 24, 122 yards


Player, team Year Statistics
Byron Leftwich, Jacksonville 2003 17 of 36, 231 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT

San Francisco

Player, team Year Statistics
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati 2011 17 of 32, 157 yards, 2 INT
Russell Wilson, Seattle 2011 9 of 23, 122 yards, 1 INT
Ryan Tannehill, Miami 2012 17 of 33, 150 yards, 1 TD
Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay 2013 18 of 34, 179 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT


Player, team Year Statistics
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay 2015 15 of 29, 295 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
DeShone Kizer, Cleveland 2017 18 of 36, 182 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
Sam Darnold, N.Y. Jets 2018 14 of 29, 153 yards, 1 TD


Player, team Year Statistics
David Blough, Detroit 2019 12 of 24, 117 yards, 1 TD
Justin Herbert, L.A. Chargers 2020 29 of 43, 278 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami 2020 11 of 20, 83 yards, 1 TD

Rookie quarterbacks to bushed Fangio’s teams: Patrick Ramsey (Washington, 2002), Leftwich (Jacksonville, 2003), Alex Smith (San Francisco, 2005), Wilson (Seattle, 2012), Derek Carr (Oakland, 2014), Carson Wentz (Philadelphia, 2016), Dak Prescott (Dallas, 2016), Gardner Minshew (Jacksonville, 2019) and Herbert (L.A. Chargers, 2020).

Total statistics: 18-9 record, 32 touchdowns, 24 interceptions, 55.3% completion, 4,783 yards and 73.7 rating.

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