Adam Gase Highlights Maxwell’s Issue… Will He Fix It?
Maxwell’s play was exceptional in the second half of 2016
The Cleveland Browns release of former Pro Bowl Cornerback Joe Haden just as Byron Maxwell was reeling from a terrible week seemed a spot of luck sent from heaven…
…But the quick signing of Haden to the Steelers turned the hope into a pipe dream?
On paper it appears Miami missed an opportunity.
But the truth is, the NFL isn’t about looking good on paper–except if you’re talking about contracts and the money attached to them.
NFL success is about flesh and blood.
The Browns won one game last year, and even though they may be better this year, the fact is they’re still a doormat of a team. So why is a team that terrible cutting a former Pro Bowl player? For starters, Haden has already had two groin surgeries and a list of other injuries, which has likely contributed to his drastic drop in play.
Okay, let’s get back to paper, flesh and blood:
Miami is near broke. The Steelers aren’t. The only way they could ever have signed Haden was to cut Maxwell to fit in the 3 yr, 24 million dollar contract.
That’s a long reach when you consider both players most recent production:
Haden in 2016 played in 13 games, with three interceptions, 11 passes defensed, 37 tackles and 11 assists.
Maxwell also played in 13 games, with two interceptions, 15 passes defensed, 43 tackles and 10 assists, and 4 forced fumbles.
On the face of it, the edge goes to Maxwell.
See, the Dolphins won after all.
Maxwell has game when he plays to his strengths
Okay, you don’t feel all warm and cuddly… try this on for size:
No doubt about it, Maxwell had a bad week, but he was also benched last year and came back to have an exceptional second half of the season.
In a recent interview, Adam Gase made a one sentence statement that has largely gone unnoticed… and it was as poignant as it was succinct.
It went something like this, ‘Maxwell has to get his hands on the receivers more’.
You’d figure in a Press Zone scheme that would be basic…
Below, you can see that Maxwell bails and give free release. This has been his MO throughout the Preseason 95% of the time, even when he starts in press technique. The infamous miscommunication T.D. (not included) was also another bail out and free release. The third play presented shows how a simple stab or jam would have nullified a pick play, instead Maxwell is led into picking off his teammate.
The press is meant to challenge a receiver’s route and alter the timing, or force the receiver into an alternate route. In the NFL even half a beat can make the world of difference. Basically screw with the receiver and you screw with the play. So if you line up in press and are rarely, if ever, physical, then it’s wasted window dressing. And what’s worse, you are predictable–and that’s never a good position for a defender… especially when a wideout and QB can adjust a route with a look.
And if I’m seeing Maxwell’s tendency, the Pro’s are seeing it and much more.
Maxwell’s game must contain a physical element to be effective
Like Chess, the objective of the black pieces (defense) is to halt the initiative of the white pieces that go first. If they can do this, then they’ve made great strides in winning. Football is the same. Defense is forced to react to the offense because they don’t know the play. If the defense can dictate to the offense, then the main advantage of the offense is lost.
If the defense can never dictate, then they’ll always be on their heels and end up getting blown out the stadium.
Looking back on Maxwell’s career, this type of passive play wasn’t always his SOP (standard operating procedure).
Let’s keep in mind that Maxwell greatest assets are length and speed.
The video below shows some of his play with Seattle…
Notice in the last play Maxwell bails out of the press, is driven off as the WR presses deep, and then is beat bad on the comeback. Maxwell doesn’t have the foot speed to consistently win with this off technique. But by mixing in physical play in his press, Maxwell puts himself into situations that favor his assets, and in doing so he can be an effective defender.
Here are some examples of his physical play last season during his good stretch.
Yes, on the first two plays there’s positive yardage, and on the second play he’s beat. But on both plays he puts himself in the mix, and in the second play he forces the QB to make the perfect pass. Over time, one or two mistakes can alter the course of a game. You gotta’ be in it to win it. Physical play, mixed in with a mirage over / off technique, out of the press is essential to Maxwell’s game.
Press Zone is at it’s best with physical corners
For those who want to catch a little jolt of faith in Maxwell, go back and watch last season’s first match up against the Jest. It’s one of the most entertaining CB and WR battles that I can ever remember… yeah, he goes over the line a little here and there. But man did Maxwell bring it that game… imagine if he played like this week in and week out!
A slightly more controlled version of this type of play and I’d be all for resigning Maxwell!
It doesn’t take a pay per head service to figure that this was a liberally called game, and that Marshal has slowed down. But it does display what Maxwell’s game can be in a press scheme when he adds in physical play.
I’m not calling for him to use full-press techniques play-in and play-out… even stabs and feints off the line, and jabs and rubs on the move to set the tone and force the WR to adjust would pay big dividends. Offering more than one pitch would also add to the complexity of opposing team film study and preparation during the week and has a way of agitating the psyche of opponents. Bottom line is, without physicality, Maxwell is pedestrian, but with it, he can be at the top of the league.
Gase knows the issue, and so does the tape… question is, when will Maxwell figure it out? Go Fins!!!