Is the Offensive Culture of the NFL Changing?

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Between Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers, the offensive numbers in the NFL just aren’t quite what they have been. Yes, I’m very much aware that it’s only been a week and a little bit, but the NFL offenses definitely seem to be putting up numbers that are much lower than in previous years. While Browns fans have been pre-exposed to anemic offenses, the rest of the NFL may be a little confused as to why teams can’t move the ball.

Clearly, offenses have more than enough time to get into form. These numbers are not even close to being “historically bad”, but with such an offensive trend in football as of these past few years, it’s a tiny bit strange to be watching “defensive football”. I don’t think this change comes as a surprise to many of the defensive coordinators who have been trying to halt opposing offenses for the past few years. They are finally starting to figure it out.

As an offensive minded guy, I’ve never liked the defense, but I feel as though the defense is the most important factor in an offense. If the defense is playing as well as it can, the offense doesn’t really stand a chance regardless of the talent that is on the field. That was clearly the case last night in the Packers and Bears matchup.

Jay Cutler has had his many issues. He’s been called “emotion-less”, “emotional”, and “wreckless”, but at times he has also been brilliant. Last night, Cutler looked “Weeden-like”. We all know Jay Cutler can be a very good QB in the NFL, at least statistically, and last night, he looked as if he has never played in the NFL before. That’s because the Green Bay Packers defense made it that way for him. I always used to say, “the best defense is a good offense”, and while I believe offense is surely the more entertaining facet of the game, defense is beginning to play a much more important role.

There is no reason why the Bears shouldn’t be able to put up massive amounts of points. They have a tremendous running attack, a gunslinging QB, and talent at wide receiver. Yet, Jay Cutler throws 4 ints in a bad loss to Green Bay. There is no reason why the Eagles shouldn’t be able to dominate the scoreboards. Yet, Michael Vick throws 4 ints of his own in a tight win against the Browns. Brandon Weeden had the worst rookie debut of memory, yet was one of the most “experienced” quarterbacks coming out of college. It’s surely not coincidence. These guys are thoroughly confused. They’re reading coverages wrong. They’re making the wrong throws. It’s a look that we haven’t seen in quite a while.

It’s almost like the change of tides from the AL to the NL in baseball. The AL dominated for so long, but the NL has finally crept back and taken over as the premier league in baseball. The NFL has always had the ongoing fight between the offense and defense, both in a literal and statistical sense. “Which is more important?”. “Defense wins championships”. “Quarterback is the most important position in all of sports”. “It’s an offensive driven league.” These are all statements that we’ve heard throughout the years, but the battle was constantly won by the offenses and, specifically, the elite QB’s of the NFL.  The defenses have now begun to take over that debate. If you play good defense, you can compete. This is why the Saints will have a tougher time competing than the Browns this season. The Browns, with Joe Haden, have a defense that is very respectable. The Saints, without Jon Vilma, do not. The Saints have a QB situation that is a trillion times better than the Browns, but that’s going to start to mean less and less as this trend continues.

Defenses today are so incredibly difficult to recognize. Unless you’re Peyton Manning, it’s a skill that takes time to conquer in a game that doesn’t allow for much time at all. Starting out in one coverage, disguising another, yet moving into another as the play goes on, defenses are mixing it up so much that opposing QBs, studied and intelligent, have problems deciphering what is going on past the line of scrimmage. It will be very interesting to see if this defensive trend continues. Guys like Clay Matthews, Darrelle Revis, and Julius Peppers say yes, and thus far, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, and Brandon Weeden are beginning to agree. Finally, it’s getting harder for NFL offenses to put up the huge numbers they have been so used to. In these times if you want to compete in the NFL, you better be able to slow down the offensive superstars that have dominated the game for the good part of a decade. Ladies and gentleman, we’re back to good hard-nosed football.

Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove

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