I really enjoyed this piece by Andrew Mason on .com, not just because it's a well written feature on young DE Hilee Taylor, but also because we finally get a peek at new DL coach Brian Baker' philosophy. He is not only bringing much needed change to the DL scheme but he is also focusing on the mental aspect of each players one-on-one match-up.
"(Baker helps) you get to focus on the negative things -- which for me is being a one-move guy. I'm trying to pattern myself to be a guy that always keeps the offensive line guessing. When you keep the offensive line guessing, you'll have a good day."
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that a rookie DE came into the league and quickly realized his go-to pass rushing move was no longer effective. I imagine the inability of a DE to learn and expand his pass rushing moves is what washes out many young DE's. Yet learning and using multiple pass rush moves is not enough. A player must mix up his moves and keep his match-up guessing as to which method he is going to use on a given play, similar to the way a pitcher mixes up his pitches to keep a batter off-balance. If a LT leans to the outside expecting a quick edge rush and instead the DE uses an inside rip/power move (ala Reggie White), even if its not a greatly executed, can result in a sack. Taylor goes on:
Pictured: Taylor sacks Falcons QB Matt Ryan and adds a tomahawk chop for good measure!
"Speaking for myself, I like change," Taylor said. "I don't like the same stuff every day. With Coach Baker, we've got drills thrown at us every day since mini-camp. For me personally, I like it, because you're working different things.
"We don't do drills just to do drill work. We're always working to do something. When you work on that individually and it carries over to team play, it becomes automatic and a natural movement."
What I think Taylor is saying here is that Baker is taking the time to explain how the drills apply to each players objective in particular situations. In a nutshell, getting back to basics I would say. He also seems to be inspiring them to ignore the fact that LT might have 60 lbs on them, speed, power and...strategy will make you successful.
"That's another plus of his defense," Taylor said. ""If you've got speed and you can handle your own as far as power and keeping the offensive line guessing, it really doesn't matter how big you are, because if you can get power with speed, you'll have a good day."
Though the Panthers may be taking it one ‘good day' at a time, I'm excited about the prospect of how those good days may add up in 2009. Baker appears to be bringing a new mental aspect to DL play at a time when the Panthers really need some fresh thinking. It was no secret the defense got stale and predicable towards the end of 2009 and that was a big reason for the increase in points allowed. If the Panther defense is going to rise to a Top 10 defense it will need to start up front. I'm feeling a lot better after reading that post that he just may be the guy to get it done.