Practice Report: The Defense Strikes Back

After the offense was starting to come to life, the defense beats it back down in a scrimmage Friday. The defensive line dominates in getting 8 virtual sacks...

As if in response to the offense beginning to show some life last week, the defense pounded them back into a hole, dominated the approximately 50-pay, full-contact scrimmage at practice on Friday.


Notable players who did not participate in the scrimmage were Tyler Ebell, Pat Norton and Patrick Pierre-Louis. No word on why Tyler was out, he seemed fine and in good spirits at the end of practice yesterday.


A full officiating crew was on hand. This time, each possession was started on about the offense's 30, challenging the O to sustain a long drive.


The first series was Drew Olson's. The first unit O squared off with the first unit D. On the first play, the DO connected with Craig Bragg on a slant to the left side in front of Matt Ware. Akil Harris, stepping up to first unit, ran the stretch play behind Manuel White's lead block to the right side (Ed Blanton and Paul Mociler) for a good gain and a first down. However, the next three plays yielded nothing: a bomb from Olson to Bragg deep right was overthrown, Harris gained nothing up the middle, and on 3rd down, with Glenn Ohaeri in the game as the nickel back replacing linebacker Brandon Chillar, Rodney Leisle broke through to sack Olson on a three-step drop.


Chris Kluwe came on to punt, and his high, deep punt was fair caught by Craig Bragg.


The second series was John Sciarra's, guiding the second unit O vs. the second unit D. After a draw play on 1st down yielded little by Wendell Mathis, Sciarra attempted to hit Marcedes Lewis over the middle, but linebacker Wesley Walker was there with great coverage to deflect the pass. On third down, Sciarra was able to scramble left to avoid the rush, seemed to have running room up the seam, but decided to throw the ball to Idris Moss in the left flat. The throw was low and behind, however, forcing Moss to hit the deck to catch the ball, bringing up 4th down.


Kluwe came on again, fielded a high snap, and launched another high, booming kick that had to be fair caught by Bragg again.


Matt Moore came on at QB, first unit O vs. first unit D. Akil Harris was run to the left, for no gain. On 2nd down, Moore waggled right, had Tab Perry open on the drag, but made a poor throw low and too far in front of Perry. On 3rd down in the shotgun, Moore was sacked by a huge push up the middle by Leisle and Ryan Boschetti.


Chris Kluwe next delivered one of his best kicks of the day: a sky-high boomer with 5 second hang time that Bragg had no choice but to fair catch.


Next, Sciarra led the O vs. the second unit D. On first down, Sciarra tried to go deep to Idris Moss, but overthrew him, Marcus Cassel had good coverage on the play. Next play, Sciarra faked left and rolled right, had J.J. Hair open on a 10-yard deep drag pattern, but overthrew him. On 3rd down, Jebiaus Brown came in at nickel for Wesley Walker. Sciarra was able to find Marcedes Lewis over the middle on a curl for nearly a 10-yard pick-up. With 4th and short, Dorrell decided to go for it, and was rewarded with a first down when Wendell Mathis was able to blast up the middle for the yard or two.


1st down: the Bruins ran the off-tackle stretch to the left side for Wendell Mathis, which picked up first down yardage, but there was holding on the play. Hey, even the refs need spring practice.  On 1st and 20, Sciarra dropped back to pass, was forced to scramble, and then the whistle was blown for a sack. On 2nd down, Sciarra went to Jacques Lazarus, but was incomplete. 3rd down, shotgun formation: facing pressure, Sciarra made a good escape, found Mathis on a checkdown, who then busted it up the field for good yardage, but well short of the first. Kluwe then fielded a low snap but was able to get it off. Bragg called for a fair catch.


Drew Olson at QB: Harris up the middle for nothing. Bootleg to the right, but Manster White drops the pass under good coverage. Drew drops back and tries to pass to Harris, but is ruled to be sacked by the whistle.


Matt Moore at QB: after a running play that netted little, Matt threw a slant pass to Antwuan Smith on the left, but he couldn't make the catch. On 3rd down, Matt was sacked by Asi Faoa, the rush end.


The next play generated the most excitement of the scrimmage: Craig Bragg fielded a short punt, and with the coverage team unconverged on the ball, he was able to slice and dice his way into the end zone with a great broken field run.


The play so inspired the staff that they decided to have the team punt again. This time, Chris Kluwe got off an absolute bomb of a punt, probably 70-75 yards from the LOS, and well over the head of punt returner Brett Mitchell. However, Mitchell was able to corral the ball before the punt coverage got to him, and he proceeded to return the punt about 30 yards, displaying his own flashy set of quicks.


Third time is the charm: On the next punt, Kluwe again got huge distance and height, launching a perfect spiral well over Craig Bragg's head. This time there was no return…


Next came the best, most sustained drive of the day for the O. Brian Callahan led the 3rd unit O vs. the 3rd unit D at QB. 1st down was a blast up the middle by Mathis for decent yardage. Next, Callahan hit Josh Roenicke for first down on a slant pass to the left. 1st down, Callahan tried to go over the middle, but strong safety Jibril Raymo jumped the route and deflected the pass. Next play, Callahan again went to JR for a completion, this time on a short out to the left, with Jeb Brown making a tackle on the spot. (Callahan = Gannon???) The next play just the way the coaches drew it up: Moss, right flanker, ran an inside route, but it skipped off Moss and the defender, and Franco Harris-like, fullback Mark Mangelsdorf (#37) had his head up and snagged the fly-by and rumbled for a huge gain before being dragged down around the 30. 1st down, Wendell gained nada up the gut. On 2nd down, Roenicke made a beautiful, outstretched catch of a hard slant pass in traffic, but short of the first. On 3rd down, there was a misunderstanding between Callahan and Roenicke; Callahan threw to the corner, and Josh ran inside. This brought on Justin Medlock for the field goal attempt, and he was good from between 30 and 35. The drive lasted nine plays, easily the longest of the day.


Back to 1st O vs. 1st D, Moore under center, with the linebacker crew consisting of Walker at Sam, Spencer Havner at Will and Justin London at Mike. After two runs that gained little, Moore dropped back to pass, but Rodney Leisle, Mat Ball and Dave Ball decided to rendezvous on Matt, sacking him.


Drew Olson took over, and the DL subjected him to even worse treatment, sacking him three times in row. Two of the times the DL just collapsed the pocket (the first time with help from a Spencer Havner blitz), and the third saw Dave Ball just get the better of the left tackle with a bull rush. Sensing that this fight was over, the scrimmage concluded at this point…


Overall, this was an impressive performance by the D. Out of nine series, the D allowed one field goal and no TDs. The only TD was on a punt return. I counted eight sacks during the course of the scrimmage, several of the "meet-at-the-QB" variety.


When the D is able to keep the ball in front of it, it is very effective. The D swarms to the ball and tackles well. The DBs play the short pass aggressively, so they may be vulnerable to passes over the top. After being passed on earlier in the week in a scrimmage, the D benefited from an unfettered rush, which shortened the routes the O could run, taking away the double move patterns that have been so effective in practice.


Of course, the "half-empty" crowd will choose to focus on the O's struggles to move the ball, worrying about the OL. And today, the front seven absolutely got the better of the running game. With the running game bottled up, the D applied the tourniquet to the passing game in due time.


Like a great boxing match, though, spring practice has swung back and forth. Now it's time, with one week of practice left, for the O to step up and bloody the D's nose. It should be an interesting week. The coaches wanted a chance to evaluate the kids, and they are getting it, fa shizzle. There has been more ones vs. ones this spring than I can remember seeing in the last three years combined.


On Friday, Joe Cowan was there again with other members of the Bosco Posse. Kevin Brown, brother Owen and their mother were also there. Bruce Davis and family also attended; Hey, would you come all the way from Texas to see just one practice? One correction, courtesy of A-Bro: Bruce was with his step-father, not his namesake.


It was very cool to see Karim Abdul Jabbar, the great Bruin running back, at practice, looking healthy and fit at just 28. He is eager to hook up with an NFL team now that he's recovered from the ailments that beset him for a year or two.


The BRO Contingent:  Two new additions to the crowd on Friday in Kawai and trestles. Alas, Kawai slipped away before BRUINPRIDE, mdm67, DEJA, Samo, LPL, hk, Chas and yours truly could say "hi." Prof made a late entrance. No sight of WendellRules, but maybe he wanted it that way? And Gizmo needs to come over and introduce himself.  Don't be a stranger.

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