Vic Fangio is one of the best defensive coordinators of this era. He’s produced top-notch defenses the past two decades while building a strong resume. For these reasons, the Denver Broncos hired him as their head coach.
The Mastermind of the Midway
Fangio’s defenses have ranked in the top five for yards allowed in eight of the previous 12 seasons. In 2018 he deployed a dominating Bears defense, leading them to a 12-4 record and their first division title since 2010.
Defensively, the Chicago Bears were at the top of the league in almost every statistical category. They were ranked first in points allowed, forced turnovers, Football Outsiders DVOA, as well as Pro Football Focus‘ top-graded unit. Fangio’s system smothered the best of offenses and created chaos for quarterbacks.
In 2019, Fangio takes his defensive expertise to the Denver Broncos. While positionally they’re not as deep as the 2018 Bears, the Broncos have one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL – Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. With his defensive line movements and exotic blitzes, Fangio will take this unit to the next level. For AFC West quarterbacks with postseason dreams, Vic Fangio is your nightmare.
One look at the tape and the horrors Fangio presents to the division are realized.
One of Fangio’s staples last season was the Wide-9 alignment. Most often coupled with a 4-3 over formation, the goal is to create one-on-ones with offensive tackles in space. When done right your speedy defensive ends or outside linebackers put more pressure on opposing passers. Fangio used this alignment in many variations allowing Khalil Mack to have such great success in 2018. I believe the same will be true for the Broncos edge rushers in 2019.
Against the Los Angeles Rams, the Bears showed this Wide-9 alignment in the red zone. By design, the Wide-9 will always have two edge rushers in a nine-technique or shaded outside the tackles/tight ends.
After the snap, you’ll see exactly how this creates one-on-ones for great edge rushers like Khalil Mack. Mack’s quickness causes the right tackle to overset, allowing Mack to counter back inside and rip through. The positioning of the edge players leads to a quick pressure and an errant throw.
Against the Lions in Week 10, Vic Fangio creates a mismatch with defensive tackle, Akiem Hicks. The Bears are in the same Wide-9 alignment with Eddie Golden set up at the three-technique. However, Fangio moves Hicks to a 4i technique where he shades inside the tackle.
This adjustment puts his pro-bowl defensive tackle in a one-on-one situation with the right guard and no center help. Fangio also sends Roquan Smith on a blitz adding another wrinkle to occupy the left guard. He executes a delayed stunt with Golden. With Golden pushing into the A gap, Smith is freed up to circle to the quarterback. The blitz allows the Bears to get pressure on Matthew Stafford and ends with a sack.
Speaking of blitzes, Fangio has an array of blitz packages he frequently looks to deploy. He sends players from all over the field and does an excellent job of disguising his intentions pre-snap.
Versus the Rams, he called several blitzes that befuddled Jared Goff throughout the game. This led to multiple interceptions. Again, Fangio uses a ton of movement pre-snap and doesn’t allow the quarterback to decipher who’s coming and who’s not.
Here’s an example of a safety blitz from Eddie Jackson. Slowly moving into the box before the snap, Jackson makes it seem like he’s calling an audible to adjust the defense to the Ram’s look.
At the snap, Jackson sprints through the D gap while Leonard Floyd goes into C gap. This puts the right tackle for the Rams, Rob Havenstein, in a tough position. Havenstein elects to attack the Blitzer allowing Floyd a clear line to the quarterback and another errant pass that’s nearly picked off.
Fangio is a defensive mastermind. He consistently finds ways to limit opposing offenses from scoring in an era that favors offensive success.
But the Denver Broncos are not the 2018 Chicago Bears. And they do not have the same secondary. However, using pre-snap disguises, Fangio forces quarterbacks to hold the ball a little longer. This could be all the pass defense needs.