Forced Double Teams: 1
Broken Tackle: 1
Good Coverage: 1
*Includes all games minus Week 10, Divisional Round and the second half of Week 3 and the first half of week 1.
Kudos to Darryl Tapp and Deon Grant who sniffed out the end around on the Bucs fifth play of their third drive. It's been a long time since I've seen Seattle handle a play fake with such intelligence and poise.
What the numbers don't say about Patrick Kerney is just how aware he is. No play better defined this than on Tampa's fifth play of their second drive. The Bucs had just entered Seattle's red zone and have 3rd and 2, Seattle's aligned in a base package with Kerney and Darryl Tapp at the ends. After the snap Rocky Bernard barrels in getting some good inside rush, Tapp runs a very wide pass rush and looks to be largely out of the play, but never stops fighting. Jeff Garcia makes a very bad pocket read, sensing the inside pressure he incorrectly rolls out exposing himself to Kerney who's now unblocked. That mistake by Garcia is the key, Kerney didn't strip his blocker, he just held back and watched Garcia, when Garcia incorrectly chose to roll out to the right he mistakenly escaped his own pocket and left himself exposed to a suddenly free Kerney. Kerney sees Tapp still chugging out and behind Garcia and instead of rushing right at Garcia he shadows him, shutting down Garcia's rushing lane and passing lane. Tapp, now free, runs up Garcia's backside and the Bucs Qb, with no other option, runs, getting sandwiched between Tapp and the now charging Kerney. Kerney makes every right decision on this play and the result is a three yard sack on a critical third down.
On the third play of the Bears second drive, the one that followed the bogus fumble by Beck that Holmgren for whatever reason didn't challenge, Tapp threw aside John Tait like spent Kleenex and sank Benson for a loss of 3.
Speaking of value, Darryl Tapp is the man. He's a competent run stuffer, a sub-elite pass rusher and one of the better cover ends in the NFL. How he does it despite being undersized is all a matter of speed, technique and effort. First, Tapp's quick off the blocks and when strung wide, able to slide into a second gear few ends possess. Second, he knows how to stay underneath a blocker, get in good position, put on one move and then explode to the ball carrier. Finally, the guy just doesn't quit.
Fifth play of Chicago's touchdown scoring drive. The Hawks are in a base package, the Bears four wide tight, at the snap Kerney and Tapp put on textbook pinschers both coming free from the outside. Grossman checks down underneath to Berrian who attempts to get free, slips a tackle by Lofa Tatupu, gets corralled by Tru before Tapp--screaming back into the play from the opposite side of the field--arrives, hits Berrian from behind as Tru is putting the lick on him from the front. *Crack! A punishing tackle that Tapp had no right to even be involved in. Gold Star.
Tapped out, tuned in: Darryl Tapp's interception was a little skill and a lot of luck. It's the second play of Cleveland's second drive, first and ten, the Hawks in a base formation. At the snap, Brandon Mebane stunts right, Tapp doesn't stunt left. He, instead, gets caught up behind Mebane's back, screened from the line by his own teammate. Did Mebane stunt when he wasn't supposed to? Did Tapp not stunt when he was supposed to? I don't really know, but I do know that Tapp was in position for the pick because he was out of position for the play. Craig Terrill was able to create some pressure from the defensive left, and Anderson, who shows little poise under pressure, hurried the pass. Tapp has good hands for an end, so his skill turned a botched assignment into a turnover. His skill, that is, and a heaping helping of luck.
Tapp is lightning fast off the snap, but, increasingly, tackles shade back - neutralizing Tapp's quickness and then neutralizing Tapp. Hopefully, we're just talking growing pains for the recently 23 Tapp, but it's been a long time since he made much noise, and the bulk of his sacks came via the Milford Brown expressway. He needs to show better ability fighting off blockers once engaged or suffer stagnation as a pass rusher.
Finally, a quick note on Darryl Tapp, as in, where the hell is Darryl Tapp? His 4 sack performance against the Rams, specifically, Milford Brown, a barely capable guard, and a joke at tackle, is not so quickly becoming a very distant memory. Every team from here on out will double Patrick Kerney, so it's Tapp's duty to make them pay. I wish I could say that he will, but not only has his sack prowess disappeared, but that which allows sacks, penetration, has disappeared, too. 5 defensive penetrations in the last 3 games is a dry spell worth worrying about. Perhaps that's why they were playing so much gull darned Nickel on Sunday.
As you can deduce from the Highlights and Lowlights, I'm ambivalent about Darryl Tapp. Tapp is disruptive (he averaged 3+ penetrations* per contest), but a poor finisher. More than half his sacks happened in just one game, against the very most marginal of competition. An outlier not unlike Craig Terrill's 3 sack showing against Oakland in 2006. Tapp's clearly capable of pressuring the quarterback, but rarely converts the sack. Likewise, he's capable of blowing up the rusher or cutting off his cutback lane, but as often as not, abandons outside containment and creates a cutback lane himself. Tapp is very capable in zone coverage. He's a fine athlete, moves well in space, has an excellent first step and good field awareness. Were he a typical end, I would consider his 2007 a great success and a first step to future stardom. He won't turn 24 until week 2. But an undersized speed rusher whose greatest ability is quickness and whose greatest skill is his first step isn't likely to experience the same "grow into his body" ascension that a larger, stronger end might. No, it's reasonable to think that Tapp is at or is near his peak. If you are satisfied with 3 more seasons of 2007, well then that's not so bad.
*Defined as any point a defender is unimpeded to the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage.