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  1. #1
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    Travis Fisher vs. Seattle

    Since there has been a lot of criticism directed at Travis Fisher for poor play, I decided to go back and look at the game tape to see whether or not the claims proved true. Specifically in this article, I'm focusing on what Fisher did against the Seattle Seahawks.

    I've spent over two hours going back and watching the Rams/Hawks game, taking notes while doing so. I'm going to share the conclusions I drew based on reviewing the tape, in which I mostly paid attention to what Fisher was doing but also at times checked on other coverage plays, and also went back to review specific plays multiple times when necessary. If anyone wants a specific quarter and minute mark for anything I bring up here, please respond and I will supply it. For the sake of brevity, I'm not including it in this initial post.

    Starting with the first half, Fisher did not allow a catch. When in man coverage, he was thrown at twice, and both were off target. The first, Fisher was step for step with Branch in man coverage, playing him well. The ball was overthrown, and OJ Atogwe dropped an easy pick. In the second play, Fisher's coverage was loose as he covered Branch on a drag while Hass rolled on a bootleg, and could have been tightened up on the drag route. There were additional catches made against zone coverage, but they were simply the result of good receivers finding and sitting in the holes with Fisher in a deeper zone on those plays. So the first half was fine. Overall, nothing bad from what I can see in this half. Drag coverage could be improved, but I'd hardly call that bad and certainly is balanced out by his earlier man coverage.

    In the second half, the Seahawks hit Branch three times on slants on Fisher's side of the field. All of them were adjustments to counter Ram blitzes. On the first two, the Rams were zone blitzing and the passes were delivered right where they needed to be, in windows between zones. There wasn't much that could be done on the first, as there was simply a hole in the coverage - Adeyanju had the flat, Fisher had the deeper sideline, and Pisa had the inner field. Branch caught the pass in the hole between Victor and Pisa, and Fisher dragged Branch down by himself.

    On the second slant (Rams in zone), again, Raonall Smith blitzed from Fisher's side, exposing a hole in the coverage where he used to be that it appears Atogwe was late to fill. I draw this conclusion because as soon as Atogwe read the play was a pass, he stepped up towards that hole rather than staying put or dropping back. Branch caught the ball in the hole and Atgowe hit him to bring him down. After the play, Fisher pointed and said something to Atogwe, and OJ was silent, another clue that he likely was late to the spot.

    The third slant came on Seattle's last drive. Rams blitz two LBs and whoever is covering the slot receiver (can't tell if it's a LB or S), Seahawks adjust with the quick slant. Fisher pops Branch after the catch and stops Deion in his tracks long enough for him to be brought down.

    Again, Fisher was okay on those three plays. The Seahawks on all three occasions countered the blitz with a quick slant, twice against zone and once against man, so credit Seattle for adjusting to our playcalling and taking advantage of our aggressiveness. Fisher made two tackles on these three plays, one of which took a second or two to drag Branch down, the other where he hit Branch fairly well to stop him.

    Speaking of tackling, there was another tackle to note in the second half that Fisher made. On a third and twelve, Corey Chavous had DJ Hackett in the slot and tried to press him off the line. Hackett got by Chavous and turned a 14-yard catch into a 37-yard catch and run. Chavous, Carter, and Atogwe are in pursuit. Carter isn't fast enough to keep up and is losing ground. Corey and OJ are close but don't go for the tackle, instead trying to corral Hackett toward the sideline. Before he can get there though, out of no where Fisher comes from behind and doesn't just go for the tackle but throws his body into Hackett to knock him down by himself. Very good play by Fisher chasing the play down field and physically bringing Hackett down.

    The only other second half throws Fisher was involved in were the pass interference call and the Branch touchdown. I've already made numerous posts about the coverage on the Branch touchdown play, but I'll try and summarize. Fisher is one on one with Branch and has no safety help. Fisher was step for step with Branch, read and reacted to Branch to know when the ball was coming, and used his arms to try and disrupt the pass. It was very good coverage (both announcers concurred), but a perfectly delivered pass. Branch did not have to slow down and made the catch right over his shoulder. This will be important to remember in a second.

    As for the pass interference, I believe this was a ticky-tack but technically correct call. Fisher was once again step for step with Branch - this is I believe the third instance this game where in man coverage Fisher is right in his guy's hip pocket. Fisher is watching and reacting to Branch when Hasselbeck underthrows the pass. Here's the key - as the ball is in the air and Fisher is watching his man, Branch slows slightly and turns his entire torso when trying to make the catch. For Fisher, that should have been the tip off that the ball wasn't going to be well placed in front of Branch and that he needed to turn to make a play on it. So on this play, I fault Fisher for not reacting properly to what he was seeing from Branch.

    So where does that leave us overall? Let's summarize:

    -Both tight and loose coverage in the first half. Grades out to be about a push.
    -Three solo tackles in the second half, two of which were good hits with the other leaving a bit to be desired since he got dragged for a few yards before bringing the receiver down.
    -Tight coverage and good reaction on Branch's TD catch, which was simply perfectly executed.
    -Poor reaction to Branch's signals on the pass interference call.

    All in all, it looks like a decent balance and a solid game. The only play I'd classify as bad was the pass interference on Branch. Loose coverage on the drag and taking a bit to tackle Branch on one of the slants need to be shored up but I wouldn't call either bad since he did make the tackle and was only a few steps away on the drag. The other two tackles were good, the end zone coverage IMO was very good, and the coverage on Hass's first pass was very tight.

    So there you have it. Again, I'd like to emphasize that I don't believe Fisher is a great corner. However I don't believe he's horrible either. I think he's a solid player who is playing solid football, and I can't fault him for playing to his talent level, and I certainly don't think it's fair to claim he's bad because he doesn't exceed his talent level.

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  2. #2
    chiguy's Avatar
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    Re: Travis Fisher vs. Seattle

    But this can't be! I've been told in no uncertain terms that Fischer stinks because Anquan Bouldin used him!

    (Nice analysis.)

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    Re: Travis Fisher vs. Seattle

    Very nice article Nick. It's easy to fault Fisher by looking at the opposing team's receiver's numbers and placing the blame on the cornerback, but that is just plain ignorance to the strategy of football and how at times it isn't as simple as just covering a man straight up. I would say that all the criticism that Fisher has recieved this year belongs to the defensive line, which you and many others have pointed out here on the forums. Haslett is forced to call for a blitz way more than a team ought to because the pressure is not getting there from the line. And as the old saying goes, you live by the blitz, you die by the blitz, and so far this season that holds very true for the Rams.

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    Re: Travis Fisher vs. Seattle

    Man, I'm getting tired just watching you work so hard, Nick.

    Most around here know that I've never been a big fan of Fisher. My stance, after watching him over the years, is that he does stay close to his man well, but he just isn't a playmaker. In most cases when the ball arrives, he swipes at the ball, in a manner I've seen so many times he could patent it. Unfortunately, he seldom breaks up the play. Like the others, I don't have the time or interest in getting into specifics right now. Maybe someday.

    I will say I do respect, not only the tremendous effort you have put into this project, but also the conclusions that you have drawn from it. I have tried to follow your line of reasoning and even watched a little of the Seattle game last night to watch Fisher a little closer.

    In doing so, you've shown me a few things to look for that you say is "very good" coverage (i.e. the Branch TD), while I'm thinking, "crap he never (OK seldom) makes a play on the !@#$%^&* ball." But, you make a couple of good points.

    1) You agree he's not a playmaker, but you believe he is solid until we can find someone better. I get that, considering the man to man coverages and scheme.

    2) He's often in man coverage with no safety help, requiring him to keep his eyes on his man.

    This one is where I and I think many others here have the biggest problem with Fisher's play. I want him to turn and look for the ball, because, in his case, if he doesn't, they usually catch it. If they are gonna catch it anyway, then dang it turn and look for the ball!

    But, it sounds like you are saying this is the best way to cover it. That DB's are taught to cover it that way. Is that true? Is that how DB's are taught? Either way I respect your opinion that it is a good way to cover in that instance. I'd just prefer that he looked for the ball is all, even with the chance he may lose a step on the opponent. Again, he may not if it's a quick glance.

    3) We are not providing enough pressure with our guys up front which allows the QB to pick us apart. This is a valid point as well.

    You've opened my eyes to factors beyond his control, such as man to man coverage and lack of pressure that I hadn't given much thought to in the past. Yes, I knew they were there, but I hadn't put as much weight on that in regards to its affect on DB's. In watching him lately, I've actually changed my opinion of his tackling ability. I think he's been pretty solid there. At least this year.

    All in all, you have presented your case well. I've learned a thing or two from your discussion. Maybe we can find a playmaker out there some day to make us all happy!

    Good job, Nick.

    Go Rams...who's next!!! :l
    Last edited by viper; -10-21-2006 at 12:03 AM. Reason: Spelling

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    Re: Travis Fisher vs. Seattle

    You make some good points here. I think Fisher is taking more flak than he deserves, but I also do think that there are some major shortcomings in his game. Primarily, even when he's one-on-one in man coverage, he has got to do a better job of getting his hands on the ball. It's not just the turnovers; there are a number of corners who have batted down more balls this year than Fisher has in the last 3. I don't really think he's particularly playing any worse than he has in previous years, but I think we always hoped he was going to get better. And I guess I just don't see much improvement over years past. You're right, it's not that bad--at least it could be a whole lot worse--but I'm not sure I'd call it solid. I'd rate him as a pretty average no. 2 CB, but rather below average if compared to the best CBs on each team. Regardless, I think he probably is our best bet for the time being. I expect a certain number of rookie mistakes from Hill, and I've not really seen enough of Butler recently to say whether I'd want him in.

  6. #6
    STLRAMSFAN Guest

    Re: Travis Fisher vs. Seattle

    Good analysis it seems the only question is is he mediocre or less then mediocre. IMO he is still less then mediocre I heard of no pass breakups in the entire game. He did not hit the receiver at the point of the catch except maybe the one where he dropped WR right away. I would like to see that play because in the past I rarely if ever remember him delivering a hit to a WR at the point of the catch. We see some other CBs do this every week around the NFL. Good analysis and you did bring up good points you basically are saying he is solid and I am saying he less then solid IMO. It sounds like this game he had 0 plays on the ball and maybe 1 play where he made contact with the receiver at the point of the catch. I would like to see the tape of that one play. To me this game was still less then solid. The one long gain he stopped was icing on the cake that is not something that he should be doing week in and out. His primary focus is not on stopping long gains after blown coverage. I do not judge him on that I judge him on how he plays the guy he is covering.

  7. #7
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Travis Fisher vs. Seattle

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeB1603 View Post
    Very nice article Nick. It's easy to fault Fisher by looking at the opposing team's receiver's numbers and placing the blame on the cornerback, but that is just plain ignorance to the strategy of football and how at times it isn't as simple as just covering a man straight up. I would say that all the criticism that Fisher has recieved this year belongs to the defensive line, which you and many others have pointed out here on the forums. Haslett is forced to call for a blitz way more than a team ought to because the pressure is not getting there from the line. And as the old saying goes, you live by the blitz, you die by the blitz, and so far this season that holds very true for the Rams.
    Great post, Mike. Lack of pressure by the front four is a big concern, and even when we bring the blitz we have problems getting to the QB then as well. You put it very well - you live by the blitz, you die by the blitz. Especially when you play good teams like Seattle who have very good quarterbacks capable of making adjustments at the line.


    Quote Originally Posted by viper View Post
    Man, I'm getting tired just watching you work so hard, Nick.
    Well, it pays off when people can come into a thread like this with an open mind, view the evidence, view the conclusions, and see if they make sense. I appreciate you (as well as others) approaching this topic with a willingness to listen to what the other side sees.


    Quote Originally Posted by viper View Post
    This one is where I and I think many others here have the biggest problem with Fisher's play. I want him to turn and look for the ball, because, in his case, if he doesn't, they usually catch it. If they are gonna catch it anyway, then dang it turn and look for the ball!

    But, it sounds like you are saying this is the best way to cover it. That DB's are taught to cover it that way. Is that true? Is that how DB's are taught? Either way I respect your opinion that it is a good way to cover in that instance. I'd just prefer that he looked for the ball is all, even with the chance he may lose a step on the opponent. Again, he may not if it's a quick glance.
    Well for one, I understand the thoughts behind wanting him to turn around and look for the ball. I think there are certain situations where that is a must. I'm just not sure man coverage with little or no safety help while your back is to the quarterback is an instance where you want to take your eyes off of the receiver and potentially give him the chance to gain separation.

    There have been a number of instances where we've had a DB locked in solid to good coverage with a receiver, the ball is thrown, the DB looks back, and in doing so loses position on the receiver and the guy makes a catch. Tye Hill did it on Branch's first TD and did it against Green Bay on Jennings' long TD reception. Fakhir Brown did it at least once against Mike Williams versus Detroit.

    That's not to say it's not a good strategy. As I mentioned earlier, I think there are definitely situations where you can and should look to make a play on the ball. But based on what I see on the field, I've seen quite a few DBs give up plays in what appears to be man coverage by trying to turn and locate the ball, because in doing so they're giving up position to the receiver. You say it's the strategy you'd prefer even if there's the chance that he loses a step. I'd contend that if you're the only guy capable of defending the pass, the last thing you want to do is lose a step and let the receiver get position.


    Quote Originally Posted by Goldenfleece View Post
    You're right, it's not that bad--at least it could be a whole lot worse--but I'm not sure I'd call it solid. I'd rate him as a pretty average no. 2 CB, but rather below average if compared to the best CBs on each team.
    I personally consider "solid," "average," and "okay" to be around the same level of play. Perhaps I should have clarified that sooner. I see it as a classification for a player who is doing some good stuff but is also making the occasional mistake and there's no real imbalance to push him toward good or bad. Kind of in the middle, I guess. Hope that clarifies.


    Quote Originally Posted by STLRAMSFAN View Post
    I would like to see that play because in the past I rarely if ever remember him delivering a hit to a WR at the point of the catch.
    Fourth quarter, about 56 seconds left. It's not an earth shattering Jacked Up hit, but it stops the receiver and prevents him from gaining additional yards. To me, that's a good hit.


    Quote Originally Posted by STLRAMSFAN View Post
    The one long gain he stopped was icing on the cake that is not something that he should be doing week in and out. His primary focus is not on stopping long gains after blown coverage. I do not judge him on that I judge him on how he plays the guy he is covering.
    The long gain wasn't on the guy he was covering. You say his primary focus is not on stopping long gains, so would you rather he just stand there and check his shoelaces?

    As I said in my post, it was Chavous who let Hackett get by him for the big gain. Fisher chased Hackett down the field and delivered another good hit to bring him down.

    How can you say you don't judge him on something like this? The guy hustles down field to bring down a guy that wasn't his responsibility. He deserves credit for that kind of effort and ability to finish off a play someone else allowed.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Travis Fisher vs. Seattle

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Since there has been a lot of criticism directed at Travis Fisher for poor play, I decided to go back and look at the game tape to see whether or not the claims proved true. Specifically in this article, I'm focusing on what Fisher did against the Seattle Seahawks.

    I've spent over two hours going back and watching the Rams/Hawks game, taking notes while doing so. I'm going to share the conclusions I drew based on reviewing the tape, in which I mostly paid attention to what Fisher was doing but also at times checked on other coverage plays, and also went back to review specific plays multiple times when necessary. If anyone wants a specific quarter and minute mark for anything I bring up here, please respond and I will supply it. For the sake of brevity, I'm not including it in this initial post.

    Starting with the first half, Fisher did not allow a catch. When in man coverage, he was thrown at twice, and both were off target. The first, Fisher was step for step with Branch in man coverage, playing him well. The ball was overthrown, and OJ Atogwe dropped an easy pick. In the second play, Fisher's coverage was loose as he covered Branch on a drag while Hass rolled on a bootleg, and could have been tightened up on the drag route. There were additional catches made against zone coverage, but they were simply the result of good receivers finding and sitting in the holes with Fisher in a deeper zone on those plays. So the first half was fine. Overall, nothing bad from what I can see in this half. Drag coverage could be improved, but I'd hardly call that bad and certainly is balanced out by his earlier man coverage.

    In the second half, the Seahawks hit Branch three times on slants on Fisher's side of the field. All of them were adjustments to counter Ram blitzes. On the first two, the Rams were zone blitzing and the passes were delivered right where they needed to be, in windows between zones. There wasn't much that could be done on the first, as there was simply a hole in the coverage - Adeyanju had the flat, Fisher had the deeper sideline, and Pisa had the inner field. Branch caught the pass in the hole between Victor and Pisa, and Fisher dragged Branch down by himself.

    On the second slant (Rams in zone), again, Raonall Smith blitzed from Fisher's side, exposing a hole in the coverage where he used to be that it appears Atogwe was late to fill. I draw this conclusion because as soon as Atogwe read the play was a pass, he stepped up towards that hole rather than staying put or dropping back. Branch caught the ball in the hole and Atgowe hit him to bring him down. After the play, Fisher pointed and said something to Atogwe, and OJ was silent, another clue that he likely was late to the spot.

    The third slant came on Seattle's last drive. Rams blitz two LBs and whoever is covering the slot receiver (can't tell if it's a LB or S), Seahawks adjust with the quick slant. Fisher pops Branch after the catch and stops Deion in his tracks long enough for him to be brought down.

    Again, Fisher was okay on those three plays. The Seahawks on all three occasions countered the blitz with a quick slant, twice against zone and once against man, so credit Seattle for adjusting to our playcalling and taking advantage of our aggressiveness. Fisher made two tackles on these three plays, one of which took a second or two to drag Branch down, the other where he hit Branch fairly well to stop him.

    Speaking of tackling, there was another tackle to note in the second half that Fisher made. On a third and twelve, Corey Chavous had DJ Hackett in the slot and tried to press him off the line. Hackett got by Chavous and turned a 14-yard catch into a 37-yard catch and run. Chavous, Carter, and Atogwe are in pursuit. Carter isn't fast enough to keep up and is losing ground. Corey and OJ are close but don't go for the tackle, instead trying to corral Hackett toward the sideline. Before he can get there though, out of no where Fisher comes from behind and doesn't just go for the tackle but throws his body into Hackett to knock him down by himself. Very good play by Fisher chasing the play down field and physically bringing Hackett down.

    The only other second half throws Fisher was involved in were the pass interference call and the Branch touchdown. I've already made numerous posts about the coverage on the Branch touchdown play, but I'll try and summarize. Fisher is one on one with Branch and has no safety help. Fisher was step for step with Branch, read and reacted to Branch to know when the ball was coming, and used his arms to try and disrupt the pass. It was very good coverage (both announcers concurred), but a perfectly delivered pass. Branch did not have to slow down and made the catch right over his shoulder. This will be important to remember in a second.

    As for the pass interference, I believe this was a ticky-tack but technically correct call. Fisher was once again step for step with Branch - this is I believe the third instance this game where in man coverage Fisher is right in his guy's hip pocket. Fisher is watching and reacting to Branch when Hasselbeck underthrows the pass. Here's the key - as the ball is in the air and Fisher is watching his man, Branch slows slightly and turns his entire torso when trying to make the catch. For Fisher, that should have been the tip off that the ball wasn't going to be well placed in front of Branch and that he needed to turn to make a play on it. So on this play, I fault Fisher for not reacting properly to what he was seeing from Branch.

    So where does that leave us overall? Let's summarize:

    -Both tight and loose coverage in the first half. Grades out to be about a push.
    -Three solo tackles in the second half, two of which were good hits with the other leaving a bit to be desired since he got dragged for a few yards before bringing the receiver down.
    -Tight coverage and good reaction on Branch's TD catch, which was simply perfectly executed.
    -Poor reaction to Branch's signals on the pass interference call.

    All in all, it looks like a decent balance and a solid game. The only play I'd classify as bad was the pass interference on Branch. Loose coverage on the drag and taking a bit to tackle Branch on one of the slants need to be shored up but I wouldn't call either bad since he did make the tackle and was only a few steps away on the drag. The other two tackles were good, the end zone coverage IMO was very good, and the coverage on Hass's first pass was very tight.

    So there you have it. Again, I'd like to emphasize that I don't believe Fisher is a great corner. However I don't believe he's horrible either. I think he's a solid player who is playing solid football, and I can't fault him for playing to his talent level, and I certainly don't think it's fair to claim he's bad because he doesn't exceed his talent level.
    WELL DONE!:r

  9. #9
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    Re: Travis Fisher vs. Seattle

    Nice breakdown Nick. (I tried to rep but I need to spread some around)
    BRUUUUUUUUCE


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    Re: Travis Fisher vs. Seattle

    Exscuse me professor Nick, but could you define "Drag Coverage" for me?

    Thanks!

    Joe

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    Re: Travis Fisher vs. Seattle

    Exscuse me Professor Niick, but could define "Drag Coverage" for me?

    Thanks!

    Joe

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