Another apple from the zone-blitz tree has fallen into the NFL defensive coordinator ranks.
John Pease had waited a long time for his opportunity, but now he has a chance to add his special spice to the zone-blitz mix. Pease, who coached under Jim Mora when the zone-blitz was created in Philadelphia of the USFL and in New Orleans of the NFL, is the newest Jaguars defensive coordinator and he's promising something between the Jags' conservative style of defense under Gary Moeller last season, and the blitz-crazy ways of Dom Capers in 1999 and 2000.
"Can we say I'm a conservative blitzer?" Pease asked.
Pease had been the Jaguars' defensive line coach for the first seven years of the team's history. His recent promotion further swells the collection of those coaches who were on Mora's staff when the zone-blitz was invented, and who've since made it to the rank of coordinator.
Capers, Vic Fangio, Marvin Lewis, Dick LeBeau, Jim Haslett, Tim Lewis and, now, Pease, all fell from the zone-blitz tree, whose roots can be traced through Philadelphia, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and, most recently, Jacksonville.
"First of all, you have to know what your players can do. If we have great blitzers, we'll blitz more," Pease said during a sit-down interview in which he exposed his philosophy of defense.
"I'm a real fundamentalist. I believe you can overkill on blitzes. They're far more effective when they're not expected. To make them not expected, you have to be base-defense sound," Pease added.
Pease's beliefs were formed under Mora in Philadelphia and New Orleans, while on Don James staff at the University of Washington, and during a brief stint as a soon-to-be-cut player in the training camp of the Los Angeles Rams in 1967, when George Allen left his mark on Pease.
"There are their downs and there are our downs," Pease said of Allen's defensive philosophy. "Second-and-11 is our down; make them be predictable."
Of course, that begins with stopping the run, and that's where Pease's conservative approach to defense begins. "To be successful, you have to handle the run. To handle the run, you have to be sound and be able to come off the blocks and all that kind of boring stuff," he said.
"I'm not Capers. We will pressure to the ability of our players to pressure," Pease added.
The immediate hot-potato issue Pease will face concerns the Jaguars' defensive failures in the fourth quarter last season. Moeller was harshly criticized for ordering three-man rushes and soft zone-defenses as the Jaguars attempted to protect leads. Those tactics resulted in four major collapses, to the Ravens twice and to the Titans and Packers once each.
"One of our studies in the offseason will be on teams that have done very well in two-minute situations. The natural tendency is 'we got the lead and we got them in a two-minute situation; we got them beat.' But you don't got them beat," Pease said.
"We're going to pressure as we would in a normal situation. You can't let them stand back there and throw," he added.
Of course, Pease is coming along at a time when the Jaguars' salary cap problems are robbing the team of its defensive personnel. Starting tackles Gary Walker and Seth Payne are gone to Houston. Kevin Hardy's and Renaldo Wynn's contracts have expired. Aaron Beasley was cut last week and Hardy Nickerson could also become a salary cap casualty.
That's five starters gone and, maybe, another one to follow. Expectations would seem to be low, but Pease sees reason for hope.
"I think we have some corners capable of playing man-to-man coverage. I think we've got a strong safety we need to find a way to utilize because he's one of the premier strong safeties in the league," Pease said. "Marcus Stroud and Tony Brackens are going to have to be the cornerstones of what we do. Larry Smith is going to get a shot to show us what he can do.
"It should be fun. If the beliefs I've developed over all these years are sound, we'll be sound," Pease added.