Dom Capers and Vic Fangio were together on Jim Mora's Philadelphia Stars coaching staff in the late 1980s when Capers and Fangio began toying with something that would become the defensive rage of the 1990s: "The Zone-Blitz" defense of "Blitzburgh" fame.
It's been a long time since Capers and Fangio – or any other defensive coaches – have given us something truly new and innovative. But that may have changed a few weeks ago, when the Houston Texans used a six-linebackers scheme to sack and torment Buffalo quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the Texans' 12-10 upset win at Buffalo.
Here's what Fangio, Capers' defensive coordinator, did: He used six linebackers and five defensive backs in a no-linemen defense. It was used only in obvious passing situations, and it allowed the Texans to increase the overall speed of their defense, and that clearly led to an improved pass-rush.
But there's more: The unconventional nature of the alignment left offensive linemen confused as to their blocking assignments. Rushing the passer became the "fire drill" defensive coaches desperately want it to be.
"You're always looking for ways to improve your pass-rush. We had a lot of linebackers active in that game; guys we could use. We were kind of looking for an opportunity to do it. The timing was right. The way we've been rushing the passer hadn't been good enough," Fangio said.
Two of the main reasons Fangio and Capers used the risky scheme – it's clearly vulnerable against the run – are the losses to injury of former Jaguars Seth Payne and Gary Walker. The two defensive tackles are gone from Houston's lineup; Payne to a season-ending knee injury early in the year and Walker most recently to a toe injury. In Walker's case, he may have played his final game for the Texans, since he would count $12 million against the Texans' salary cap next season, which makes it unlikely the team will keep him. If a new deal isn't struck, Walker will probably be released.
But that's for the offseason. What remains of this season is four games that'll determine the respect the Texans and Jaguars will get for 2004. The two AFC South teams meet this Sunday at Alltel Stadium in the rematch of a thrilling, final-play-of-the-game victory by the Texans in week four in Houston.
Will Capers and Fangio give Jaguars fans a look at their six-linebacker defense? Yeah, if the Texans get a lead and force the Jaguars to pass. But the Texans have one of the NFL's worst run-defenses, and it's more likely Fred Taylor will force the Texans to play run, not pass.
At least, that's what the Jaguars better do, because Fangio's and Capers' new baby could pose a real problem for a young quarterback. The Texans had the second-worst pass-rush in the league going into the Buffalo game. Then they sacked Bledsoe four times; pressured him 17 times.
"You want to try to do more to help the guys. Some of the things you might want to do to help maybe don't suit the personnel we have at our disposal at this time. You have to try to do what our guys do best for the total team," Fangio said.
By the way, no one has bothered to give the new defense a name. Why not? What could be more natural than, "The Six Pack?"
"I never played in a defense that had six linebackers on the field, but I liked it. Dom told me he did it back in the day with Pittsburgh," linebacker Jamie Sharper said. "If it works, let's do it. It was fun."