Understanding The Wide-9 MIKE

Hello, gentlemen. I know, it's been a while. I've been around but not
 writing, and I'm sure you've all missed my long-ass scheme and
 diagram-heavy fanposts.

Here's the bottom line: I'm in a graduate
 program that's as hard as a fucking coffin nail, and I don't have a
lot of free time. I just finished a Theoretical Statistics paper, and 
instead of reading more I'm going to write for you all. I'm a martyr 
for BGN, I swear it.

Anyway, this is a primer to help you understand what we need to find 
for the middle of our LB corps now that we know Juan and Washburn are 
coming back. By the way, that's ‘LB corps' like ‘Marine Corps', not 
‘LB core' like the core of an apple. It drives me nuts when people do 

The take home points are these:
1. We need a Wide-9 MIKE really, really badly.
2. That player absolutely is not currently on the Eagles' roster.

3. What makes a good Wide-9 MIKE is not speed, size, or power.
4. What makes a good Wide-9 MIKE is instincts, block shedding, and 
tackling technique.

5. The Eagles need to get ahold of Curtis Lofton, Stephen Tulloch, or
 draft Luke Kuechly.
6. The Eagles must avoid players like Vontaze Burfbitch like the plague.

For all of the new morons on BGN who like rantposts and racist Juan 
jokes, you're in the wrong place. I'm a scheme guy. I write long
 posts; I use big words and actual football terminology. I use 

If you can't handle that, leave. Don't tell me "2 long 
didnt read haha". Just get out. I'm more than happy to chill here with 
the old guard that has patience, intelligence, and reading
 comprehension. Okay. Let's begin.

On behalf of Team Erudition, I give you: Understanding the Wide-9 MIKE.

Fast forward. We're in next season, playing the Redskins. We have our new MIKE, whoever he is. Washburn's line is doing well again. Nobody's 
hurt on either team. The Redskins have the ball and it's 3rd and two.

This is a good down for Washington; they have a good power running
 game and a good TE in Fred Davis. They're likely feeling pretty good about 
this. They come out into the field in I-Form Pro Personnel: 2 WR, 2
RB, 1 TE. We counter with our base 4-3 defense. Since it's third down,
Wash lines up his DL dudes wide. For the sake of simplicity, the
 defensive call is going to be Cover-2 Man Press. This is press man on
 the outside WRs, and straight-up coverage throughout the LBs. SAM to
 TE, MIKE and WIL to the backfield. Safeties divide the deep field in
 half, two equal zones.

The initial set looks like this:


(All images created by DSmith215)

Got it? Simple. Now, here's the wrinkle. John Beck or Rex Grossman or
 whoever the fuck the Redskins QB happens to be that week makes some gestures and noises, and TE Fred Davis gets
 up out of his stance and does this:


They're now showing us I-Form Slot. Since we have a man lock on, our
 SAM leaves the formation and walks out wide to cover Davis. This is
 exactly what the Redskins wanted. That's a huge mismatch.The Eagles defense is now in a real bind. With such a short distance
 to convert, the guys on the field are worried (and should be) about 
the quick slant thrown to Davis, who will almost surely be able to get
 a good inside release against a likely-below-average Eagles outside

However, the situation is actually even worse than it seems. When a
 LB moves out of the formation to cover a TE split wide, any NFL QB is
 going to start counting. Can you guys spot the problem?

'Boy howdy' is it a big one. We have 6 defenders in the box, and they have 6
 blockers. (I mean, I put numbers there for you. If you didn't get it, 
you might need to kill yourself.) That means the Skins can run a one-side-only play like 
a dive or a slam and be 100% sure that they'll have as many blockers 
as we have box defenders.

To be a little more clear, it means the RB won't have to make anybody
 miss to be through to the second level if his blocking works out
 right. That's bad. The Redskins have schemed up a lot of pressure on 
the Eagles D, because the Eagles MIKE and WIL can't even focus on the
 TE's quick route with so much danger of a big run staring them in the 

Now in real life, Nate Allen would notice the problem and tell Kurt 
Coleman to go do this:


This is the coverage roll that we would probably actually call for in this 
situation. Kurt would walk down into the box and play a simple 
zone/run 'MasterKey' assignment. He'd watch Davis: if Davis runs, Kurt will help cover him.
 If Davis starts to block the SAM, Kurt will sell out to help with a power run.
 Kurt's presence would give us 7 in the box again and make an O-S-O run
 less obviously dangerous.

But, for the sake of this exercise, let's say that something goes 
wrong, they don't call the coverage roll, and the front 6 are staring
 at this seriously screwed up situation. The Redskins QB can't believe his luck
 and audibles to an O-S-O run to what used to be the strong side. For 
the Skins, this will likely be a dive or a slam. The blocking scheme 
for those two run plays will probably look approximately like this:


You dudes all getting this? I'm trying to show you that the Skins can attack 
the A gap with a dive or the B gap with a slam without tipping their 
hand as to which gap is getting attacked until the RB's already 
hitting the hole. You don't want that happening with a hard-running back like Roy Helu.

The blocking is simple. Their LT will give Trent a shove and then go after Brian Rolle. They leave their LG one-on-one with CuJo, (this is a O-S-O run, so that's okay for them,) they'll double-team Patt, let their RT shove Babin wide, (he takes wide rushes almost every time on 3rd down,) and run an Iso matchup with their fullback on our MIKE.

This means that the MIKE will have to do three critical things:

1. Identify the gap being attacked.
2. Get there fast, attack the fullback, and shed the block.
3. Either tackle the RB or slow him down enough that another defensive player can get there and clean up.

The reason this is so difficult is because the MIKE is looking at this:


This has to be done on instinct. If the MIKE guesses wrong, he will take himself completely out of the play and let the RB right into the open field.

He can't see it and chase it. He can't wait and watch it develop. He can't run forward blindly and hope his teammates will clean up his mess (cough, cough, VONTAZEBURFICT, cough).

He must read his keys and run immediately to the exact right place. Now do you guys understand why Jamar Chaney was so useless at this? Chaney is fast and tough, but he's a chasing LB, not a thinking, anticipating LB.

The amount of pressure on the MIKE in a situation like this is really pretty immense. It looks like a lot of players are involved, but which way this play goes (third down stop or a huge, huge run) actually comes down to this:


I know, right? It's nuts. It comes down to the MIKE making this choice correctly every time, or everything falls apart. This is why Wide-9 MIKEs make a ton of tackles but often look like they're not running very much. That's because they're not. They are running a few yards to the exact spot where they need to be to shed blocks and slow the play down.

What you need to understand is that is isn't important for this player to be huge, fast, or scary. It's important for him to be right.

This is why folks like Tommy Lawlor are so high on Boston College ILB Luke Kuechly. Go read DJ10's fanpost on him if you don't know who the guy is. DJack10 may smell like a bison and look like the ass end of a Mack truck, but his analysis is on point. Luke is exactly what you need in a Wide-9 MIKE. His biggest strengths are awareness and anticipation, block shedding, and tackling technique. That's exactly what the Eagles need. Exactly.

People get way too into athleticism and all this bullshit about 'attitude' and 'nasty'. For the scheme we run, we don't want a meathead with big muscles, we want a thinker with great technique. When Rory ('The Bald Moron') Segrest had his 2-Gap in front of our LBs, they were protected from having to deal with this kind of thing. I can't believe how many people still don't understand this. That's why Patt used to be so fat back then. The DTs held blockers up so that our LBs could watch things develop and go slam into things.

Point of interest: this is also the reason why Moise Fokou went from such a great asset to such a huge liability this past season. His strength is setting the edge and crashing into things directly in front of him. Like Tommy Lawlor says, he's 'a bull in a china shop'. When he started having to read and react, he became a huge problem. I don't expect him to make the roster next year unless he keeps up truly stellar STs play. I actually think he's better cast as a 3-4 MACK in a traditional LeBeau-type 2-Gap scheme. Which is also where Vontaze Burfict ought to be playing, by the way.

Anyhow, that's the story. We might chase a veteran MLB because the postion requires so much savvy. Experience really helps with that. That's why Tulloch (DET) or Lofton (ATL) could be of great interest to the Eagles. Also, keep in mind the following: Tulloch is 5'11" and 233 pounds. Lofton is 6'0" and 240 pounds. Kuechly will likely come to the combine at 6'2" and 240 pounds. So, don't be an idiot and scream 'KUECHLY'S TOO SMALL'. Because there's another starting linebacker in the NFL of the same size and weight. He plays pretty well.

His name is Patrick Willis.

I hope this has helped you guys understand why the Wide-9 MIKE is a hard position to play and a hard player to find. I hope you also understand why his role on the defense is so important. There are ten million permutations of his jobs in run and pass plays, but I was trying to give you something easy to grasp.

If you have further questions, I'll be monitoring the comments closely. I'll get them answered if I can.

Thanks for your attention, continue to drink deeply of that 200-proof DSmith wisdom, and GO BIRDS.