So, here is some talking points and analysis I've gathered from looking at a lot of film over the past couple months. It'll take me a little while to get everything compiled, broken down and posted, so, I'll be starting with the somewhat thinner volume of stuff for the beginning. Also, if you have specific questions or talking points to go on, those are welcome as well.
I'll start with one of the bigger questions of the offseason - what will be the difference between Antoine Bethea and Donte Hitner???
Well, unfortunately, I watched a ton of film on this - and there's not much that can be supported by screen shots or even GIF's. The only real way to see the difference is in real time. But, I can speak to what I saw on film.
1. Bethea will not get nearly as many "unnecessary roughness" penalties as wHitner. Bethea isn't nearly as aggressive as wHitner was - both good and bad. He's not the physical presence in the run game the Donte was and he doesn't fly downfield to attack the LOS quite like Donte did. He does have a good understanding of his gap responsibility in run support, but, does not look to aggressively make a play on the runner. He's more of a "form" tackler - in that, he looks to square to the ball carrier and wrap up.
2. He will be in better position in his pass coverage. Bethea seems to have a good understanding of route concepts and where he should be within the defense. A lot of times last year I saw Donte slightly out of position in his underneath coverage. Donte was a better "center field" style pass coverage guy. Donte usually had a tendency to get "happy feet" in coverage and would usually drift inside on his coverage usually allowing a lot of short outs to his zone.
3. Bethea does not have the footspead that Donte does. Bethea's lack of footspead showed up a few times. He's usually in good position so it makes up for it, but, there were a few times when he was playing single safety that some WR's got several steps behind him, not because he was out of position, but because he doesn't have the straight line speed that Whitner does.
4. He's smoother in the hips than Whitner. This is one of the reasons that he was able to stay in good positions - he makes his transitions through coverage better than Donte.
5. They're both high energy, smart players who will make plays but aren't going to make a ton of "splash" plays.
Now, to the second topic:
How will Wilhoite do stepping in for Bowman?
First thing I have to say about this is, Wilhoite should improve with a full offseason, OTA's and training camp playing with the 1st string. That being said, he's quite a good football player that needs more comfort in the system and should be utilize at the "TED" much more than the "Mike".
For those who are unclear on the difference between a "TED" and "Mike" in the 3-4 here's a quick explanation:
Your TED is usually the guy you want taking on the blocks and freeing up your Mike backer so the Mike can run free. When Spikes was here he was the TED, last year Willis was the TED. In our defense last year - the two guys played interchangeably, you could see that when Wilhoite came in.
Wilhoite does a much better job in run D than pass D. He's fairly tight in the hips and his understanding of his place in the defense does not suite him for a middle of the field pass defender. He does a good job when he's given something like a "flat" zone or a "curl" zone. Here's a few examples:
Here the Texans are gonna run a stretch run play to the left. This should look familiar to us since Seattle runs this all the time.
Here Wilhoite keeps his shoulders square to the LOS - which is just what you want. He takes on the lineman well and disengages himself when he see's the RB cut back.
You see how he's able to disengage and get out towards the cutback. It's a good thing to, because the RB had a ton of room to that side of the field to cutback.
He makes a good open field tackle
Here's an example from pass defense:
Here Wilhoite ends up playing the "Mike". What he should recognize is why he's the Mike - he's the Mike because of the twin receiver side plus the offset I formation of the FB. This means that the immediate threat for passing targets are unbalanced to the weak side. The only true receiving threat to the strong side - or wide side of the field is the TE.
Houston gives a run action fake - you see Wilhoite is just a step later in his recognition than his teammates. Bowman has already started his zone drop, while Wilhoite is just realizing that it's a pass.
Notice how the TE did not enter the passing patter - so, Wilhoite should understand that the receiving threats are all to the short side of the field. Instead he takes his middle drop towards the wide side of the field. Note how much room is created in the passing lane over the middle. The big blue circle where Wilhoite is, the yellow circle is where he should be.
As a side note - I'm also pointing out Shaub's footwork mechanics. Many people have asked how Kap compares with other QB's. Now, Shaub was garbage last year, but, this is a guy who has thrown for over 4000 yards in this league. Note how his front foot is pointed towards right side. He tries to throw this ball to the open target over the middle but, because his front foot is pointed in, it causes the ball to sail out - it's like a golfer who moves his right arm out during his backswing will hit the ball left. The small blue circle is where the football ends up getting thrown. Kap is better than this with his footwork BTW.
Working on more to come: but next week will be slow as I have to go out of town for a business trip pretty much all week.