Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Buffalo Nickel

By John Turney

Justin Tuck
NFL terminology is sometimes universal, but more of often that not it seems that the same word can mean different things and it's why understanding the nomenclature of a coach is helpful in understanding what we watch on Sundays.'

Here is a quick example.

In Buddy Ryan's defense he had a base defense, which he called "pro", a 3-4 defense which he called "Okie", a 46 defense, a goal line defense and a Buffalo defense and a nickel defense.

Interestingly, the Buffalo defense and the nickel defense were both nickel defenses. They had different calls based on the look they wanted to give the defense.

Buffalo was a 4-2-5 defense that showed a Cover-3 look with a post safety (or middle-of-the-field safety)

1985 Chicago Bears Defensive Playbook
Fred Robbins
Nickel defense was the same personnel, but it was a 4-2-5 defense that showed a Cover-2 look, with the safeties near the hashes.

1985 Chicago Bears Defensive Playbook
C.J. Ah You

Fred Robbins
Now, we  move the Steve Spagnolo's terminology. For him, Buffalo was a nickel defense that simply replaced a linebacker with an extra defensive back. But nickel was when he replaced a linebacker with a DB and also replaced his base defensive tackles with defensive ends.

For example, in 2007,  the Giants front four was composed of Michael Strahan  and Osi Umenyiora at defensive ends and  Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins were the defensive tackles. So when Cofield and Robbins were in the game with the 5th defesnive back it was Buffalo.

When they went nickel, Justin Tuck came into the game, Mathias Kiwanuka moved from SAM to defensive tackle and both the DTs left the game.

With the Rams in 2011, for example, Chris Long and James Hall were the starting defensive ends and Fred Robbins and Justin Bannon were the tackles. When there was a 5th DB that was Buffalo.

When James Hall reduced to DT and C.J. Ah You played DT with rookie Robert Quinn playing right defensive end that was nickel.

Craig Dahl

2010 St. Louis Rams Defensive Playbook
However, there was some confusion in that in both nickel and Buffalo one of the two linebackers was safety Craig Dahl. So, even though Dahl was a DB it was not their dime defense, it was still nickel and Buffalo.  However, to add to the confusion, it was often the same personnel as dime. Dime involved a different alignment versus four-wide or 5-wide offensive looks.

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