As we've beat into our own and others' skulls for the last eight months, the Colts were really bad in 2011. Pat Angerer wasn't.
Throughout the season, Angerer was a fan favorite on defense, due to his propensity to get to the ball carrier, his sweet name, and the Colts' lack of playmakers on defense. Angerer is a good, budding player, but he was frequently overrated by Colts' fans. While he's been overrated, it seems that his potential in the new 3-4 system is sometimes underrated.
So, in order to predict how Angerer may fit in this new system, let's take a look at how he performed in the last one, during his sophomore season in 2011.Run Defense
During 2011, Pat Angerer became the full-time starter at MLB when Gary Brackett went down with an injury in Week One. Due to Angerer's play last year (and Brackett's massive contract), the Colts' new front office felt comfortable enough with Angerer to cut Brackett back in March. It's safe to say that Angerer has surpassed Brackett at this point in their careers, but is his performance really good enough to build around for the future?
Angerer's strength in run defense in 2011 was simply having a nose for the ball. He tends to see the hole, see the ball carrier, and get to him. Of course, most Colts fans know this, and this is why Angerer ended up with a team-leading 148 tackles. However, Angerer's ability to get to the ball carrier wasn't nearly as impressive as it seemed.
According to Pro Football Focus' tracking, Angerer recorded a tackle on just 16.6% of the running plays that he was in on (75 out of 453). Angerer's tackle rate was just 24th among the 35 primary run-stopping inside linebackers. Angerer also missed eight tackles, meaning that 11.6% of his run-stopping tackle attempts failed, putting him 29th out of 35.
Angerer also didn't get many "stops" on the season (a play that results in an offensive failure, see more here), but I don't blame that on Angerer. Watching the film, the lack of stops is really a fault of the defensive line, rather than the linebackers. When the line did their job on a run play, the offensive line woule be controlled, and the linebackers (and Angerer) could make stops.
However, when the DL got man handled, the running back was going to get the successful yards no matter what, but it was the linebackers that saved them from getting much more. So, while Angerer's tackles weren't always "stops," they often were crucial in cleaning up his teammates mistakes, and limiting the damage.
But Angerer can still work on getting to the back more consistently, something that will be needed in the 3-4 defense. While the defensive line should be bigger (and better), clogging up more offensive linemen, the fewer actual people on the line may cause Angerer to directly match up with offensive linemen more often. Angerer's strength is finding the hole and getting there without OL hindrance, for the new defense he's going to need to work on his shedding of blocks and making plays in the hole. He would occasionally get blocked out of plays by OL in 2011, and he needs to improve in that area.
I think Angerer is capable of the role, even though he is a little smaller than prototypical 3-4 ILBs. Angerer is physical, quick, and has an instinct for the ball. If he can translate that into beating linemen one-on-one more often, he will be just fine in the new scheme.Pass Defense
Ironically, some have questioned Angerer's coverage skills as reasons why he may struggle in the new system, but that's one area that I think Angerer will be just fine in. While Angerer does get sucked into play action on occasion, he generally stayed with his man, and was quick to make plays on the receivers.
Check out some of Angerer's impressive stats in coverage last season:
- Angerer was in coverage for 439 snaps, but was only targeted 33 times. His rate of 13.3 snaps per target was second in the league among inside linebackers.
- Angerer gave up just 24 receptions, and the rate of 18.3 snaps per reception given up was third among inside linebackers.
- Angerer allowed just 174 yards, giving up 0.4 yards per coverage snap, tying for first among ILBs.
- 118 yards of those were yards after the catch, meaning he gave up 4.92 YAC per reception. That's the third lowest YAC/Catch rate among ILBs, arguably the most impressive stat of the bunch.
Now, is Pat Angerer a top three coverage inside linebacker? I don't think so.
Angerer *benefitted* from a terrible secondary, helping in those low target/reception/yards numbers. Angerer didn't give up much, partially because the quarterback often had plenty of other places to go, and didn't have to rely on their check downs.
Still, other teams had bad secondaries as well, such as New England, Miami, and Minnesota, and their linebackers didn't even come close to Angerer, being scattered throughout the list. Also, Angerer didn't line up with just check down passes for a large portion of the time, instead taking the middle of the field, matching up with tight ends.
Angerer's most applicable stat, in my mind, is his yards after catch per reception. Angerer did a fantastic job throughout the season of getting to his man quickly, if he did allow a reception. Angerer's coverage abilities, and ability to quickly wrap up his man, will be greatly appreciated in the new defense, which will be utilizing the outside linebackers in pass rush very often, as Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney man the outsides.Overall
I'm really only worried about two things with Angerer in the new defense: pass rush and shedding blockers. Angerer didn't get many opportunities to rush the passer under Larry Coyer, rushing the passer just 38 times (in 476 pass snaps). His 8% rate was 10th least among all inside linebackers in the league (who got at least one chance to rush the passer: 97 LBs).
But, when he did get a chance, he didn't produce much, getting just three hits on those opportunities, and no sacks or hurries. Often when he would rush the passer, it would involve big loops around, and Angerer would search for non-existent holes in the line. I have to imagine that under a better coach, Angerer can produce more, but we have no experience to base that off of.
In terms of shedding blocks, I think Angerer just needs to be trained to be less conservative. Many times in 2011, it seemed like Angerer was being conservative when battling offensive linemen, possibly because he knew that he was needed to cleanup the play. If he can be allowed to be aggressive under the new system, I believe he can be much more efficient in this department.
We don't need to worry about Angerer. He's got very good instincts, isn't afraid of contact, and has the quickness to get to the ball. It's really only a question if he'll be just an above average ILB, or a very good, even great, one.
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