FILMSTUDY: Featured Defender of the Week, Gerome Sapp

Filmstudy FILMSTUDY: Featured Defender of the Week, Gerome Sapp

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Gerome Sapp has had a fine year.  The game at SF Sunday was a microcosm of the versatility he’s shown to date wrapped into just 7 plays.  Here’s how I saw them:
Q1 7:34 3/6 SF 38
Lined up in press coverage on the slot to the offensive right side (ORS).  Bumped and covered the WR as Dilfer rolled right.  Trent looked at both right side receivers, but deemed neither open.  He scrambled back through the pocket and was chased down by Scott for a 2-yard sack.
Q3 13:44 3/2 SF 37
Lined up on the lone OLS WR.  Pressed, then released and held a short zone.  Dilfer threw short right to Jackson for a 3-yard completion and a 1st down.
Q3 11:37 3/7 SF 43
The Ravens lined up 10 men on the line of scrimmage against 3 wide, with only Reed back.  Ivy, Martin, and McAlister were in press coverage.  Sapp lined up in a 2-point stance outside LDE with Lewis further outside to the left.  Sapp actually made the nicest pass rush move, swimming past RT Staley to the inside and arriving just after the pass was thrown.  Staley appeared to hold Sapp on the play, although no flag was thrown.  Dilfer overthrew his receiver short left for Reed’s interception.  This was Reed at his freelancing best, anticipating the overthrow as he sold out racing across the field to Dilfer’s initial read.  Did he read the overthrow out of Dilfer’s hand?  Did he anticipate Dilfer throwing to his initial read given the blitz the Ravens showed?  In any case, it was one of those very unusual interceptions that left me wondering how he knew the ball was going to be there.  The San Francisco papers barely made mention of the Ravens.  You know the stuff, “Boo hoo, our offense and play calling sucks.  We can’t even move the ball against an average defense.”  However, they did capture Dilfer’s extended props for Reed after the game.
Q3 6:44 3/6 SF 35
Lined up as safety in the middle, about 8 yards off the LoS.  Crept to the line as the Ravens rushed 6 with Landry and Reed dropping to coverage.  Sapp had a clean run up the middle at Dilfer delivering a vicious hit to the midsection just after the ball was thrown deep left and complete to Gilmore for a 42-yard gain down the left sideline.  The pressure was well designed to get Sapp free as Suggs absorbed a double from the LG and LT.   However, Dilfer stood in fearlessly and Martin had already committed an illegal contact penalty on the practice-squad-call-up Gilmore who caught the ball on his fingertips nonetheless.  I doubt if the 49ers complete that pass more than 1 time in 6.
Q4 5:47 2/4 SF 26
Sapp replaced Landry who missed his first play of the year immediately after recording the tackle on the previous play.  Sapp lined up on the slot receiver on the ORS in press coverage.  He blitzed, but was picked up by Gore as Dilfer threw short right, complete to Norris.  Sapp separated and hustled to knock Norris out of bounds at the 39 after Lewis and McAlister both missed the tackle.
Q4 5:22 1/10 SF 39
Soft coverage on Battle lined up in the slot on the ORS.  Battle blocked Sapp effectively as Gore ran middle for 5 yards.
Q4 4:47 2/5 SF 44
For the 3rd straight play (and only the 3rd of the season), Sapp was in as the 2nd safety.  He set up in a deep cover 2 on the ORS.  The pass went short right to Gore who caught the ball in space.  Sapp moved up and made the open-field tackle on Gore, after a 19 yard-gain.  I don’t want to fall victim to what Jon Miller would refer to as “the fallacy of the predestined play”, but this nice take down may well have made the difference between, say, a 45-yard FG attempt and the 52-yarder Nedney missed.
A few notes on the game and season for Sapp:
·          It was only 7 plays, but Sapp made his presence felt, registering 2 tackles and a QH.  Despite a team-worst 11.4 YPPA, I’d say Sapp played very well.
·          The Ravens have sacked the QB on 13.5% (7 of 52) of the pass plays with Sapp in the game this season.  The next best rate is Pryce’s 7.5%, then Ivy at 6.8%.  Is it unusual for a dime back to lead his team in this category?  Sadly those stats are not available, but I’d guess it is not.  The dime is used primarily on 3rd down, and I would guess most teams have an increased sack rate on those passing plays.  What is unusual is Sapp’s personal contribution to the pass rush.  He has legitimate pass rush moves, good timing, and a sense of when to leap to earn his teammate an extra second.  Beyond that, he does a much better job of finishing the hit than the team’s co-leader, Ivy.
·          The 49ers led the league last season with 19% of their sacks coming from DB’s.  So far this season, 44% (4 of 9) of the Ravens sacks have come from DB’s.
·          The Ravens had tremendous success in the dime in the first 2 games (26 plays, 64 yards, 2.5 YPPA).  Since then, they’ve allowed 236 yards on 30 plays (7.9 YPPA) in the dime and 229 yards on 34 plays (6.7 YPPA) in the nickel.  Not coincidentally, Rolle and Pryce missed those 3 games. 
Photos by Sabina Moran 

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Ken McKusick

About Ken McKusick

Known as “Filmstudy” from his handle on area message boards, Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports. He grew up within walking distance of Memorial Stadium and attended all but a handful of Orioles games from 1979 through 2001. He got his start in sports modeling with baseball in the mid 1980’s. He began writing about the Ravens in 2006 and maintains a library of video for every game the team has played. He’s a graduate of Syracuse with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Math who recently retired from his actuarial career to pursue his passion as a football analyst full time.

If you have math or modeling questions related to sports or gambling, Ken is always interested in hearing new problems or ideas.

He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @filmstudyravens.

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