Inside Mike Pettine’s Playbook Part One: Pettine’s Philosophy

When the Buffalo Bills hired former New York jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to the same position, there were rumblings among fans regarding what type of defense the team would operate in 2013.

Pettine has been coaching in the National Football League since 2005, where he joined the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coaching staff and has learned the ins and outs of Rex Ryan’s 3-4/ 4-3 “Under” defense.

Upon researching the various defensive formations that Pettine has utilized throughout his coaching career, I came across a clinic in which he delivered information on his personal defensive philosophies, plays, coverages, etc.

Over the next week or so, BillsMafia.com will be exploring Pettine’s defense in an 8-10 post series. Enjoy!

Pettine’s Defensive Objectives

Pettine's Defensive Objectives

After analyzing Pettine’s philosophies, it’s pretty clear that the Bills won’t be operating strictly a 3-4 or a 4-3 defensive front. As he noted when he was initially hired as the team’s defensive coordinator, he explained that the team would be using a lot of “nickel” defense.

Pettine obviously wants to be aggressive on defense, which is a breath of fresh air to Bills fans that saw Dave Wannstedt’s dated vanilla 2012 defense that ultimately cost the team a potential trip to the playoffs. However, Pettine is not going to be stubborn with his scheme.

Pettine’s first point on “How To Get It Done” was “Play Your Best Players.” While the Bills have a nice solid core on the defensive line that could easily transition between three and four man fronts, Pettine has stated that he’s going to put his best players in the best position to succeed.

There has been countless discussions about one certain player on the team, and where he would be used. Mario Williams was signed to a $100 million dollar contract, primarily to play defensive end in a 4-3. Williams reportedly wasn’t a fan of playing outside linebacker during his final season with the Houston Texans, despite recording five sacks in five games.

Mario’s size and skill set give him the opportunity to play defensive end in both a 4-3 and a 3-4, as well as a pass rushing linebacker in a 3-4.

Pettine’s third point was to “Create Confusion Through Movement/Disguise”

In 2012, Pettine blitzed an ILB 275 times. The Bills in 2012? 23. (Photo: AP)
In 2012, Pettine blitzed an ILB 275 times. The Bills in 2012? 23. (Photo: AP)

This is where things begin to get interesting. With the evolution of NFL offenses catching on to what defenses are doing, new school coaches such as Mike Pettine have found a way to apply pressure before the ball is even snapped.

When you watch the Jets or Ravens, no defender is stationary. There is constant movement and disguises of blitzes that can have an opposing quarterback’s mind racing when making his pre-snap adjustments.

According to ProFootballFocus, In 2012 Pettine blitzed an inside linebacker 275 times and a defensive back 159 times. Compare that to the 2012 Bills who blitzed an inside linebacker just 23 times and a defensive back on just 31 occasions.

Pettine’s sixth and seventh points were “Create Mismatches” and “Defend Formations”

Creating mismatches on defense is no easy task, but Pettine has taken every opportunity to put his defenders in a position to win each and every down.

Say an opposing team has a weak offensive tackle. Pettine could go into the game with a game-plan based on attacking him throughout the game; possibly shifting linebackers and the defensive line over in the player’s direction to create pressure.

If a team has a go-to receiver, Pettine has shown that he’s not shy about using a cornerback in man-to-man coverage. While Stephon Gilmore isn’t Darrelle Revis by any means, Pettine is going to put the defensive players in the best situation on each down to succeed, whether that means putting a safety over the top as help, or having a weakside linebacker trail him in intermediate zones.

When discussing “Defending Formations”, Pettine used the term “Stop what they do best

If the Bills are playing the New England Patriots, Pettine’s going to game-plan with a nickel or dime defense in order to stop the pass; the bread and butter of the Patriots offense.

If they play a team such as the San Francisco 49ers or the Kansas City Chiefs (who attempted 492 and 500 rushes last year), Pettine is going to game-plan to stop the run, which is “what they do best.”

Bottom Line

Mike Pettine is a smart, young and aggressive defensive coordinator that has a proven track record with every defense he’s been a part of since 2005. He’s going to utilize various game-plans based on teams and situations, which will hopefully put the Bills in a position to win.

3 Replies to “Inside Mike Pettine’s Playbook Part One: Pettine’s Philosophy”

  1. Very well written article. Thanks for the insight into our new defensive scheme. I’m looking forward to watching a defense that’s much less predictable in 2013.

  2. Anybody has to better than Wannstedt. Looking forward to what the new coaches come up with.

  3. Pingback: Inside Mike Pettine’s Playbook Part Two: The 3-4 As A Personnel Group | Bills Mafia -- #BillsMafia