Play Breakdown: Dolphins' Clemons Fails Fundamental Task

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It’s a fundamental practice in football.  It’s taught at the earliest levels of play.  Drills are designed to teach it.  On Sunday, had Chris Clemons remembered it, the Miami Dolphins would likely have kept the Raiders out of the endzone and posted only a 3 point giveaway.  It’s called the “angle”.  When taken properly, a player on one side of the field can run down a player on the opposite side of the field.

Here is an image breakdown of why Chris Clemons and NOT the corner-back was more responsible for Mike Goodson‘s TD catch and run.

First we need to look at what angles are supposed to be.

The concept is simple and the implementation is just as easy to put into practice.  Illustrated in the image below the gray line represents the run by Goodson.  There are two branches off that line in which Goodson could have chosen to run based on the pursuit of Clemons.  The X and the Y represent the down-field WR blocking the CB.  Chris Clemons is represented by the circle. His route to the ball carrier is highlighted in red while the angle he should have taken is in blue.


Angles of pursuit are all about anticipation.  In the above “crude” drawing, the angle that Clemons chose to take would have worked well had Goodson chose to cut back into the middle of the field however from Clemons’ position on the field, he should have seen that option would not have been a likely choice and still would have had time to react had Goodson cut under the block.  Instead, Goodson continued his pat up-field and Clemons was out of position to make the tackle.  If he would have chosen the other path, Goodson would have either been tackled by Clemons or pushed out of bounds.

Here is a look at captured images from the actual play.


In the above image, we see Clemons indicated by the ‘red arrow’ and to his right is a blue diamond that represents another Dolphins defender coming up-field at a crossing angle.  Clemons started this play from center-field and by the time this image was shown had already taken the wrong route as I will illustrate over the next few images.  The red line indicates the vision of Clemons who is locked on the runner but his angle is wrong.  Had he cut towards the Dolphins 40 yard line (the green line) he would have been in position to make the tackle.


What we see in our next frame is that Clemons has over committed to the angle and is now realizing that it’s too late.  He can’t turn down-field towards his own endzone because he is stuck behind the block of Heyward-Bey on the Dolphins corner.  Goodson’s field of vision is now directly on that block.  Some will say that had the corner got off the block he would have forced Goodson to the inside and then into Clemons.  However, Clemons still has over-committed his angle and thus would likely have had to plant and turn.  In the next image you will see the other defender that is off screen of this one.


Now we see the full spectrum of Clemons’ error.  In the blue diamond we see the defender that has been off screen previously.  He made the right angle of pursuit and took away the cut back into the middle of the field.  As evidenced by the two yellow vision lines, Goodson is looking at the block by Heyward-Bey and the middle angle cut off by the other Dolphins defender.  His only choice at this point is to continue straight up field.  Without safety pursuit, he only has to get past the fifty yardline and he is home free.  The block on the Dolphins corner was executed perfectly but Clemons created a pile up by taking the inside angle instead of the right one.

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Tags: Chris Clemons Miami Dolphins Mike Goodson

  • Mark Loiselle

    I could hear John Madden while reading this.

  • txmedic5

    Wow that was so not very nice….LOL.

  • Chris

    Dansby’s angle was equally bad.

  • Martin

    The corner you keep referring to is Reshad Jones (#20), our second safety.

    I agree that Clemons’ failed, but Reshad Jones is a safety too.

    As the safety on the left side, it was Jones’ job to either tackle the
    running back (ideally) or force him to cut back to the inside (where his
    teammates and fellow safety could bring him down). I actually think
    Clemons took the route he took under the assumption Reshad would hang to
    the outside, forcing the running back inside.

    Instead, Reshad was either blocked to the inside by the wide receiver
    or tried to shed the block by moving inside. In either case, he failed
    to force the running back to cut to the inside, and because Clemons in
    effect blocked by the WR blocking Jones, Clemons couldn’t make a play.

    On this play, Jones didn’t do a good job.
    Also, Dansby was equally guilty of taking a terrible angle – he horribly underestimated the running back’s speed.

    • txmedic5

      Sorry Martin, while I couldn’t tell from the video (grainy) who was the guy with Bey If you pull up the entire video of the score on you will see that Clemons committed to that spot immediately. He NEVER should have been taken underneath that block by Bey. Had he held back about 2 yards, he could have forced Goodson to slow up to make a decision or would have had enough time to react to Goodson staying straight or turning in.

  • Alan Bigham

    The outside defender, Jones has to maintain outside leverage and force that play inside. It’s not all on Clemons as he should never have had to run over OR under that block as the run should have been contained.

    How many times do you see a DB spun around by not meeting the ball carrier and running around or away from a block? That’s effectively what would’ve happened if Clemons came over the top to the sideline.

    • txmedic5

      Actually, that is philosophically wrong when you are on the sideline. You force the play outside on a down-field stretch. The sideline is your friend here. I understand that Jones didn’t get off his block but the safety player on this play is Clemons (safety meaning the last defender) and his route stops that TD. He didn’t do it.

      A lot went wrong on this play, but it could have been stopped around the 50 with a very basic angle. Which is the point that I was making with the article. The TD in and of itself is not Clemons’ fault, but his angle could have prevented it and didn’t.

  • IMAWriterRobJ

    This is perhaps OT, but if we allowed Jones to blitz the QB occasionally, some of these plays would never develop. Jones does this well. Our passive defense leaves the rest of the secondary constantly vulnerable