Steelers Film Room: The Warren Sapp Files: Exhibit A: Larry Foote

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Part 2: Pass Coverage

 

Being an 11-year veteran, the area of his game that his experience best shows through, is pass coverage. For many inside linebackers, it is difficult to learn how to cover, since it is often more natural to defend the run. In Foote’s case, he is almost better in defending the pass than defending the run. It’s hard enough for linebackers at a young age to defend the pass, but it is even harder for linebackers to defend the pass as they get older. Pass coverage was James Farrior’s biggest weakness, especially in his final years. I am sure many of you remember him getting simply out ran by former Cardinal (now Steeler) Larod Stephens-Howling in 2011. Stephens-Howling made Farrior look just stupid on a simple dump off pass, resulting in a 73-yard touchdown pass.

Larry Foote is a much smarter player than given credit for. Like I stated before, he understands offensive systems very well. You would often see him adjusting the defensive players to the audibles that the opposing quarterbacks would call. He is a perfect linebacker for the Steelers because he does very well in zone coverage. He never looked lost on all the plays I charted, and he did a good job of sitting back and reacting to the play around him. When facing quicker receivers or tight ends, for what he lacks in speed for a linebacker, he makes up with great footwork. Also, one of the biggest things that I liked was his ability to break on the ball when it came close, as well as his ability to use his body to often separate the receiver from either cutting inside on him, or out-muscling Foote. Larry Foote had several pass break-ups throughout the season, and I have broken down one of these plays below.

 

 

Coaches Film from NFL Game Rewind

For this play week 1 against the Denver Broncos, Larry Foote is lined up to the left where he is responsible for the area highlighted by the yellow circle, also known as his zone. He will end up having to cover the tight end Joel Dreessen who will be running about a 12 yard comeback route.

Coaches Film from NFL Game Rewind

At this point, Larry Foote is still keeping a small cushion between him and Dreessen, only giving him the ability to cross underneath, and not over top because he knows that Timmons is underneath in the situation that Dreessen does decide to go underneath.

Coaches Film from NFL Game Rewind

Now, about 12 yards down the field, Joel Dreessen begins to “come back” to the ball as Manning gets ready to throw it to him. Foote is still just a bit ahead of Dreessen since he knows Keenan Lewis is there for when Dreessen breaks to his left. By staying to his outside shoulder, Foote is forcing Dreessen to either go through him, or break to the outside where Keenan Lewis is waiting.

Coaches Film from NFL Game Rewind

I switched the film angle to the end-zone view because I felt you could see in better detail what was happening at the end of the play. At this point, the ball is only a second away from Foote and Dreessen, so Foote quickly steps in, getting ready to defend the pass. Manning knew he had to throw the ball to this spot because if he threw it out ahead of Dreessen, Keenan Lewis would have most likely picked the ball off, even though you can’t see him in the corner of the picture. Larry Foote is in a prime spot to make a play on the football.

Coaches Film from NFL Game Rewind

 At the last second, Larry Foote steps in front of Dreessen, knocking the ball down, in turn preventing the reception and what would have been around a 13 yard gain.

Additional Notes:

If not for his knowledge and short area quickness, Larry Foote would have never made this play and Joel Dreessen would have more than likely caught the ball. Larry Foote was often successful in coverage mainly due to his ability to react to what was going on around him, as well as being able to close on the ball at the last second. Once again, Warrens label of “old and slow” does not apply to Larry Foote’s pass coverage abilities.

Old and Slow in Coverage: No

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Topics: Larry Foote, Pittsburgh Steelers, Warren Sapp

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  • Craig

    I don’t know Nick. You find some pretty good plays that make Foote look like he’s a premier ILB. But, for every one good play that you find, I bet myself or others can find two more ‘bad’ plays where Foote took bad angles, or poor pursuit, or got jammed at the line with poor vision of the ball carrier – allowing for a big gain.

    I think what you break down is right, but it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Foote has bested the ‘old and slow’ title.

    • Nick Kelly

      Like I did say, Foote did struggle some when it came to getting jammed at the line. The way I see it, if he was able to make these plays, he can’t be considered fully “over the hill,” but no doubt he doesn’t have many years left. He definitely has some holes to his game, but I felt that the “old and slow” title was not exactly fair to put next to him. I came out much more impressed with Foote than I had before.

  • Steven Vincent

    One of the best football articles I have ever read! Thanks.