As someone who’s watched Louis Delmas prior to his NFL career, it has been frustrating to see him struggle with injuries the way he has since joining the Lions. He has appeared on the injury report in increasing numbers since his rookie season, and has missed so much time that most people completely write off the possibility of him having an impact, even before he steps on the field. It’s made even more frustrating when he gets on the field and makes such a small impact in a positive way, as his play has been not only inconsistent but poor since his excellent rookie debut. It’s unquestionable that Delmas brings an energy to the defense that is not present when he isn’t on the field, but that means very little if his own individual play is poor, as it’s been while he’s struggled with injuries the past few years. Surprising most fans with a preseason showing against the Patriots, Louis played only 12 snaps, but ensured his presence was felt on those snaps.
Delmas lined up as the deep safety. He motions Darius Slay inside to cover the slot leaving the outside receiver uncovered. He must have thought it was a run or a deep developing play on the outside, because uncovering a WR against Tom Brady is generally a poor idea. It was a deep developing route on the outside, and Delmas would have been covering that receiver manned up had a false start not negated the whole play.
Playing the deep side of the field, the Patriots show 2 WR left with Slay covering outside and Houston covering the slot, all on Delmas’ side. Delmas doesn’t do much on this play other than rightly stay deep on the play, which was a poorly thrown incompletion by Brady. A Nick Fairley penalty moves them back.
Starting deep but immediately coming to the line as the formation lines up, Delmas cuts inside on the run play to tackle the RB behind the line of scrimmage. Even if he hadn’t made the tackle, the play would have been immediately cleaned up by the line.
Lining up in the deep middle of the field, the Lions show blitz from all the LBs. Delmas is playing deep centerfield on this play, but doesn’t recognize the deep route when Slay is beat off his press and takes a poor angle to recover the play. Had Slay’s athleticism not kicked in, Delmas never would have caught the receiver and it would have been a sure TD.
Delmas lines up in the shallow of the field, just past the LBs. The play is a short out, Delmas stayed in his zone and responded to the play as he ought to have. Not much to say on this one.
Delmas positions Slay before backing off to deep Safety. The defensive call was playing pass, it was a run. The defensive line responded perfectly, but Delmas took an angle cutting across the field despite Quin’s presence there. This is a perfect angle to respond to the run to the right since Delmas camps in the middle of the field, acting like a Safety should incase the RB cuts outside one way or the other. In the past, Delmas would overpursue to that side, showing that he has a lot of faith in Glover Quin (Or none in the Safeties he had there before).
Lining up centerfield, Delmas looks for calls from Glover Quin on the other side (Something I’ve never seen Delmas do, ask for a read). Moving to the deep half of the field, the Lions show and do blitz, Brady makes a line call and responds by throwing an easy out to Julian Edelman. Delmas stays in his deep half of the field, which is good because if Brady hadn’t checked down immediately there would be two receivers running through his zone and only him to defend.
Showing run the whole way, Delmas walks up to the line before the snap and joins the pile taking down Shane Vereen.
Once again playing deep Safety, a blown coverage in the middle forces Quin to save the play, and he does so by forcing a fumble. Delmas saw the ball on the ground and ran to scoop the ball. He avoids the first tackle, but falls after being boxed in soon after.
Starting as the deep Safety again, Delmas sees something in the play and makes a fast adjustment, rushing the line and calling to the defense as he does so. He motions the LBs over the strong side from their base set, moves Ziggy Ansah inside from the 9 position, then sets himself at the 9 gap. The play was a run to the inside, the adjustment was set up perfectly, and Stevan Ridley is swallowed up in the center of the line, with no bounce back lane on either side even if he wanted to. This kind of field awareness is rare, and even when Delmas struggled with his own play this was a shining point of his game play that he could read the defenses and make proper adjustments prior to the snap.
Lining up in the box is generally not good against a team in shotgun, but in this case the Patriots lined up with three WRs to the right meaning Delmas’ deep side of the field being uncovered is less of a gamble. Delmas clearly reads pass, however, as he taps Slay on the back before backing up himself. Tom Brady fired a quick pass to Kenbrell Thompkins who was given a sizable cushion by Chris Houston. Not much to say about Delmas here other than he diagnosed the play correctly.
Once again playing deep, the Patriots show a 3 WR set with a RB to Brady’s right. Since it’s third and 2, a pass or run are both likely, and pass would likely be a short route. All of the corners are playing press in this situation, and both Safeties are playing very deep just in case Brady wants to go for it all. As Brady makes his calls, Delmas sneaks up to the line leaving that side of the field vacant (Despite two receivers to that side). Delmas came on a delayed blitz off the right side of the defense, while coverage swung from the other side of the field. Got his hands up as the ball left, but didn’t get a touch on the ball. The Patriots would Punt.
So how did it go?
You can’t really hope for it to go much better. Coming out of the game healthy, though that’s likely equally due to only 12 snaps, Delmas walked away with 1 tackle for a loss and a fumble recovery. none too shabby. Delmas started seven out of his twelve snaps lined up as a deep Safety, and on two more he started somewhere else but backed off to deep Safety. It’s likely the Lions will not shift fundamentally from playing with their Safeties lined up deep (about 75% of snaps last season). What was nice to see, however, was Delmas lining up deep and then moving to the line. It’s something we didn’t see a lot of last season and provides the defense with some playcalling versatility. Delmas was moving all over the field, and even a polished veteran like Tom Brady didn’t do much to challenge him in coverage. The one time a play went to his side, Delmas was playing the deep CENTER of the field after the snap. Although his angle and recovery were poor on that play, the deep half was not his assignment. His ability to read the offense pre-snap was on full display, and while there were moments (the aforementioned deep pass) that weren’t his bests moments, his play was largely positive. He directly affected a third of the plays he was on the field for, was not out of place a single time, and correctly made calls several times. On the negative side, he took a bad angle once, and failed to correctly read two plays. Considering his negative plays amounted to a long pass he couldn’t have prevented(bad angle), a short pass to the opposite side of the field(read deep), and a stop forcing a punt (a failed blitz), we’ll go ahead and say his positives far outweighed the negatives in his debut. Delmas may not be past his injuries, but if that small sample of twelve snaps is an indication of how he will play this season, Lions fans should be happy the team decided to bring him back.