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Broncos blog's take on CB Dre Bly

FOOCH'S NOTE: Hoosierteacher of Mile High Report also chimed in with his thoughts.  I've added them after the jump.

I realize this is a bit of Dre Bly overload, but since we've got the SB Nation network at our disposal, why not take advantage of it?  Even if we had no additional info about Dre Bly, this qualifies as a very good signing.  While Bly may have lost a step or two, he's still talented, and the 49ers got a great deal on him at the veteran's minimum.

I spoke with our Denver bloggers and TedBartlett905 was kind enough to share his thoughts on the former Denver Bronco:

There haven’t been many recent Broncos who’ve been as polarizing as Dre Bly.  Some people will tell you he is completely washed up, but I am not one of those people.  Along with Hoosierteacher, our best defensive X’s and O’s guy, I’ve always defended Dre, and thought that most of the criticism of him came from an ill-informed place.  I would go so far as to say that I think Dre played his best individual football as a Bronco over the middle to late part of the 2008 season.

The first thing to understand about Dre is that he has definitely lost a step.  He once had average CB speed, and it’s now below average.  Michael Lombardi from the National Football Post wondered aloud last season if he can run a 4.8 anymore.  I don’t think it’s quite THAT bad, but it’s an issue.  He definitely needs safety help on deep balls.  He is best playing tight, and facing a WR head-up, where he can get a jam on the guy.  The Broncos usually deployed him in off coverage, with no jam, and his back to the sideline, forcing the WR to the inside of the field.  That is Champ Bailey’s strength, playing that way, (which makes him one of a kind, really) but Dre is very ill-suited for it.

A lot of the passes which were completed against Dre were plays where the WR just took what Dre’s assignment gave them, and ran a Slant or an In.  The LBs and Safeties for the Broncos were lousy in coverage in 2008, so whatever inside help that was schematically supposed to be there never arrived.  You can’t blame a guy for playing the way he was assigned to play, even if it was a pretty stupid idea.  Really, poor schemes have been a big factor the last two seasons.  The Broncos have played a great deal of single-high coverages, with an eighth man in the box, because they were worried about the run.

When Champ Bailey got hurt and missed half the season, Dre started seeing a lot less passes thrown to his side.  He was playing head-up and tighter, which helped, and the quality on the other side (in the form of Josh Bell and Karl Paymah) was lacking.  I thought Dre tackled better during this stretch of the season than I had ever seen him do in his career.  He’s never going to be an outstanding tackler, but he was very solid at it in the latter stages of 2008.  My evaluation is that Dre is still a useful guy for a reasonable salary.  With Walt Harris’s injury, I expect Dre to be a starter for the 49ers, opposite Nate Clements, and if he’s used right, he can be a good addition for them.  I think signing him was a move with no downside, and pretty good upside.

Thanks again to TedBartlett905 for providing some insight on the newest 49er.  As far as I'm concerned, this is a win-win transaction.  Sure Bly could hit the wall and be finished, but given the price tag, it's well worth it.  This doesn't even really qualify as "rolling the dice" in my opinion.  The 49ers have added a talented player for a relative pittance.  To quote Michael Scott, Win, Win, Win!



I think that the 49ers are in for a treat.

Dre Bly is a phenomenal CB.  He's a pro bowl veteran, and his INTs over a multiple year period were second only to Champ Bailey.  Why did he decrease in Denver?

It is worth noting that Dre's poor stats in Denver coincided with bad years for fellow Bronco Bailey.  I believe this is for two reasons.

1) Denver had a horrid pass rush.  Denver rarely pressured opposing QBs, and even used a bizzare 3 man rush program in '08.  Forget about the low sack numbers.  Lack of hurry ups allowed opposing QBs all of the time in the world, and bought receivers the time to escape their coverages.

2) Bly plays a "gambling" style of coverage that he picked up from playing cover two zones in Detroit (Bly jumped routes, while safeties kept the play in front of them).  He needs to depend on a safety to provide "over coverage" so that he can utilize his style.  But in Denver, a lone safety was often in deep coverage because the strong safety was dropped into the box to help with Denver's horrid run defense.  Instead of being able to play naturaly, Bly was forced to check his "over" to allow him to make his plays.  Bly couldn never be sure where his deep coverage was, because the lone deep safety was free to roam.  Gambling CBs can't jump routes to cut off passes when they don't have a safety in position to cover a blown assingment.

These two issues went on for two years.  Bailey and Bly both suffered for it.  With a new DC and a new HC, I expect Denver will go back to the convential two deep coverage safeties used in most defensive systems.  Safeties Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill are both acquisitions that will cement the secondary.  Denver now only needs a pass rush to dominate in pass defense.  I firmly believe that if Bly were in Denver this year, he would return to his record setting ways.

The 49ers have a prize with Bly.  He is a ball hawk that performs if the right pieces are in place (just like every elite CB).  You must have a pass rush, and you must have over coverage for a CB to do his thing.  (The over coverage is even more critical for a gambler like Bly).  If used properly (and I think the 49ers will do so), Bly is an exceptional CB that can kill a pass game in man and zone coverages indifferently.

I'm sorry we lost Bly.  He was badly misused in Denver (as was Bailey over the same two year stretch), and he'll likely return to his dominant form for the Niners.

In short, "Our loss is your gain".  I believe that.