Watching defense is a lot of fun when using the methods described here. The key is to choose which part of the game you want to watch.
Before each play is a game of cat and mouse between the quarterback and the defense. A good quarterback tries to identify the defense and audible into the correct play. A few steps are taken to read the defense. It all depends on the style of the offensive coordinator.
Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson’s offenses are fun to watch because the quarterback play is usually very good. First, the quarterback will call two plays in the huddle. They will call a pass and run play. Second, the quarterback will come to the line and look for numbers advantages for a run play or identify the coverage for a pass play.
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If the defense is outnumbered in the box, the quarterback should audible to a run play to exploit the weakness. The reverse is also true. If the offense is outnumbered in the box, the quarterback should audible to a pass play. Then he will narrow his reads based on the coverage the defense is presenting.
Of course, the defense does not want the offense to know what coverage they are in. A great example of this is the cat and mouse game between Peyton Manning and current Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Super Bowl XLIV.
In that game, Williams had a different game plan for each quarter keeping Manning confused the entire game.
Knowing all of this, the Browns fan can watch what the quarterback is watching. Where does the defense have an advantage? Are they showing blitz? Are they preparing to defend the pass or run? This should give the fan an advanced knowledge of what the play will most likely be at that snap.
Once the ball is snapped, do not watch the ball! Instead, watch the linebackers. They will tell you if it is a run or pass. They will also tell you how the defense is working to stop the pass or run. Do not watch only one linebacker. Try to watch all of them simultaneously without focusing on any particular one player. (Easier than it sounds.)
Gregg Williams will be employing a modern version of the 4-3 defense. In a 4-3 based scheme, the real action is on the defensive line. I recommend reading Coaching the 4-3 Defense: By the Experts before the season to understand what the scheme is trying to accomplish and how.
On a pass, try to identify the coverage of the defense and how the offense is attacking it. Or you could watch any potential blitzes or defensive line stunts used to pressure the quarterback. Against the run, the fan could watch to see how the defense makes their fun fits. Did they do a good job of bottling up the running back? Where was the hole forming and what did the defense do to stop it?
This was a basic primer on how to more intelligently watch a broadcast version of an NFL game. College games are different and need to be watched differently. But any Browns fan who takes control of their viewing experience by actively choosing what to watch will be rewarded with a deeper understanding of the game, a more exciting experience and increased respect and adoration by their peers.