FOX Sports color analyst and former Detroit Lions linebacker Chris Spielman said on last week’s broadcast of the team’s game against the San Francisco 49ers that he believed tackle Taylor Decker was tipping plays to the Lions opponents.
According to Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, Spielman believed Decker was giving away when the Lions were about to run or pass the ball based on his pre-snap movements. The focus of Spielman’s observations centered on Decker’s head movement.
“Being an average athlete like I was, this is what would help me,” Spielman said. “Look at his head, now we’re two for two on this, his head is inside, this should be a rabbit call. Rabbit means run, ball on the ground. Bird means ball in the air, pass. That’s a read. Taylor will get smart, looking inside while pass blocking, but we’re two for two on the read.”
Decker told reporters he wasn’t aware of Spielman’s comments but said he isn’t concerned about whether he’s giving away plays in that fashion.
“I think I look at people that I block, regardless of the play type,” Decker said.
The point of Spielman’s remarks was that Decker’s head would snap in certain directors after the snap depending on the type of play the Lions were running. The movement was so deliberate that defensive players would know by how he moved whether the play was a run or pass.
“I feel like it’s pretty common to do in one way or another,” Decker said. “Yeah, I don’t really know what to say. I feel like plenty of people do it. I don’t know exactly what was said in regards to that. Just concerned moving forward with the Patriots.”
Searching for little details like this are some of the things that can give a player an advantage over his opponent. Richard Sherman said he’d found a tell on 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in offseason practices. Whether anyone had picked up on this like Spielman had is unclear. So is whether it’s consistent enough to truly be a giveaway of what type of play the Lions are running.
But this is why teams self-scout. They try to find tendencies like this that could be hurting them during games. Only their opponents through two weeks – the Jets and 49ers – will be able to say for sure whether something like this gave them an advantage in their two victories over Detroit.