Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Marinelli Report: Week 2 - At Tennessee

There are plenty of indicators of success for any defense that runs any scheme.  Of course, the easiest one for us all to figure out is points scored against.  Sometimes, we complicate things, but let's never forget the object of the game for any defense is to not allow points.

But, let's dive a bit deeper.  The next few are about closing the door on your opponent during each game within the game.  Those are simple.

Takeaways and 3rd Down stops.

Below, please find the 12 offensive drives for the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.  Note the lack of field position (mostly), the short drives, and the end which - with the exception of that one explosive play to Delanie Walker - ended with a takeaway, a punt, or another undesirable conclusion.


A couple numbers to consider on this business of Takeaways and 3rd Down Stops:

Takeaways:  Since 2011, the Cowboys have had multiple takeaways in 20 games.  They are 15-5.  The 5 losses in question include Denver 2013, Debacle in Detroit 2013, The Dez fingertip game against the Giants in 2012, the gutting loss in New England in 2011, and the Revis INT game in New York in 2011.  So, to put it rather simply, if the Cowboys get 2 takeaways in a game, they either win or have historic regret for gutting losses that stick in your memory.

3rd Downs:  Also since 2011, the Cowboys are 10-1 on the 11 occasions that they have limited their opponent to 25% or less on 3rd Downs.  On Sunday, the Titans went 2-10.  The one time they lost with this number?  Also, the Dez fingertip game of 2012 against the Giants.

It is pretty basic "get off the field" stuff for any defensive mind, but if you want to eliminate the offense from the game and just sit in a room and discuss how the defense can almost insure a victory or a tremendous chance at a victory - look no further than the "get off the field" numbers.  They are 26th in the NFL in getting off on 3rd Down from 2011-2013 and tied for 20th in Takeaways.

Now, it helps, I am sure, to get off the field and to take the ball away when you play a very poor QB.  Jake Locker has a chance to turn into something (he better hurry), but it certainly didn't look like it on Sunday when the Cowboys were able to pressure him into mistakes.  The record would show, however, that with the exception of Nick Foles in the Week 7 game last season in Philadelphia, the Cowboys haven't faced a QB1 who made more unforced errors than Locker.  He was, to be kind, quite poor.

But, I also don't want to take anything away from the Cowboys.  So far, their defense looks susceptible through the air, but is standing up quite nicely on the ground.  When that happens, you force unfavorable down/distance situations for your opponent.  And that is when you can force 20% on 3rd Downs.

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THE STORY OF STERLING MOORE

As you will read below, I thought Sterling Moore was fantastic on Sunday.  With my subjective scoring system, I awarded him with 4 splash plays which is a huge number.  He earned it with 2 passes defended, a tackle for loss on a run he chased down from behind, and then forcing a fumble which might have been another takeaway with a little ball bouncing good fortune.

He has gone from a fringe roster guy at camp to a key member of the squad that now is trying to find a bigger role for him.  He is 24 years old but has already been fired from his NFL job 7 times.  This after being undrafted out of SMU back in 2011, making a play against Lee Evans that allowed the Patriots to play in the 2011 Super Bowl, and then actually contributing in that very game.

Surely, that day, he thought his days on the waiver wire were over.  They weren't.  And perhaps, still aren't.

Look at his transaction sheet to date, courtesy of prosportstransactions.com:


According to the records I have, he has never received even a $1 signing bonus.  Nothing.  He works week to week and knows that they can send him away at any point - and that has already happened 7 times.

His defeating of BW Webb and Terrance Mitchell for roster spots (2 recent draft picks) was a bit of a surprise out of camp, and he might have been on the hot seat again when Orlando Scandrick returns if he hasn't been so good on the field.  I am not sure who they will release to make room for Scandrick, but I now highly doubt it would be Moore.

He is not a perfect player by any means, but I absolutely love how he drives on the ball and challenges receptions.  I also love that he is the closest thing to Scandrick when it comes to a DB who finds the ball and aggressively attacks at all times.  We need more of that and less of conservative corners who sit back and play the odds (in scheme, of course).  Rod Marinelli wants corners who are attacking - see Chicago: Tillman, Jennings - and Moore is cut from that cloth, I think.  But, for whatever reason, the NFL keeps kicking him to the curb.  I openly cheer for guys like that.

Especially when they do things like this:


I will certainly concede that Dexter McCluster stumbles, but Moore is getting that ball.  Love it.

I know some are pitching the idea of Moore working in more at safety which is interesting.  Otherwise, the more interesting question is whether the Cowboys have the guts to get their 3 best corners on the field in nickel.  By almost any metric right now, that seems to not include Morris Claiborne.

DEFENSIVE PARTICIPATION: OK, 8 man Marinelli defensive rotation was on full display Sunday.  LDE was Crawford 28 snaps/Selvie 23, LDT Hayden 27, McClain 19, RDT Melton 26, Coleman 20, and RDE Mincey 36, Crawford 13.  That left 12 chances for Wilber to rush from DE in nickel.  LB was pretty much all R McClain and Carter with a hint of Hitchens (10) and he looked shaky in his small amount of work.  Carr, Claiborne, Moore, Wilcox, and Church played almost the entire game with a small amount of Jeff Heath added in (10). - Thanks, Pro Football Focus for the exact math.  

WEEK 2 VS TENNESSEE - DEFENSIVE NUMBERS


Run Plays13
Pass Plays36
Avg Starting PositionO21
3rd Down Conversions2-10, 20%
4th Down Conversions0-1, 0%
Yards Per Play6.4
Yards Per Pass Attempt6.9
Red Zone TDs - Drives0-1, 0%
Takeaways2

SPLASH PLAYS

First, a reminder of what a splash play is: 

What is a splash play? Well, for purposes of this blog I believe a splash play will include the following: A sack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a batted ball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how this leads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdown at all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles for loss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle where a player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of an exceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play, but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in the secondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the play will determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who just caught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generally pass the test on this blog. So, stop doing it. 
I am trying to be careful about handing out too many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but too extreme in either direction. When I log a splash play, I will put time of the game on the chart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, you are welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a single play, we will try to see that as well. 
Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays on the defense. We don't want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to see broader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help the Cowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will not deduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasions where we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particular idea.  
A splash play is a play that makes a major difference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see which defenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. We already have our thoughts on both categories, but let's see if we can dig a bit deeper and actually have numbers to back up our claims.
SPLASHES VS TENNESEE - WEEK 2

Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayerPlay
1-9:493/2/O28MoorePass Defended
1-8:072/5/D49R McClainRun Stuff
1-7:273/6/O50JJ WilcoxPass Defended
2-15:002/3/O27ClaibornePass Defended
2-14:533/3/O27ChurchInterception
2-12:241/10/O32MoorePass Defended
2-0:532/10/O13Wilber/MeltonSack 
3-12:211/10/D28MooreTackle For Loss
3-11:502/11/D29CarrPass Defended
3-11:453/11/D29R McClainSack
3-2:041/10/O25MooreFumble Caused
4-14:261/10/D39MeltonPass Tipped
4-14:261/10/D39R McClainInterception

Here you can see the job Sterling Moore, Rolando McClain, and Henry Melton were able to do.  Those were likely your defensive 3 stars of the game (hockey is coming!) and are all big reasons why this defense is not a punchline 2 weeks in.

2014 SEASON TOTALS

PlayerTotalPlayerTotal
1. LB Rolando McClain        5.511. DT Nick Hayden1
2. CB Sterling Moore412. CB Morris Claiborne      1
3. LB Bruce Carter213. DE Kyle Wilber0.5
4. S JJ Wilcox2
5. DT Henry Melton2
6. S Barry Church2
7. DE Jeremy Mincey1.5
8. CB Brandon Carr1.5
9. LB Justin Durant1
10. DE Tyrone Crawford1
Team Totals                 25

Career Totals
2013 Totals
2011 Totals

===========

PASSING CHART

During the Marinelli Report, we attempt to chart how the opposing quarterback fared against the DAL pass rush (unlike Decoding Linehan, when we chart drive progression). The key in the bottom end zone defines how many rushers came during a given throw. Each line entails where the ball was thrown from, trailing to the (general) point where it was caught.  Dotted lines are incomplete passes.

Week 2 Summary

A win is a win in the NFL, but few can deny Locker left his A game back in Week 1. This clearly wasn't known from the beginning, however, as Dallas blitzed during 44 percent (4-9) of Tennessee's first four possessions. From that point on, in-game adjustments took over as the Cowboys blitzed during a lowly 6 percent (2-29) of remaining snaps defended.




























































Seldom can a beautiful chart look so ugly.  Blame Jake Locker.  

PRESSURE REPORT

This segment of the defensive study is simply to find out how well the Cowboys are doing at getting pressure on the opposing QB.  We have spent a good part of the offseason talking about Monte Kiffin's philosophy that, like so many of the great 4-3 schemes, is based on using blitz as a weapon, not a necessity.  If you use the blitz as an ambush weapon that is always threatened but only used at the perfect times, you can often get free runs at the QB.  If, on the other hand, you must use the blitz because your normal pressure is not getting it done, then the offense usually is waiting for you and prepared - so even 6 rushers don't accomplish much.

As you can see, not much was needed, and not much was attempted.  They must "get there with 4" and they desperately need more pass rush moving forward, but against Locker this will do.

EXPLOSIVE PLAYS ALLOWED (+20 Yards)


Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
3-7:563/3/O39Locker to Walker, +614
4-7:351/10/O46Locker to Hunter, +234
4-7:072/10/D31Locker to Hagan, +254

SACKS AND INTERCEPTIONS


Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
2-14:533/3/O27Church INT4
2 -0:532/10/O13Wilber, Melton Sack4
3-11:453/11/D29McClain Sack4
4-14:261/10/D39McClain INT4


PERFORMANCE AGAINST THE BLITZ

Each week we calculate how opposing quarterbacks fare against the Dallas blitz. Consider this the raw data behind the passing chart.

Wk 1 - Colin Kaepernick: 4/8, 74 Yds, 1 TD, 1 SACK
Wk 2 - Jake Locker: 3/6, 22 Yds

2014 Total: 7/14, 96 Yds, 1 TD, 1 SACK

BLITZ REPORT

Each week we monitor how often the Cowboys will send pressure on passing plays.  Week 1 showed an aggressive defense trying to get the ball back to attempt to generate a rally.

Pass Rushers Against Tennessee - 38 pass rush/blitz situations:

Wk 1 - SF: 9/21 - Blitzed 33.3%
Wk 2 - Tenn: 6/38 - Blitzed 15.7%

2014 Total: 15/59 - Blitzed 25.4% 

2013 Totals:  140/673 - 20.8%
2012 Totals:  134/551 - 24.3%


Week 2 - Pass Rushers





Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 RushTotals
1st Down014 -
87.5%
2 -
12.5%
016 -
42%
2nd Down08 -
72%
2 -
18%
1 -
9%
11 -
28.9%
3rd Down09 -
90%
01 -
10%
10 -
26%
4th Down01 -
100%
001 -
2.6%
Totals032 -
84%
4 -
10.5%
2 -
5%
38

And, here are the full season numbers to date:


Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 RushTotals
1st Down018 -
75%
6 -
25%
024 -
38%
2nd Down1 -
5.5%
12 -
66.6%
3 -
16.6%
2 - 11%18 -
28.5%
3rd Down3 -
15%
14 -
70%
1 -
5%
2 -
10%
20 -
31.7%
4th Down01 -
100%
001 -
1.5%
Totals4 -
6%
45 -
71%
10 -
15.8%
4 -
6%
63


SUMMARY:  You can only play who is on your schedule, and in the first 2 weeks the Cowboys defense has held up nicely against just about everyone but the opposing Tight End.  They are flying to the football as you knew they would - and, as many forget, they did for much of 2013 in September and October.  The true test of any football question is whether it is sustainable over the course of a season and we have no clue how that is going to work.

However, the best case scenarios are turning up early with the major questions of replacing Sean Lee (Rolando McClain is one of the biggest stories in the league right now), filling in for Orlando Scandrick (Moore), and replacing Jason Hatcher (Melton seems to be the same guy he was before the ACL).

Now, where are they going to find a consistent pass rush before the 2015 draft?  That was the biggest question of them all and why I personally would have cut Kyle Orton much sooner in an effort to keep DeMarcus Ware with that money.  It might not have worked, but their efforts to keep Ware were almost non-existent.  No, Ware is not what he was, but he would certainly be this team's best edge rusher in 2014 - with or without DeMarcus Lawrence.  But, that is water under the bridge and they are doing everything they can to generate rush without blitzing with just effort players.  Tyrone Crawford did push back Michael Oher on several occasions, but it doesn't appear he has any pass rush moves to speak of at this point.  Melton is getting inside pressure and Mincey never stops running, but we must assume that sooner or later, they will desperately need anything they can get from Lawrence, Anthony Spencer, and likely get Kyle Wilber out there more on the edge.  

That said, they are much better in the middle of the field and against the run.  And, it looks like Marinelli is mixing coverages and trying to get his corners to challenge all passes.  Teams will attack the safeties until Wilcox and Church chase them off of that, but you can live with that to a certain extent.

Overall, the laughing stock of the NFL is closing mouths so far.  It is important to remember the tests ahead and the idea that one injury can change everything.  But, again, so far so good.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Decoding Linehan: Week 2 - At Tennessee

"When you can run the ball in pass looks, that's a good thing. When you can run the ball against run looks, that's a better thing. And when you can run the ball against really, hard, difficult run looks by the defense, that's really good for your team and we were able to do that yesterday." - Jason Garrett, Monday, after the Cowboys ran the ball 43 times for 220 yards.

This week, there is little question what the lead story is when we evaluate the offense.  We have been cataloguing every offensive snap the Cowboys have taken since 2008, and with the exception of early in 2009, what we have seen nothing close to this during the entire stretch of nearly 100 games of Cowboys football.  They have 347 yards on the ground on 66 carries for 5.26 yards PER CARRY.

They have 269 of those yards on 50 carries from what we call "run looks" which are under center runs from 11, 12, 21, or 22 personnel.  5.38 yards PER CARRY.  That means what Garrett is referring to above.  They are running after pre snap run declarations and are still having success.  That is the true test and they are passing it with ease so far.

In the first 3 games of 2009 (At Tampa Bay, H New York Giants, H Carolina), we had another period of time where the Cowboys wanted to pound the ball and see what happened.  They ran the ball 82 times for 574 yards in those first 3 games, in a season that they ran for 2,103 yards - easily the most they have ever run for in a season since Emmitt Smith was in uniform.  That year, 2009, they averaged 131.4 yards per game, ran a balanced offense, and won the NFC East.  

Back then, they weren't a zone running team (at least to this extent).  They ran a lot of pulling guard, man-blocking.  Kyle Kosier, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode, Flozell Adams, and Marc Colombo/Doug Free were a dominating physical front for most of the year and had 11 games that year over 100 yards rushing.  That total is 1 more than 10 games that the 2012 and 2013 Cowboys ran for 100 yards, combined.  

I say with great confidence that if the Cowboys are going to run the ball like that, they are going to win many more games than we thought....IF....

=====

IF TONY ROMO GETS GOING  

Now, it is just 2 games.  So the fact that he has career lows in QB Rating, TD%, and Yards per attempt out of the gate should not freak us out too much.  He also has a career high in INT% going, but we figure that will fix itself quickly.  

Below is a chart that demonstrates that the Romo YPA, what many consider one of the most important numbers in the entire QB spectrum, has been steadily declining since the collarbone year of 2010.  The Blue line is Romo from 2006-2014 and the Green Line is the NFL Average.  Remember, Romo was the #1 YPA QB in football from 2006-2009 at 8.1 YPA.  Then, after his collarbone, he is 11th and tied with Robert Griffin III with 7.55 since 2011.  

Last year, it dropped to 7.2 and so far in 2014, we are below the green line at 7 for the first time ever at 6.9.  

It is only 2 games, but it is also a sharp decline since 2011.  


But, what is going on with his sack rate?

If we are going to talk about this offensive line being 5 Blocks of Granite then they better be able to keep the QB clean.  Given that Romo's career high for sacks in a season is 36, the 56-sack pace he is currently on is a bit disconcerting.

Again, let's look at the post-collarbone cliff that Romo's sack rate has fallen down.  Even if 2010 was a misleading number, we can agree that his sack rate was 20.5 before the incident and the lost season, and since 2011 it is down at 16.5.  So, given that the NFL average green line is roughly between 15 and 17 each season, he has gone from very difficult to sack from 2006-2010 to right at the league average from 2011-2014.


In fact, the raw numbers state that he threw 2,176 passes and was sacked 106 times before the injury, and has now thrown 1,885 passes and has been sacked 114 times since.  

How much of that is Romo and how much of that is his supporting cast?  Yes. I imagine it is both.  But, if you pop in a tape from 2007 when he is running around like a nut versus Sunday when he hits the deck because he hears footsteps, you can see a different type of QB.  Much of it is normal aging, but these last 2 graphs might demonstrate that the Tony Romo that many Cowboys fans fell in love with might not live here anymore.  

It will be interesting to see if he can put 6-8 weeks together soon that can flip the script back in his favor.

=====

COUNTING THE BOX

One of the big talking points since the Tennessee game has been the play-calling debate that links the San Francisco game to the Titans victory in that both times the Cowboys had the ball at the 2 or 3 yard line, both times they had a chance to get a first down inside the 2, and both times they elected to throw.

So, if you are mad about the Justin Smith sack, are you still mad when they hit Dez Bryant on the back shoulder fade in Nashville?

No.

You can find all sorts of articles online about what a QB must do pre snap at any level of playing the position, and surely, it must be declared that I have never taken a snap.  But, this is rather basic just to be able to count.  One of the first things you do is find the Mike.  Then, you identify where the safeties are.  This helps you see if they are in a run front or a pass front.

It is math.  They only have 11.  So, if you count the box and it is a high number, you realize they don't have many troops to stop the run.  Or, the opposite is true.  So why was the right decision made Sunday and the wrong decision made the week before?  Let's count.


The Titans have 9 in the box.  They are not helping either corner.  Dez Bryant is in man, and we feast on that with his strength, resume, and ability.

Now, back to that poor read last week:


The Niners have 6-7 in the box.  41 is switching with a LB, but basically the 49ers have man coverage to the bottom and double coverage to the top against Dez as the safety is keeping Dez off the slant.

6 blockers versus 6 defenders.  I am running.

7 blockers versus 9 defenders.  I am throwing.

Count the box.  It isn't always that simple, but sometimes it is.

Offensive Participation:  Perfect health and attendance from the offense for the 2nd week in a row.  All 82 snaps for Free, Martin, Frederick, Leary, and Smith on the OL, and were joined by Witten and Romo.  Bryant 62, and Williams 61 led the WR's even though Bryant had to go check his shoulder at one point.  Beasley 34, Harris 23, and Street 11 rounded out the WR group.  Murray 59, Dunbar 17, and Randle 7, with Clutts in front for 14.  At TE Hanna 21 and Escobar 15 joined Witten periodically, and Parnell played 3rd TE in heavy sets on 4 occasions.  All snap numbers courtesy of PFF and they include all snaps including plays that were not official because of penalties.


STATS FOR WEEK 2 AGAINST TENNESSEE


Run Plays43
Pass Plays33
Avg Starting PositionD28
1st Down R-P27-8
2nd Down Avg to Go7.08
2nd Down R-P12-13
3rd Down Avg to Go7.93
3rd/4th Down R-P4-12
3rd Down Conversions9-16, 56%
4th Down Conversions0-0
Yards Per Play4.8
Yards Per Pass Attempt6.1
Red Zone TDs - Drives2-3, 67%
Giveaways1

We have balance on 2nd Down!  Very rare.  9-16 on 3rd Down will win a lot of games.  And that Red Zone TD% is great, too.  Everything is awesome aside from that very low Yards per pass attempt.  Yeesh. 

PASSING CHART

This season, we're attempting to track both passing and drive progression. John Daigle has designed a fantastic chart.  Each color, for instance, represents the possession number listed in the key. If you were to start from the bottom and work your way up, you would be tracking that possession from beginning to end. The dotted-lines are incompletions. Large gaps between throws are mostly YAC or carries.

Week 2 Summary

Hooks, slants, and screens were all part of the game plan, as shown by the numerous charted throws. Dallas had 11 possessions Sunday, but only attempted a pass during eight of them. And with this particular plan in place, it should come as no shock that 72 percent (21-29) of Romo's attempts traveled less than nine yards through the air.


The horizontal passing game was on full display.

DRIVE STARTERS - The 1st play of each drive can often reveal the intent of a coach to establish his game plan. How committed is he to the run or pass when the team comes off the sideline? We track it each week here -

Wk 1 - San Francisco: 5 Run/5 Pass - 50% Run
Wk 2 - At Tennessee: 8 Run/3 Pass - 72% Run

2014 Total: 21 Drives - 13 Run/8 Pass - 61% Run

2013 Total: 176 Drives - 84 Run/92 Pass - 47% Run
2012 Total: 173 Drives - 76 Run/97 Pass - 44% Run
2011 Total: 181 Drives - 79 Run/102 Pass - 44% Run

* This statistic doesn't count the 1-play kneel down drives.

SHOTGUN SNAPS

Shotgun snaps are fine on 3rd Down and in the 2 minute drill. But, we track this stat from week to week to make sure the Cowboys aren't getting too lazy in using it. They are not efficient enough to run it as their base, and with a 15%/85% run/pass split across the league, there is no way the defense respects your running game. When shotgun totals are high, the Cowboys are generally behind, scared of their offensive line, or frustrated.

On Sunday, the Cowboys were back down at historical lows.  This, friends, is an anomaly in the modern NFL.  Don't go falling in love with sub 40%.

Wk 1 - San Francisco: 41 Shotgun/63 Total Plays - 65% Shotgun
Wk 2 - At Tennessee: 30 Shotgun/76 Total Plays - 39% Shotgun

2014 Total: 71 Shotgun/139 Total Plays - 51% Shotgun

2013 Total: 566/945 - 59.8% Shotgun
2012 Total: 565/1038 - 54% Shotgun
2011 Total: 445/1012 - 43.9% Shotgun

TOTALS BY PERSONNEL GROUPS


(Before you study the data below, I would recommend that if the numbers for the groupings are unfamiliar, that you spend some time reading a more expanded definition of the Personnel Groupings here.)

PackagePlaysYdsRunPass3rd/4thYdsRunPassFD/TD
11127211-501-22161-60-01/0
12178612-755-11130-01-30/1
132102-100-0000-00-00/0
216394-222-17000-00-00/0
229399-390-03153-150-02/0
23000-00-0000-00-00/0
S01000-00-0000-00-00/0
S02000-00-0000-00-00/0
S1124915-2419-6710430-010-435/0
S12490-04-9000-00-00/0
S13000-00-0000-00-00/0
Other2180-02-18100-01-00/0
Totals7636443-22033-14416674-2112-468/1
* - Knee Plays are not counted in play calls.

Check those runs from under center.  Beautiful.  And the 3rd Down conversions were very good from Romo when it mattered most to extend drives.

PLAY-ACTION PERFORMANCE

Wk 1: 1/5, 9 Yds, 3 INT, 1 FD
Wk 2: 4/5, 39 Yds, 1 Sack, 2 FD

2014 Total: 5/10, 48 Yds, 3 INT, 1 Sack, 3 FD 

Let's just say they are still trying to figure out how to use their play-action.  But, the running game will only make it better.

BLITZING ROMO

Pass Rushers Against Dallas - 33 Pass Situations vs Tennessee

Wk 1: SF Blitzed Dallas 1/40 - Blitzed 2.5%
Wk 2: Tenn Blitzed Dallas 12/33 - Blitzed 36.3%

2014 Total: Opponents Blitzed Dallas 13/73 - Blitzed 17.8%
2013 Total: Opponents Blitzed Dallas 210/616 - Blitzed 34%

Tennessee blitzed plenty, but likely not close to as much as they wanted because the Cowboys were ahead of the chains and not in disadvantageous down/distance spots too much.  Well done.  See how it all ties together?

WEEK 2 TOTALS



Pass
Rushers
3
Rush
4
Rush
5
Rush
6
Rush
Totals
1st
Down
07 -
87.5%
1 -
12.5%
08 -
24%
2nd
Down
1 -
7.6%
7 -
53.8%
3 -
23%
2 -
15.3%
13 -
39%
3rd
Down
06 -
50%
4 -
33%
2 -
16.6%
12 -
36%
4th
Down
0000
Totals1 -
3%
20 -
60.6%
8 -
24%
4 -
12%
33



SEASON TO DATE





Pass
Rushers
3
Rush
4
Rush
5
Rush
6
Rush
Totals
1st
Down
3 -
12%
21 -
84%
1 -
4%
025 -
34%
2nd
Down
3 -
10.7%
19 -
67.8%
4 -
14%
2 -
7%
28 -
38%
3rd
Down
1 -
5%
13 -
65%
4 -
20%
2 -
10%
20 -
27%
4th
Down
0000
Totals7 -
9.5%
53 -
72.6%
9 -
12%
4 -
5%
73
Thanks to John Daigle for his work on the charts and graphs.

SUMMARY:

There is plenty to like from Week 2.  It starts with just the one turnover and of course, a dominating physical whipping of an opponent on the road.  We must figure out pass protection which seems to be as much about assignments on blitzes and zone blitzes as it is with guys getting beat - although Doug Free certainly had a day - but nevertheless, those are drive killers and can get your QB knocked out.

They are still trying to figure out how to play with all of their toys, but overall, the offense has passed most non-Romo related tests through 2 weeks.  We assume he will bounce back, mostly because we have no other choice.

But, beyond that, Zack Martin is settling in, DeMarco Murray looks like he is playing angry and hungry, and Dez Bryant is one of the best receivers in football.

I picked this team to have a very difficult year, but I must readily admit that with the evidence we currently have, the offense has a chance to be really good if they can maintain this power balance.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Morning After: Dallas 26, Tennessee 10 (1-1)



Yesterday, the NFL demonstrated loudly and clearly for all who forget that this league is difficult to predict and impossible to figure out.  I can't imagine there are many people who profit off the ability to forecast NFL games correctly (despite the large number who claim to have this ability), because from what I can tell, we repeat the exercise every season of thinking we know more than we actually do - only to admit later that the more we watch, the more it becomes clear that nobody truly knows much about this unpredictable sport.

When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys and their 2014 season which has almost nobody optimistic, the predictions have been based on a few specific gripes.  The most important remains their franchise QB, Tony Romo, returning to health and performance that is expected from a man that they pay more than $1m per game.

However, the rest of the bearish views on the team surround 2 major issues: the defense that they have was one of the worst ever in 2013 and the additions to improve it are largely anonymous and therefore are not expected to have lasting effects and the other issue was whether or not this team would truly ever be able to have a physical, imposing, and yes at times, dominating offensive line that would both protect their QB and open up holes of a running game.

And while the developing story of Romo's search for his top form continues, I think 2 weeks into the season has to have made everyone feel better about the defense sorting itself out under Rod Marinell.  Meanwhile, the offensive line's impact on the first two games has been about as positive as anyone could have hoped, and the way the running game has come out of the gate in 2014 might be the game changer that nobody believed possible.

The Cowboys, as an underdog on Sunday in Nashville, dominated the ball on the ground with force and might and makes everyone imagine the possibility of a personality change with a franchise that seemed allergic to the physical brand of football that Seattle, San Francisco, Baltimore and other powers have used for the last several years.

Have they figured something out?  It is only 1 game and part of another.  It is early for sure.  But, to comprehend 347 rushing yards through 2 games this season is difficult, when we consider that in 2013 they ran for 123 yards, 2012 it was 182, and in 2011, it was 109 through their first 2 games, respectively.

But, now, perhaps through necessity, they have run the ball with incredible proficiency so far.  They lined up and smashed the Titans front which is not a small task.  They had to fight through the adversity of an early DeMarco Murray fumble again, and their first 3 drives ending with 2 sacks and a giveaway.  But, they didn't lose their nerve, nor their objectives.  They simply decided to stay on their script and in the end had their 4th biggest running day of the last decade as the Titans were unable to mount much resistance.

Not only that, but in this space we have discussed the cycle of Cowboys' road disappointments at great length.  The offense consistently underperforms by having no running game, a passing game that is defeated with blitzing, and ultimately putting too much pressure on a defense to keep them in games until it ultimately collapses.  But, yesterday, the Cowboys showed the opposite to be true.  The  running game backed off the Titans blitz, because they did not have the Cowboys passing game in a bind the whole day.  The Cowboys were only predictable on 3rd Downs and then were able to dictate the action, while the defense stayed fresh.  The Cowboys snapped the ball 76 times and dominated the clock with 41 minutes of possession as Tennessee only ran 49 plays.  If you feel that the Cowboys were in control of the proceedings the entire day despite Romo never having to do too much on his own, you feel correctly. They dictated the action and the direction of the contest with 43 running plays to the tune of 220 yards on the ground.  5.1 yard per carry from 43 attempts?  Who are these guys?

Perhaps, they are exactly who they thought they were when they spent big on Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin to rebuild an offensive line that was in fact offensive for 2011 and 2012.  We certainly are not going to rush to the anointing oils, but this looks like a group that is not perfect, but when firing forward and trying to run the ball, they look more than capable.  And for the entire complexion of the organization, everything changes when you are suddenly able to be the team on the field that can be physically dominant.

We shall see if they can prove it in the weeks to come.  If they can, you may see optimism return to this fan base in short order.  For now, we marvel at what happens when every play seems like a positive gain.

This isn't just about the ground game, however.  What makes this win for the Cowboys feel extra important was the way it appeared to have a total team feel to it.  The special teams were fantastic as Dwayne Harris and Dan Bailey led this crew to their own dominant day.  A nearly blocked punt, a downed punt deep in Tennessee territory, well covered kicks, a nice punt return, and of course, Bailey picking off long field goals like there is nothing to it.  If ever there has been a better kicker in Cowboys history than what Dan Bailey is doing right now, then the margin is slim.  Bailey is as elite as it gets right now when it comes to making long kicks automatic.  He is truly at the top of his game.

The defense, for the 2nd week in a row, was good but with some reservations.  Last week, it was the score margin made it feel like San Francisco was not using too much of their scheme with a 28-3 lead.  This week, they played a QB in Jake Locker who looked discouraged and confused and happy to run off the field at times in the first half.  It is a new coaching staff and scheme in Nashville, and for the time being, it might need more time in the oven - although takeaways and short fields in Week 1 helped them shock the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

But, let's give credit where credit is due as the team turned the ball over twice and found a few more sacks.  The optimism of Rolando McClain, Bruce Carter, and Henry Melton making splash plays of impact once again made itself apparent on Sunday.  If this thing is going to work, they will need a few players to rise above the group, and in the front 7 I would say those are your leaders for now.  We must pace ourselves and remember that attrition will play a role, but again, for the 2nd week in a row, the defense seemed competitive.  That, despite Delanie Walker having his career-best day in his 9th year in the league.  Through 2 weeks, if there is a major issue emerging, it would appear to be the ability to corral a talented tight end receiving threat.  With Jimmy Graham on the schedule in 13 days, that should be a focus moving forward.

I know the record books will remember this game as an easy win that was close to a demoralizing rout, but the game nearly flipped late in the 3rd Quarter and could have easily gotten away from Dallas.  Up 16-0 at halftime, the team had to know they had Tennessee in a corner with no real life-lines available, especially with Locker looking so lost.  But, the Titans emerged from the intermission with a FG drive, followed by a Dallas 3-and-out with a sack bringing Romo down for one of 4 Titans' sacks.

Then, the ensuing drive was where Delanie Walker caught a ball by the left sideline and sustained a shot from Morris Claiborne, bounced off him and ran to the end zone with impressive wheels for a big man.  Now, it was 16-10, with half the 3rd Quarter to play.

The next drive was where the game changed.  For much of the day, Tony Romo just didn't look right throwing the ball, and even his longest completion (and only pass play over 18 yards) was a 22-yard gain to Dez Bryant on a crossing pattern where his target was wide open but the pass was at his shoe-tops.  Bryant caught the ball into Tennessee territory, but again the discussion from the broadcasters was that something doesn't look right about his ball delivery.  

From there, a 6 yard gain from Murray to the Tennessee 33 yard line was where the play of the game happened.  It was 2nd and 4, and Romo audibled into a shotgun after he felt a blitz coming from the A-gaps straight ahead.  This audible was a TE screen on the right side as Jason Witten would release his protection assignment, Derrick Morgan, and flow past him into the flat.  This is a rather normal answer to a blitz threat, and uses the defenses aggression against them.

But, Morgan gets to Romo so fast that the throw back to Witten in the flat was rushed and high.  Witten reached back to try to catch it, but in doing so, tipped the ball right into the path of safety Bernard Pollard.  Pollard catches the ball and appears to be one broken arm tackle from giving Tennessee the lead, when Witten is able to reach in and knock the ball loose for what would be rightfully called an incompletion.  The play - in just the blink of an eye - went from a genius offensive idea, to a game-changing defensive "Pick-6", to simply an incompletion that maybe nobody will remember in a few weeks.

But, that is how games are lost in the NFL where the margin sits on the edge of a knife.  And perhaps Jason Witten saved this day with a play that won't even be recorded as a statistic.  On the next play the Cowboys picked up a 1st down on a generous pass interference and 6 snaps later, Romo hits Bryant on a back shoulder fade in the end zone to restore the 13 point lead and overall order to the proceedings of the first Cowboys victory of 2014.  From there, the ground game was supplemented with Cowboys' fans at the stadium taking over Nashville with their voices in a way that should make Arlington jealous.

They won a game that they absolutely had to win in Week 2, with a potentially perfect opponent hand picked for Week 3 in St Louis before the heavyweights come calling shortly thereafter.  If they are to shock the league with a strong 2014, they must get to 3 wins before going to Seattle in Week 6.

But, what a difference a week can make.  Now, we think the defense can stand up for itself and the offensive line can lean on opponents routinely.  Given that we agreed earlier that we assume too much, too quickly in the NFL, we better continue to see what this team is capable of on a week to week basis moving forward before we jump to conclusions.

We now spend the week wondering about Romo and his self-belief, but for the team in general, this looks far more encouraging than any other indicators we have seen since camp assembled.

A road win, with a dominating physical force grinding the Titans defense down over the course of an afternoon.  A defense that was opportunistic and able to get off the field on 3rd Down.  Special teams that tilted the game in the Cowboys' direction.

More of that, please.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Xs and Os - 3 Things From Week 1 To Examine

Late in the week, we finally get a chance to "look at the tape" as Jason Garrett likes to say and examine some plays that we cannot fully digest on TV.  I can't promise that every week we will be able to do this, but honestly, this is my favorite exercise of the week because only here can you fully appreciate how advanced and complex the NFL game can be sometimes.

Here, we are not looking to call anyone out, and we surely want to leave open the possibility of our eyes deceiving us and more than anything, I want to admit that I don't have the benefit of the coaches telling me what coverage they were in.  So, sometimes, this diagnosis will be "pretty sure" rather than "100% sure" even though I am trying to get it right.  I will make calls and try to hunt down the right answer, but I will just admit right here that we will try our best to be accurate but invariably, I will see something wrong.

But, let's pick 3 plays that are interesting but not played out by this point of the week and have some fun talking Xs and Os.  Feel free to tweet me @SportsSturm when a game shows you a play that you would like broken down and I will attempt to include it in this post.

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Some overall film thoughts:  I really think the Cowboys offensive line was better than I anticipated.  We must consider that it is just one game, but DeMarco Murray had lots of space on Sunday with some pictures that just showed you he had plenty of real estate.  Here are a few:


Look at that above - hat on a hat.  Lots of green for 29 to pick his lane and go.


Again, as his right foot plants, he can see nothing but space here.  Nobody in front of him and tons of space on this zone right.


And that fateful 2nd and 1.  As you can see, Justin Smith is sneaking in on Tony, but there is plenty of space right if DeMarco gets the ball.  GIVE IT TO HIM!  They don't.  But, I believe this picture erases doubt about 29 getting in or at least the 1st down at the 1 if he follows 70 and 68 in.

Optimism is all over on this offensive line for me.  I have other concerns, but it appears they can be pretty good if they all stay healthy.

=====

OK,  Here are 3 plays to examine:

6:44 - 1Q - 1/10/27 - Vernon Davis Touchdown

This one seems like a massive coverage bust of some sort.  Let's try to figure it out.

I will start by saying when nobody can figure out what coverage you are in, it ends up looking like a mess.  But, we have 42-Church as our single-high safety, and it looks like 24-Claiborne and 39-Carr are in man coverage on the edges, with a zone underneath to handle Vernon Davis and the RBs against the 12 personnel of the 49ers.  You often run zone here so Kaepernick isn't compelled to start his "runs like a deer" routine.  The red arrows signify the routes that are about to be run by the 49ers.



The frame below is where confusion sets in.  If they are running a Cover 3-slide, then Carr should release Crabtree to Church once Davis heads his way.  But, Carr sticks on Crabtree the whole play.  So, is he running the wrong coverage?  I don't think so, but I at least want to leave that possibility open here.


But, the frame below also shows confusion between 27-Wilcox and 52-Durant on who has the FB in the flat and who has one of the best receiving Tight Ends of this generation in 85-Davis.  Look at Wilcox who seems completely flat footed and sure that he has the FB in front of him as Davis heads to the sideline right behind him.  Durant is also looking at the FB and we have a big problem when Carr doesn't peel off.


So, since nobody can identify what coverage they are in, let's just look at the issues here below.  Davis is breaking open as Mincey almost gets the sack.  Wilcox and Durant are now facing the QB and are ready to crash in if a scramble develops.  But, what if he throws it?  You can see Church is in CF and can already tell what is happening as he spots Davis.


But, Church can't get there in time.  Wilcox still has no idea what is happening (he is still on the FB) and Davis is thinking he did something right as he can fair catch his first TD of the year.


Here it is in motion.  Yuck.  We will leave it at 95% likely JJ busted here because he thought the play was out of danger in his sector.



7:46 - 2Q - 2/11/33 - Bruce Carter sacks Kaepernick

This one is shown here to demonstrate fine technique on how Bruce Carter made a play that might not have been there had he rushed it.


Frame 1 above shows play-action with a pulling Left Guard to the right tackle.  Linebackers follow guard movement to key plays, and the pulling guard can really help sell play-action.  However, 77-Iupati knows he is actually handling the edge for pass rush.

But, here comes Sterling Moore off the edge on a blitz, so Frank Gore will pick him up below.


However, you can see Iupati above see that nobody else is coming, so below he helps Gore make sure they clean up 26-Moore.


And once his head turns away from Carter, Carter is a blur to the QB.  He timed it perfectly.  If he rushes at the snap, Iupati cleans him up.  But, he waited, and got a free run at the QB.


And below you can see he didn't miss.  Well done.



6:45 - 3Q - 1/10/28 - Justin Smith sacks Romo

You can find a hundred different variations of DL games and stunts as they try to cause the offensive line assignment issues, but this one is basic, yet rarely executed this well.

The beauty of this stunt is that you can't show it very much.  It is merely a change up.  But, if you run your front 4 pass rush one way for most the game and pull this out, it can confound the OL that has assumed there are no issues to consider like this one.

Watch the left side of the screen and see the DE and DT both slant inside their man.  59-Skuta is taking Doug Free inside and Ray McDonald is pushing Zach Martin into Travis Frederick.  This is the design of the "Pirate" stunt that then allows the other DT 94-Smith to come all the way around the corner and blow by Free who is cleary off-guard.


It works best when there is nobody in the backfield with Romo to clean up a free man, so this is 5 on 4.  Free sees no issues to his right, so he keeps with his man, and Smith is able to get to Romo (with some help from Romo stumbling into him) with almost no resistance at all.  Again, we don't see this much and the Cowboys will be ready next time, but this is just a great call at a great moment to defeat the Cowboys protection without having to "beat" anyone 1 on 1.

So, don't say we have never covered the "Pirate" stunt here.  Below, somebody on the internet drew it up for you.



OK, that is all we have for this week.  On to the Titans.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Marinelli Report: Week 1 vs 49ers

Every week in this space we want to attempt to examine the Cowboys defense and get a feel for what Rod Marinelli is attempting to accomplish with his group.  Some of it is clear for anyone that has followed his defenses, but the unclear part is whether or not he has the man power currently available to carry this out.

Last year, we spent some of our time examining the playbook of the 1999 Tampa Bay Buccaneers which has been passed around the football internet a bit and perhaps gives us a look at what the players under Marinelli and Monte Kiffin have preached at them on a daily basis.  I think starting here is a proper place to begin every season:


I enjoy reading that (even though I am sure every team challenges the pride of their players) because it seems like it often matches the profile of the players the Cowboys are using on their defense in these days where they are churning the roster, digging through waivers, and extending minimum offers to those who are in the room.

Let's face it - of the names who participated on the Cowboys defense on Sunday - there are almost no top picks making top pick money.  Morris Claiborne would be the exception (for now).  Everyone else on this defense was either drafted low and had to make their money (Carr, Melton), drafted high and has fallen off (Carter, McClain), or drafted low and still is working to prove the world wrong (Selvie, Church).  It is really a mix of guys who must have chips on their shoulders.

So, in that sense, the Cowboys have the right types of guys to fill this scheme, because the two biggest objectives of the Rod Marinelli defensive philosophy appear to be understanding your role (positioning, technique) and relentless work-rate.  Both of which, as the coach points out, do not require immense talent.

So, as the Cowboys have plugged in names that even those of us who follow this game 365 days a year need an almanac to learn, we do see that they are finding players that fill that profile.  The slow, plodding, stand-and-watch-if-the-play-is-away-from-me types are out.  And the run through the whistle, fly-to-the-ball types are populating the roster.

I thought on Sunday that Jeremy Mincey was a great example of the type of player they are looking for in that regard.  Mincey, 30, was going after the highly-touted left tackle for the 49ers Joe Staley all day long and was close to the QB on several occasions.  I will confess to not knowing Mincey very well as he spent 2006-2013 with Jacksonville and that is a defense I don't spend much time pondering.  But, his debut in white was most impressive, as he was quite noticeable.  He was brought in to rotate at that spot with DeMarcus Lawrence, but we should not assume that the undersized rookie will out-class Mincey upon his arrival.

And then there was new middle linebacker Rolando McClain.  If you are a fan of this team, you know how badly the loss of Sean Lee hurts for 2014.  You also know the "Hail Mary" pass that thinking Rolando McClain can solve this problem since he hasn't been in the NFL since 2012 and when we last saw him he seemed like a rich and talented young man who had no use for football in his life anymore and frankly, football had no use for him.

Then, he spent August giving everyone at camp the impression that he still doesn't like football too much with his spotty attendance record at daily practices.  Was he unable to get his body ready for practices?  If so, how will he deal with the punishment of NFL games?  Surely, there is no chance.

And then we saw some moments on Sunday that indicate he might just need game day to bring out the best in him.  Two are below:



Those are not the best plays in the NFL, so I don't mean to get carried away.  But, Sean Lee cannot do that better than he did there.  He diagnosed, then decisively found the ball and ended the play on interior runs with great routine on Sunday against one of the more powerful run teams in the sport.

Now, for now, he doesn't appear to be a big participant against 11 personnel, and since most teams run that a ton these days,  I am not sure McClain will have as big an impact on most Sundays.  However, if you want to line it up and run right at the Cowboys, I think 55 might be a nice card to have handy in 2014.  And if you want to get really carried away, you can start to visualize how to get McClain and Sean Lee in the same group in 2015.  But, as I said, that is really getting carried away.

Now, it wasn't all good on Sunday.  I will try to breakdown the disappointing 2014 debut of JJ Wilcox tomorrow (or whenever NFL Game Rewind decides to let the coach's tape out), but trust me, Vernon Davis is not supposed to be that open.

And while 7.65 yards per pass attempt allowed is not good by any stretch, it actually is not one of the Top 20 worst YPA surrendered in the last 4 seasons!

The 49ers didn't pass much - as the score suggested - but when they did, there were open players and big plays nevertheless.  To run this scheme (or just about any scheme), they need better corner play from their big 2012 investments - Carr and Claiborne.

Defensive Participation:  Mincey, Hayden, Coleman, Crawford started on DL and played the most.  Selvie 27, Melton 26, Bishop 21, Edwards 15 all rotated in.  Selvie and Melton are working back from injuries.  Carter, Durant, and R McClain played LB throughout, When Durant left with injury Wilber 4 and Hitchens 5 played briefly.  Carr and Claiborne at the corner with Moore as the 3rd with 39 snaps.  Wilcox had a team high 58, and Church 51, with a cameo from Heath 7.  No Scandrick, No Terrell McClain, No Anthony Spencer.


WEEK 1 VS SAN FRANCISCO - DEFENSIVE NUMBERS


Run Plays30
Pass Plays24
Avg Starting PositionO18
3rd Down Conversions7-12, 58%
4th Down Conversions0-0, 0%
Yards Per Play5.9
Yards Per Pass Attempt7.6
Red Zone TDs - Drives2-3, 67%

SPLASH PLAYS


First, a reminder of what a splash play is: 

What is a splash play? Well, for purposes of this blog I believe a splash play will include the following: A sack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a batted ball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how this leads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdown at all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles for loss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle where a player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of an exceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play, but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in the secondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the play will determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who just caught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generally pass the test on this blog. So, stop doing it. 
I am trying to be careful about handing out too many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but too extreme in either direction. When I log a splash play, I will put time of the game on the chart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, you are welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a single play, we will try to see that as well. 
Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays on the defense. We don't want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to see broader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help the Cowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will not deduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasions where we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particular idea.  
A splash play is a play that makes a major difference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see which defenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. We already have our thoughts on both categories, but let's see if we can dig a bit deeper and actually have numbers to back up our claims.
SPLASHES vs San Francisco - Week 1

Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayerPlay
2-11:362/8/O42Mincey/MeltonHeavy QB Pressure
2-9:323/1/D37WilcoxHolding Drawn
2-8:221/10/D32R McClain/CarrTackle For Loss
2-7:502/11/D33CarterQB Sack on blitz
2-7:003/20/D42MinceyHolding Drawn
2-2:481/10/O47R McClainRun Stuff
3-15:001/10/O20CarterPass Batted Down
3-14:542/10/O20DurantRun Stuff
3-14:163/10/O20ChurchPass Broken Up
3-7:442/10/O47CrawfordQB Hit 
4-13:201/10/O36HaydenTackle For Loss
4-7:122/6/D22R McClainRun Stuff

This is likely the spot where we repeat the number from Monday's Morning After piece: 
 The tempered enthusiasm on the defense would be based on not taking the ball away at all, and the Cowboys have now lost 17 games (Kansas City - 2009) in a row when they generate 0 takeaways.
Not all splash plays are created equal.  This team will need about 32 takeaways to win the division (I assume), so clearly that is the emphasis every week and how this defense will be judged.

2014 SEASON TOTALS

PlayerTotal
1. MLB Rolando McClain 2.5
2. LB Bruce Carter2
3. DE Jeremy Mincey1.5
4. S JJ Wilcox1
5. LB Justin Durant1
6. DE Tyrone Crawford1
7. S Barry Church1
8. DT Nick Hayden1
9. CB Brandon Carr0.5
10. DT Henry Melton0.5
Team Totals                 12

Career Totals
2013 Totals
2011 Totals

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Pass Rush/Blitzing REPORT

This segment of the defensive study is simply to find out how well the Cowboys are doing at getting pressure on the opposing QB.  We have spent a good part of the offseason talking about Monte Kiffin's philosophy that, like so many of the great 4-3 schemes, is based on using blitz as a weapon, not a necessity.  If you use the blitz as an ambush weapon that is always threatened but only used at the perfect times, you can often get free runs at the QB.  If, on the other hand, you must use the blitz because your normal pressure is not getting it done, then the offense usually is waiting for you and prepared - so even 6 rushers don't accomplish much.

I think the Bruce Carter sack was a perfect example of proper technique as he delayed his run for a split second, the 49ers looked elsewhere, and then he snuck in and popped Kaepernick on the delay.  Well done on a 6-man blitz.

PASSING CHART

Yesterday, we unveiled the new drive progression + passing charts for Decoding Linehan. Today, we display the new opposing passing charts, featuring performance against the pass rush. The key in the bottom end zone defines how many rushers came on that particular throw. Each line entails the spot where the ball was thrown from, trailing to the (general) point where it was caught. Which down these rushers came during can be found in the Pass Rusher Totals near the bottom.









































EXPLOSIVE PLAYS ALLOWED (+20 Yards)


Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
1-6:441/10/O34Kaepernick to Boldin, +375
1-6:031/10/D29Kaepernick to Davis, +294
2-12:591/10/O20Gore run, +204
2-2:003/8/O49Kaepernick to Johnson, +215

SACKS AND INTERCEPTIONS


Q-TimeD/D/YdPlayRushers
2-7:502/11/D33Carter Sack6

Just one.  Durant almost had an interception, but that was not allowed after review.

PERFORMANCE AGAINST PLAY-ACTION

Wk 1 - Colin Kaepernick: 1/2, 37 Yds, 1 SACK


BLITZ REPORT

Each week we monitor how often the Cowboys will send pressure on passing plays.  Week 1 showed an aggressive defense trying to get the ball back to attempt to generate a rally.

Pass Rushers Against San Francisco - 21 pass rush/blitz situations:

Wk 1 - SF: 9/21 - 33.3%

2013 Totals:  140/673 - 20.8%
2012 Totals:  134/551 - 24.3%


And, here are the full season numbers to date:


Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 RushTotals
1st Down04 -
50%
4 -
50%
08 -
32%
2nd Down1 -
14%
4 -
57% 
1 -
14%
1 - 14%7 -
28%
3rd Down3 -
30%
5 -
50%
1 -
10%
1 -
10%
10 -
40%
4th Down00000
Totals4 -
16%
13 -
52%
6 -
24%
2 -
8%
25


SUMMARY:  In general, the defense was not too bad on Sunday.  I warn us all to slow our roll about how good it was because I think we all have to assume that the 49ers decided to get a bit more vanilla as the game went on and not show off too many new wrinkles and ideas to future opponents as long as they were ahead 28-3.  

The 49ers are a very strong team and they play a physical brand of football.  It looks like Tennessee, St Louis, and New Orleans all believe more in 11 personnel and stretching your defense horizontally and vertically.  This means more need for the nickel back (Scandrick?) and less need for the MLB.  It will put a larger premium in getting a pass rush going and being able to tackle in space.  Personally, with Durant's health in doubt, I would love to see more Ro McClain on nickel downs until he proves he can't do it, but I am sure they want to ration his snaps to keep him available.  

I also think we need to continue to watch Tyrone Crawford who looked promising at times and ways to use him with Selvie on that left side.  If they can get Melton playing more and Selvie back to 2013 form, you can see how they are optimistic that they may not have as much "top end" talent on the front, but they seem to have 6-8 defensive line options that are good enough to consider as a workable DL rotation.  

In other words, they are anonymous, but Marinelli might be building something right under our noses that he is not upset with.  I am sure he wishes they would have thrown several new bodies at him back at the draft, but if this line can hold its own, they might surprise some people.

Of course, we can reach no conclusions after Week 1, besides the idea that they weren't bad at all as a group.  They need sacks and takeaways to supplement flashes of reasonable play.  

Now, let's see more.