First off I just want to let everyone know up front that this is an excercise. I am not advocating that Dallas do this. IF you agree with this fine, if you don't that is cool. To each their own as they say. However please refrain from insulting me personally if you don't agree. It is annoying, and shows a complete lack of class. Ok rant over. On to the task at hand.
It has been pointed out numerous times here on this site that the NFL is becoming Pass-Oriented. If you don't believe me just click here.(link) Now that you have read that,(you did read it right?), You know what I mean when I said that the league is becoming Pass-Oriented. With this in mind I want to share the Defense that I would run if I was the DC on the Cowboys.
Now I have done a similar post to this here. However I didn't really go into a lot of details about why I feel that this is a good defense, especially for Dallas. I will go into detail about it now. The thing that I want you to know before we get started is that this is completely radical in comparison to how things are done currently in the NFL. However, at one time the 3-4 was completely radical, as was Tom Landry's 4-3 Flex. Now I am not saying that my ideas are on that level, but as man once said, "Things Change". With this in mind I want to share the Defense that I would run if I was the DC on the Cowboys.
First off let me tell you about my Defensive Line. Using the Cowboys Roster, here it is:
DT's- Lissemore, Brent-Price
Yes I have 5 Defensive lineman. The Reason for this is simple. I want my Defensive Line to create pressure. Not only on the QB but on the Running Game also. As has been demonstrated repeatedly this Year by Dallas' O line it is very hard on an Offense if the Defensive Line can get consistent penetration. This means that you can't run the Ball effectively nor can you take shots down the Field. Now you can get a few good plays in by running screens and Draws both which take advantage of a high pressure D-line. But if that is all you run...good luck winning the game, because I have an answer to that. But that will come later. Now most people would say, "but you basically Blitzing every play! Teams will simply go Max protect and burn you that way!" Ok lets break it down( i will be using Dallas terminology [as I know them] for the Offensive formations):
12 Formation- 5 OL, 2 WR, 1 QB, 1 TE, 2 RB
I counter with this-5 DL, 2 LB, 2 CB, 2 Safeties
This is my "base defense". Notice that every Oline man is Covered by a DLine man, thus eliminating the ability of the Offensive line to Double team my DL's, thus allowing them to penetrate and disrupt. Now even assuming that the O-line blocks my DL one on one, My LB's would be there to "clean up"
Now what if they Pass? Well first off, How many are going out in the Pattern? Assuming Max protection you have 2 WR against 4 DB's if they send the Tightend he has to contend with up to 2 LB's covering him. If the Rb's go out then you have the problem of The DL one on one with the OL again. If the Running Backs stay in to help, well everyone is Double Covered, thus creating either a ball that is thrown away, forced into Double Coverage( very bad idea, will explain about my DB's later) or the QB takes a sack. Thus my D has effectively neutralized the Standard formation in the NFL.
21 Formation- 5 OL, 2 TE, 1 QB, 1 RB, 1 WR
No changes made, Stay in Base D
Now this tends to be a "Run Heavy" formation for the Offense. However, it still does not over come the One on one matchups in the interior of the line. My defense could still get interior penetration and disrupt any "between the Tackles" run, while my LB's could still get outside if necessary for any outside runs. This formation also suffers from the same problems that the "12" formation suffers when attempting to pass. The more players they send out into the pattern, the more pressure my defense line can place on the QB.
22 Formation- 5 OL, 2 TE, 2 RB, 1 QB, 1 WR
Defensive Formation- 5 DL, 4 LB, 2 CB
This tends to be a "goal line" formation. Notice that the WR would be doubled, along with any TE that went out. Should they stay in and Block, My LB's would simply "crash the Line" and prevent any interior runs.
3 wide outs- 5 OL, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 QB, 1 RB
Defensive formation- 5 DL, 1-2 LB, 2-1 S, 3 CB/ Base Defense
This is probably the trickiest Formation to line up against. I may simply stay in my Base and trust my Safeties, or I might pull one for an extra CB, it really would Depend on the quality of WR and TE that are on the Field. If the TE is more of a "blocking" TE, then I would pull a LB and insert a CB. Now if the TE is a Receiving type, then a Safety comes out for the extra CB. if the WR are not much of a threat, I.e the Seahawks, then my Base Defense would probably stay in.
Now once the Offence pulls either the TE or the RB in favor of another WR then it becomes a simple LB for CB swap for each WR that comes in. So in the 4- 5 wide situation my Defense becomes this:
5 DL 4 CB 2 S
This set up allows the Defense to still get pressure, while playing Zone coverage in behind the D-line.
Now I have been Discussing the LB's and DB's and haven't really told you about who I would be using in these Crucial Positions.
For my LB's I would be using Barry Church and Danny McCray as my starters, with Senabuagh, and Bradie James as my Backups. yes 3 of those 4 are currently Safeties. Here is where I get radical with my Philosophy. I want my LB's to have good Coverage skills while still being able to help in Run support. They need to be quick and be able to flow to the ball. Doesn't that sound like the Prototypical Safety to you? It does to me, so that is what I will do. I would place what the NFL calls a Safety and put them closer to the LOS to be able to play run support and cover TE's going out into the Pattern.
Bear in mind that except in run support my LB's will never cross the LOS. I will depend on my DL to apply the pressure in passing situation. 5 guys, no more no less. while this would make the Defensive pressure "predictable" I will depend on the talent of my guys to get the job done. the only reason that Teams Blitz their LB's is to offset the fact that the Offense has an inherent Numbers advantage against the DL. My DL doesn't have that. regardless of how many TE's that the Offence brings in my interior three will still have on-on-one vs the OL interior three. where is the best place to get Pressure? up the middle
Now on to my Safeties: SS would be Orlando Scandrick( though if we draft Prince I would play him here) and at FS would be Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. Now this follows the Current Dallas Philosophy of Corners becoming Safeties, but I would want to move Scandrick to SS as he then would be able to use his speed(ran a 4.32) and his Leaping ability, which was one of his strong points coming out of college, to the best effect. he also is a pretty good Cover Corner which would allow him to effectively double team any outside WR's and TE's. We all know about AOA by now so I won't go into this choice.
Now comes the really radical part. I want use WR's as CB's. Now I am not saying use Dez Bryant or Miles Austin as CB's. I am talking about the Sam Hurd and Roy E. Williams type players, those that have good speed, good hands, but limited route running ability as WR's. I think that these type of players would make great CB's as they already have the most of what you would look for in a CB. Jumping ability, Able to track the Ball in the Air, etc. by using these type of players you negate their weaknesses, and maximize their strengths. Now of course I would not be able to implement this right away, However over time I would slowly phase out our current Corners either by moving them to the Safety position or requesting that the FO trade them for the Type of players that I would want.
(edit) I realized that I forgot to describe the Type of Coverage that I would run with with my Safeties and CB's. considering the type of players that I would be using I will be using what I call a "Man/Cover 2 Zone" In this defense my Cb's play Man coverage with the Safties playing a Cover 2 Zone coverage. What this means is that my Safties are "free roamers" ala Troy Polumalu?/ Ed Reed. They would be free to simply attack the Ball where ever it is thrown. However if a WR tries to run past them the would be responsible to help cover any WR that comes into thier area, which is defined to half the field, 15+ yards downfield. Here is a Diagram of your Basic Cover Two Scheme:
In my Defense the Linebackers are responsible for the flats+Any Hook/Curls, And the Safeties are responsible for the middle +the "standard" upper half. This puts a premium on speed and tackling ability. However if the Offense comes out in a 1 WR formation the free CB becomes an extra LB in my scheme, who's responsiblity would be
Now I understand that these are very radical Ideas. However I feel that as the League becomes even more offensively oriented, then you may start seeing some of these come to pass. As always I welcome any constructive critiques and discussion.
"Have a Great Day" -Jason Garrett