There are three types of defenses in the NFL today. Not the 3-4, 4-3 and 46 formations but:
1) Defense that doesn’t give up many points
2) Defense that forces turnovers (TOs)
3) Defense that does both
Naturally, as a defense, you want to do both. However, in today’s NFL, you have to work with the players you have to develop one of the above defenses. When you think of the elite defenses that do both, you think of the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, the New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens. They are known for keeping the scores low, forcing TOs and scoring when the defense gets the ball in their hands. How many times have you seen Balitmore’s Ed Reed returning an interception (INT) for a score? Or the Jets forcing a fumble and scoring a TD? Or (insert any Patriots player here) causing a big TO and scoring? Those defense keep points off the board and makes things easier for the offense. One thing that gets left out of the equation is how this works with the respective team’s offense.
As an offense, I pose this question: Would you rather have the ball more times than the opposing offense or just keep the opposing offense from scoring points? You then have to look at the makeup of your offense. Do we have an offense that scores often, or one that has trouble scoring at times? If I have an offense that can score TDs, I want the ball more often. If I have an offense that doesn’t put up a lot of points, I need the opposing offense to not put up many points. It may seem like the answers should be opposite but it’s not when you think about it.
Take for instance the 2010 Super Bowl Champions New Orleans Saints. During the 2009 NFL season, they forced 39 TOs. Averaged out over 16 games, that’s about 2.4 more times a game in which Drew Brees had the opportunity to score pointss. In the 2010 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers also forced 32 TOs. Those defenses were set up to get the ball back to their prolific offenses. As an offensive coordinator, I would prefer MY offense having two or three more times to score rather than having to make sure we scored every possession.
How this all relates to the Cowboys is simple; give Tony (Romo) and Co. more opportunities to score. I’d rather rely on our offense out dueling an opposing team’s offense than having to make sure we score X amount of points to win a game. Over the past few years, the Cowboys have forced:
2007: 29 (19 INTS; 10 Fumble Rec)
2008: 22 (8 INTS; 14 Fumble Rec)
2009: 21 (11 INTS; 10 Fumble Rec)
2010: 30 (20 INTS; 10 Fumble Rec)
As you can see, Wade’s defenses weren’t getting the ball back enough for our offenses and it showed in our record. In 2007 when the ‘Boys were favored to get to the Super Bowl, we were borderline elite status getting the ball back.
Looking at the 2010 numbers, you see the 30 turnovers and will easily point out our defense was amongst the worst in the league. That season was an aberration because Phillip was replaced halfway through the season. After that, the defense played more discipline and allowed the defenders to actually face the ball more rather than playing with his back to the QB.
Take a closer look at the Cleveland Browns TO rate when Rob Ryan was there:
2007: 27 (17 INTS; 10 Fumble Recs)
2008: 34 (23 INTS; 11 Fumble Recs)
2009: 19 (10 INTS; 9 Fumble Recs)
2010: 28 (19 INTS; 9 Fumble Recs)
Only once in the last four seasons did a Rob Ryan defense fail to tall 27 or more takeaways. If he is able to push our total in the high 20s with a healthy Romo all season, we’ll be sure to be in the thick of a playoff race at the end of the season.
Two things that I plan we will see in the Rob Ryan Defense are: More coverages with the Defensive Back (DB) actually facing the QB and a more aggressive defense when trying to go for the strip. How many times have we (myself included) screamed at the TV when Orlando Scandrick or Terence Newman are defending a pass with his back to the QB and they are trying to time the pass break up by looking at the Wide Receiver (WR)’s eyes? On too many occasions, had they turned around a second or two earlier in the route, they could have just easily be fighting for the interception or breaking the pass up.
Same thing goes with going for the strip. Go back to the Green Bay Game in 2009 when Roy Williams had just made a reception that on the face, looked like the game was broken open. During his attempt to elude the defenders, Charles Woodson goes for the swipe even though had he missed the tackle, Williams would have gotten more yards. That is a part of coaching. Last year against the Bears, they targeted Williams again and forced a fumble. Same thing happened with the Saints game. Opponents almost always go for the strip and it helps generate TOs. I’m sure that is something that we’ll see a lot more this year in the defense.
So, in closing, I feel that will be the biggest difference this year in the Cowboys defense. Coaching to get TOs makes all the difference when you are working with a potent offense. I pose the question to you, which type of defense would you rather have?