Practices are not yet in full swing, but already Rob Ryan's aggressive defense is on display. The team roster is not yet full, but already players are getting used to a different style of 3-4 defense than we have seen in Dallas. We have already heard from OCC about the blitzing from the secondary that has been on full display. But the new Dallas Defense headed by coach Rob Ryan will have far greater differences and more surprises for fans and opposing offenses.
While the Cowboys did rank 16th in sacks in 2010, it often seemed the pressure was not enough nor consistent, especially considering how the secondary struggled against the pass. But I think much of that was due to the recognizable schemes and blitzes that Wade used as he simplified the defense. Teams were not surprised by where the pressure was coming and few mismatches were created or taken advantage of by the defense. Rob Ryan has a much different defensive philosophy.
Former NFL scout and ESPN Dallas reporter Brian Broaddus discusses some highlights from recent practices.
Garrett spoke about his defensive players having to learn the scheme. It's a scheme that is truly different from what the Cowboys had run under Wade Phillips, who spoke of an aggressive, attack style when he first showed up at Valley Ranch but failed to deliver. Ryan's 3-4 is attacking and takes advantage of mismatches across the board.
I cannot recall a great variety of blitzes from Wade Phillips. Obviously, DeMarcus Ware was routinely sent after the quarterback. And then either Anthony Spencer was also sent on the opposite side or Keith Brooking tried to blitz up the middle. Not much more color than that. When coach Pasqualoni took over we saw a few corner blitzes from 4-man fronts, but actually saw fewer blitzes in total. Yes, Rob Ryan's difference will be much different.
In these first two days of practice here in San Antonio, I have seen more corner blitzes, more safety blitzes and more linebacker cross blitzes than I saw in four years with Phillips. Ryan is not afraid to give the quarterback a different look, down after down.
No, Ryan is not an innovator because he uses crossing blitzes with his linebackers. The idea has been around for ages where one linebacker blitzes the gap in front of the other backer - and vice versa - where they "cross" paths, it is not a new idea...it just seems a new concept for the Cowboys defense.
All offseason Cowboys fans have worried about upgrading the defensive line personnel to help provide more pressure and get to the quarterback. Cowboys and BTB nation were upset that Stephen Bowen was "stolen" by the Redskins and breaking news is that the Eagles have now signed another potential Cowboys target Cullen Jenkins. But fear not. Rob Ryan will not be relying on the Big Nasties on the line to be the driving force of his pressure packages. Jay Ratliff will certainly get some sacks and QB hurries, Marcus Spears should have some more pressure stats than he did in years past, but the d-line will be tasked with owning the line of scrimmage, and the linebackers and defensive backs will be the ones hitting quarterbacks often.
Broaddus also explains how Ryan uses his safeties interchangeably, where even the free safety will line up in the box and press the line against the run. This is something to consider as we await news on a free agent safety signing and when we see the starting lineup before Week 1 games versus the Jets.
Now, I for one expected that Rob Ryan would be slow to open up his creative defensive playbook because of the missed time this offseason, but it seems that the players did their homework during their unofficial practices, because we are already seeing Ryan implement some more exotic blitzes and scheme designs in the early days of training camp.
When Romo is shouting "Kill, kill!" before the snap to change plays and protections and it's just a walkthrough practice, you know that the defensive coordinator is up to no good.
Well, the saying is "up to no good," but this may be the greatest good the Cowboys defense has seen in a long time.
P.S. While we consider Ryan's new style of defense and his attempt to teach his intricate schemes, let's not forget another great teaching coach on the Cowboys staff that doesn't get as much recognition. As Broaddus said on twitter...
Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus)
7/30/11 3:50 PM
In 13 years as a scout, I have never seen a special teams coach that comes up with more ways to teach his scheme than Joe DeCamillis.