Pass Prevention Predicament

The Cowboys and almost all of the fans find themselves in a little predicament, how to fix this bad defense. There's a lot of finger pointing going on, almost as much as on the field with Ryan's scheme (I keed, I keed). I want to find out what the big weakness is, once and for all. OCC has already done a bit of digging on the pass rush, and I'm going to provide just a little different spin on it. If you're one of those people still thinks a bad defense can't have a good pass rush, take the jump.

To begin, let's take a look at the rankings for one of the most important stats for both offenses and defenses, Net Yards per Attempt. As we all know this is a passing league, and preventing the pass is what your defense needs to do. FiTaT has been a strong advocate for this stat and here is more or less why...

Team/Rank NY/A Team/Rank PA
Steelers 4.9 Steelers 227
Texans 5.2 49ers 229
Ravens 5.4 Ravens 266
Bengals 5.8 Texans 278
Lions 5.9 Browns 307
Jets 5.9 Dolphins 313
Titans 5.9 Seahawks 315
Browns 5.9 Titans 317
49ers 5.9 Bengals 323
Cardinals 6.0 Eagles 328
Average Team 6.3 Average Team 354.9

Out of the top ten teams in NY/A, 7 also rank in the top ten in points allowed. I think this pretty accurately shows the correlation between controlling passing and limiting points. 6 of these teams made the playoffs.

Now let's look at the top 10 teams in pass rushing. We'll be looking at percentages of passing attempts versus pass rush.

Team/Rank Sack% Team/Rank QBHit%
Eagles 8.8 Texans 16.1
Vikings 8.5 Bengals 15.9
Ravens 8.2 Eagles 14.6
Bengals 7.7 Cowboys 14.0
Texans 7.6 Ravens 13.9
Giants 7.5 Rams 13.7
Redskins 7.5 Dolphins 13.2
Rams 7.5 Vikings 12.8
Cowboys 7.2 Giants 12.8
Broncos 7.1 Broncos 11.8

As you can see, every sack % leader also ranked top 10 in QB hits %, except for one. Its kind of obvious but I had to show you. If you're sacking the quarterback a lot, chances are you're getting hits on him a lot too. I think its fair to say this list of the top 10 pass rushing teams is accurate. So, ladies and gentlemen, the Cowboys really did have a top 10 pass rush.

I don't have all the stats for secondaries. Targets/Allowed Receptions are hard to come by, I've looked. So, in order to gauge how well a team's secondary helped them, I'm going to keep it really simple. Completion %.

Team/Rank Cmp%
Texans 51.9
Ravens 53.8
Raiders 53.9
Jets 54.2
Steelers 54.5
Browns 56.5
Chiefs 56.6
49ers 57.5
Saints 57.8
Eagles 58.1

Anyone look familiar? Now, with all of this data, I can draw a few conclusions about a team's secondary.

  • If you were top 10 in NY/A, top 10 in completion %, but not top ten in pass rush, you had a good secondary.
  • If you were top 10 in NY/A, top 10 in Completion %, and top ten in pass rush, you probably had a good secondary.
  • If you weren't top 10 in NY/A or completion %, but were top 10 in pass rush, you had a bad secondary.

Guess which category the Cowboys fall under? We are in the same boat the Vikings are in. They've got Jared Allen the sack leader, but could not stop the pass. To illustrate the point of pass rush vs. secondary, look at the Jets. They had an average pass rush this year, but still ranked 6th in NY/A. That screams that they had a good secondary. The Raiders are another example of this.

But maybe Completion % doesn't float your boat, I understand, so I will make a couple of quick comparisons. Lets find out the number of completions the secondary didn't allow (without the influence of the pass rush). So, we've got 545 attempts minus the 336 completions which gives us 209. Now let's take out the sacks and hits we mustered, leaving 78 incompletions that were not influenced by the pass rush (QB 'pressures' aside). That's about 14% of passing attempts that were incompletions that you could say our secondary had the biggest hand in.

Alrighty, lets first take a look at what the Viking's secondary's percentage is, since I suspect they have as bad a secondary as ours (or worse). 7.8% incompletions attributed to their secondary... ouch. Ok, now lets compare that to a team who also has a good pass rush, but whom I suspect also has an average to above average secondary, the Texans. 20% of their incompletions can be attributed to their secondary.

It's hard to tell if a team had a bad secondary, but such a good pass rush it doesn't matter. It isn't hard to tell however, whether a team had such a bad secondary, it's good pass rush didn't matter. That's exactly where the Cowboys are. The whole point of this is to show that the pass rush did its job. Is the pass rush going to do its job every down? No, nor will anyone else's. Its the secondary that didn't do their job.

I will say that a good pass rush is more effective than a good secondary. It's just that your secondary has to not suck so bad that it negates what your pass rush is doing.

So, you tell me which part of the defense needs more help.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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