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Carr & Connor Cause Mercilus & Ingram to Make Sense

The game of football is the most codependent sport that there is. Receivers rely on quarterbacks and quarterbacks on receivers. Backs rely on guards and guards rely on tackles. From a broader defensive standpoint, the pass rush relies on the coverage and vice versa. As a team, when you can't cover a receiver for more than one second and you can only get consistent pressure from one player, you're going to end up with a pass defense rank in the 20's. The Cowboys finished last year ranked 23rd.

Since that time, the Cowboys have signed a stud corner in Brandon Carr , a solid, young linebacker in Dan Connor, a potential starting safety in Brodney Pool and they let go of the two worst pass covering linebackers in the history of ever in Keith Brooking and Bradie James. They franchised Anthony Spencer to eliminate major offseason questions concerning the outside linebacker position.

Since the Cowboys have sured-up things in the mid to back end, it's less important to have outside linebackers that can drop back into coverage. With upgrades to the line backing core and secondary when it comes to coverage, it becomes easier to drop only six guys in coverage and send five on the blitz. That's getting back to the codependent thing I was talking about. The addition of Connor gives Rob Ryan a guy who can cover a swinging back or tight end for more than half a second, so that Sean Lee can be sent on more blitzes to get him in the backfield where he plays best. < That's one of the most overlooked points when it comes to the recent free agent signings.

The way that the Boys have handled this entire offseason makes drafting Illinois 4-3 end Whitney Mercilus or South Carolina 4-2-5 Melvin Ingram more and more of good ideas. He wouldn't have to drop into coverage very much and he could just be a third down "go get 'em" pass rusher until he learns how to fully play the 3-4 outside backer position.

More after the jump...

Let's rehash what happened last year. Keith Brooking and Bradie James were so terrible in pass coverage that I can't even put it into words. When quarterbacks threw over the middle more times than not, the pass was completed. I'm not exaggerating at all. After the Cowboys week 8 34-7 loss to the Eagles, I was so irked by James and Brooking that I took an hour and a half to put a video together of all there flaws from that one game. IT WAS OVER SEVEN MINUTES LONG! ONE GAME. If you liked Bradie James or Keith Brookings at all last year, I suggest you take a peek. Youtube kept taking it down so I can't embed it but here's the link > brooking and james suck Pardon the logo, it's from an old site where I used to write and make videos.

If you watched the video, my point is clear. Now, onto Terence Newman. His season started of going pretty well. By season's end though, he was commonly seen being hurdled and being bullied by Brandon Marshall. I don't have a video of Newman from 2011 but his rapid decline began in 2010 and I did make a video of lowlights from that season. The level of play in this video pretty much continued into the next season. I made the video after people were trying to tell me that Newman was still good because he had 5 picks.

When you don't have a single defensive back that is a consistent playmaker and you have liabilities at corner, safety, and linebacker, it's hard for a defensive coordinator to have the confidence to call blitzes. DeMarcus Ware was forced to rush the passer on almost every play due to the lack of pressure and Anthony Spencer was forced to drop back in coverage more because of the awful linebacker and secondary play. The Boys addressed most of the secondary concerns through free agency so it makes sense to complete the other half of the puzzle in the draft.

I'm not going to focus on Melvin Ingram in this post for a few reasons. After his pro day there's a very good chance that he will be gone before 14, he played in a 4-2-5 under Steve Spurrier rather than the traditional 4-3 so he wouldn't fit into the criteria of my chart, it's already been widely accepted that he will be successful no matter where he plays because of his versatility, and I haven't made a video for him. Plus I like the pure pass rushing skills of Mercilus better.

That's where Illinois 4-3 DE Whitney Mercilus comes in. He led the nation with 16 sacks a year ago. It's a common perception that making the transition from 4-3 college end to 3-4 outside backer is a tough, long one. When it comes to dropping into coverage and playing the run, that perception could be true but when it comes to rushing the passer it's a proven myth. Here's the proof:

All first round OLBs who played 4-3 end in college, sack production over first four seasons projected over 16 games to take injuries out of the equation, since 2003

Player

1st season sacks projected over 16 games

2nd season sacks projected over 16 games

3rd season sacks projected over 16 games

4th season sacks projected over 16 games

Average over first four seasons

Shawne Merriman, SD

10.5

22.5

13

N/A#

15.5

Aldon Smith, SF

14

N/A*

N/A*

N/A*

14

DeMarcus Ware, DAL

8

11.5

14

20

13.5

Terrell Suggs, BAL

12

10.5

8

9.5

10

Brian Orakpo, WAS

11

9

9

N/A*

9.5

Ryan Kerrigan, WAS

7.5

N/A*

N/A*

N/A*

7.5

Kamerion Wimbley, CLE

11

5

4

6.5

6.5

Jason Babin, HOU

4

5.5

4

N/A%

5

Manny Lawson, SF

2.5

N/A#

3.5

6.5

4

Anthony Spencer, DAL

3

2

6

5

4

Vernon Gholston, NYJ

0

0

0

N/A%

0

AVERAGE W/O GHOLSTON

8.5

9.5

7.5

9.5

9

* Has Not Played Season Yet, # Played in Less than 4 Games, % No Longer in a 3-4 Defense

The average rookie first round pick switching from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 backer has had 8.5 sacks since 2003. That's very good production from a veteran. The myth that it takes players a while to develop pass rushing techniques without having a hand on the ground is pretty much completely false. The only guy who completely blew, Vernon Gholston, was cut from the Bears, a 4-3 defensive team like he played on in college, without playing a single down. He simply was never a very good pass rusher. The Jets simply fell in love with his measurables.

Mercilus could be used like Aldon Smith was used last year for the 49ers. Aldon Smith had amazing talent as a pass rusher and that's about it. He started 0 games and only played in pressure situations. Aldon Smith played weakside backer where Parys Haralson started all 16 games. Like Anthony Spencer, Haralson is a JAG (just a guy) who has decent pass rushing skills and served as a technically sound backer to take Aldon Smith out of running situations. A Spencer - Mercilus relationship would resemble the Haralson - Smith relationship from a year ago.

Basically, Mercilus would steal all of Victor Butler's time as a situational pass-rusher. On the surface Butler looks like a guy who could be developed into a replacement for Spencer but that's far-fetched heading into his fourth year. It's obvious that the coaching staff doesn't think too highly of him. They didn't seem too interested in developing him last year. He only played on 233 of 1053 (22.1%) of defensive plays even though the coaches knew there would be a chance that Spencer would walk at season's end. Not to mention he's pretty useless as a run defender.

Mercilus has more size, strength, speed, talent, upside, and run defending skills than Butler. The run defending skills don't really matter right away because with Dan Connor in the middle, all seven front starters are solid to above average run defenders. There's no real need to have Mercilus on the field on first down unless the other team is trying to mount a comeback.

I'm a big David DeCastro guy but there will be guards at 45. In a typical draft, the best gaurd would still be around at that spot. You could get Mercilus at 14 and get a gaurd like Cordy Glenn or Kelechi Osemele at 45. If you use the pick right, a 45 can be as good as a first round pick. Harrison Smith, the safety from Notre Dame could be there.

Highlights I made for Mercilus:


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