Ryan defenses in year 2

Rob Ryan is entering his second year as the Cowboys defensive coordinator. A lot of hope has been place on Ryan and new additions to his defensive staff such as secondary coach Jerome Henderson and assistant Joe Baker, as well as player additions through free agency: CB Brandon Carr, S Brodney Pool, ILB Dan Connor and through the draft: CB Morris Claiborne, DE Tyrone Crawford, LB Kyle Wilber, S Matt Johnson. In addition to all of the new talent that The Dude has to work with, he is also being afforded a full offseason to install his defensive scheme with the team.

While these are all things to be optimistic about, I was wondering just what kind of improvements, if any, Ryan has made in his second year as defensive coordinator at other stops along the way. What has Ryan been able to accomplish when mostly only given more time to work with his players, and not necessarily all the new toys that he has received in his second season in Dallas?

Ryan has served as defensive coordinator for two other teams during his NFL career; the Oakland Raiders from 2004-2008 and the Cleveland Browns from 2009-2010. Neither of these teams has been a model of success for the past decade (The Browns probably since Bernie Kosar) but what was our long-haired coordinator able to do for them on the defensive side of the ball?

Oakland Raiders:

2004 Season (Ryan’s first as a defensive coordinator)

2004 Season Passing Rushing
Pts Yds 1st Scks Int FF (FR) Yds Allowed Tds Yds Allowed Tds
Def 442 5936 367 24 9 9 (9) 3924 30 2012 21
Rank 31st 30th 32nd 31st 29th 25th 30th 27th 22nd 30th

2005 Season Passing Rushing
Pts Yds 1st Scks Int FF (FR) Yds Allowed Tds Yds Allowed Tds
Def 383 5292 299 36 5 15 (14) 3243 18 2049 18
Rank 25th 27th 19th 18th 32nd 8th 18th 9th 25th 25th

When looking at the changes from the 2004 season to the 2005 season, it appears that Ryan’s Raider defense improved mostly across the board. The only real step back was in the interception category in which they nabbed about half; 5 in 2005 vs. 9 in 2004. They were able to make up for that by forcing and recovering 5 more fumbles in 2005 for an overall improvement of 1 extra turnover forced in 2005. In other words, turnovers remained basically the same. The biggest improvements were the 59 fewer points that they gave up over the season along with a drop of 68 in first downs given to opposing offenses. Oh, and putting opposing QB’s on the turf 12 more times is nice too.

Now on to Cleveland!

2009 Season Passing Rushing
Pts Yds 1st Scks Int FF (FR) Yds Allowed Tds Yds Allowed Tds
Def 375 6229 336 40 10 12 (9) 3915 22 2314 15
Rank 21st 31st 32nd 8th 29th 26th 29th 14th 28th 19th

2010 Season Passing Rushing
Pts Yds 1st Scks Int FF (FR) Yds Allowed Tds Yds Allowed Tds
Def 332 5601 317 29 19 9 (9) 2989 26 2070 7
Rank 13th 22nd 23rd 25th 8th 20th 18th 24th 27th 4th

With the Browns Ryan again made significant improvements in his second year in scoring, by allowing 43 less points than the previous season, and total yardage with 628 fewer yards given up. They made a more modest improvement by giving up 19 fewer 1st downs over the season and managed to cut rushing touchdowns allowed in half with 7 in 2010 vs. 15 in 2009. The biggest surprises were a negative; managing 11 fewer sacks, and a positive; forcing 9 more turnovers than the previous season.

When comparing first year Ryan defenses with second year Ryan defenses overall, we see marked improvements in scoring (102 fewer points given up in year two), total yardage (1,272 fewer) and first downs given up, dropping 87 in year two. We see sack totals fluctuate greatly the second year, going up 12 in Oakland and down 11 in Cleveland. So not much can be taken from those numbers except that, for once, I hope we have something in common with Oakland. Turnovers improved by 10 overall, but 9 of those were in Cleveland so, guess what? For once I hope we have something in common with Cleveland.

The stats that we should hope to be able to count on based on Ryan’s track record are that our team will give up fewer points, yardage and first downs. Obviously, giving up less points is kind of important in football and the yardage and first downs should lead to more punts by opposing offenses and better field position for our own offense. However, if we are very unlucky and are like Oakland and Cleveland in the wrong ways, we may only force about the same amount of turnovers and come up with significantly fewer sacks.

Obviously the point of bringing in a new defensive coordinator is to improve your defense. But being expected to do something and actually doing it are two very different things. Hopefully Rob can continue his trend of improving defenses overall in his second year with the Cowboys.

Note: Quickly about the 2006 season which I did not include above due to this post being about Ryan’s defenses changing in his second season. The 2006 Raiders gave up 51 fewer points (332), 32 fewer 1st downs (267), 735 fewer total yards (4557) and forced 4 more turnovers (18 Ints+5 FF=23) than they did in 2005. Probably the most incredible thing is that they were able to make these improvements despite playing with an offense that finished dead last in points (168) and yards (3939), 29th in 1st downs (243) and coughed the ball up an astounding 46 times (24 ints, 22 FL)!

In case you’re wondering, 46 turnovers was last in the league. Oh and the 2006 Raider offense found the end zone just 13 times all year. No, you read that right, 13 offensive tds, not even 1 a game, vs. 46 turnovers. I just had to include that because it shocked me so much. Having said that, for whatever reason (probably that it was the Raiders) his Oakland defense did dive back to average at best in his fourth and fifth seasons as defensive coordinator, so we might want to try and grab that 6th Lombardi in year two or three if we can.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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