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Will Rob Ryan Ask Cowboys Defensive Backs To Rush The Passer?

BTB member Chandus wrote an outstanding post on the Schematic Advantage of Having a Ryan early last week. One of the things he pointed out that he had observed about the Rob Ryan defenses was that Ryan likes to rush the the passer with what Chandus calls "unannounced blitzers":

Candus's film study showed that Ryan likes to hide the points of attack of his rushers by using delayed rushes from the ILB or the defensive backs (either safeties or corners) to "blitz the brains out of the OLineman and QB".

This prompted me to look up the data on rushing DBs, focusing specifically on the Cowboys and Browns as well as, for obvious reasons, the Jets and how they all rank versus the other 3-4 teams in the league.

Here’s a list compiled from Profootballfocus showing the number of times a DB rushed the passer for each 3-4 team in 2010:

Team DB Rushes Total Rushing Snaps %
Jets 340 3061 11.1%
GB 178 3014 5.9%
Browns 145 2469 5.9%
DEN 150 2590 5.8%
BAL 169 3103 5.4%
WAS 153 2831 5.4%
ARI 147 2742 5.4%
BUF 93 2313 4.0%
MIA 92 2466 3.7%
NE 110 3015 3.6%
KC 103 2914 3.5%
PIT 110 3167 3.5%
SD 60 2446 2.5%
SF 58 2688 2.2%
Cowboys 50 2748 1.8%

[Note on the data: the number DB rushes means that e.g. a Cowboys DB rushed the passer 50 separate times in 2010. This does not mean it happened on 50 different snaps. If two DBs rushed the passer on the same defensive snap, it would be counted as two rushes. Hence also the high number of team rushes. Teams usually rush four, five or more players at once, but each rush is counted individually here.]

The Cowboys rushed their DB the fewest of all 3-4 teams, while the two Ryan brothers seem to really, really like rushing their DBs.

Let's look at the rushing personnel in a little more detail for the three teams:

Team CB SCB FS SS Total
Jets 2 59 85 194 340
Browns 25 22 27 71 145
Cowboys 5 25 10 10 50

[Note on the data: because many of the non-starting players played multiple positions in the secondary in different games, I used the PFF position designation in which the player played the majority of his snaps to calculate the values for the position groups above]

Cowboys: CB’s Jenkins and Newman did not rush the passer once all season. The five rushes in the table above are all Bryan McCann's. SS Gerald Sensabaugh rushed only nine times and FS Alan Ball only seven times. Danny McCray (3) and Barry Church (1) made up the rest of the safety pressure. Slot CB Scandrick rushed 25 times, and this is about what the slot corners on the other teams rushed as well. Looks like Scandrick will like a scheme that rushes more DBs.

Browns: The Browns starting CBs Sheldon Brown & Joe Haden rushed the passer, though sparingly, 23 times. The strong safeties (Elam, Adams, Ventrone and others) are where Rob Ryan dialed up the pressure from and they rushed a combined 71 times. The slot CB Eric Wright rushed 22 times.

Jets: CBs Antonio Cromartie & Darelle Revis rushed the QB all of two times all season. The Jets dialed up the pressure with their safeties, led by Eris Smith with 71 rushes and Jim Leonhard with 58. The two slot corners rushed a combined 59 times.

Going back all three years available from PFF, the numbers show that the Cowboys under Wade Phillips hardly ever the passer from the secondary, and Paul Pasqualoni didn't change that in the eight games he was in charge of the defense.

Both Ryan brothers like to bring pressure from the secondary, though not from the starting corners. The safeties and slot corners are sent after the QB often and hard, and it isn't much of a stretch to think that Rob Ryan would like to implement a similar scheme in Dallas. But does he have the safeties to do it with? And if not, will he ask Jerry and Jason to get him just such a safety?

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