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Cowboys Should Be A Pressure Defense Under Rob Ryan

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Pat Kirwan at NFL.com takes a look at Rob Ryan and what his impact could be as the Dallas Cowboys new defensive coordinator. There are some interesting nuggets in the piece, some potentially good and some potentially bad. For instance, Kirwan notes that Ryan's biggest impact on a new defense that he's taken over is usually in the second and third years. That makes sense, it takes time to fully implement a new scheme. But this year, it could be even worse. If the NFL labor mess continues on into the summer or later, Ryan will have very little time to teach his defensive philosophy and there will be little time for the players to absorb all the packages and play-calls. Not an ideal way to break in a new coordinator.

On the positive side, Kirwan notes, along with just about everybody else who writes anything about Rob Ryan, that his energy and attitude are sure to shake-up what had become a complacent and declining defense. Until 2010, the Cowboys defense had been rock-solid against the run, but continued to struggle in pass defense and creating turnovers. In 2010, even the run defense deserted the Cowboys and they gave up the most points scored against in franchise history. That failure was a big reason Wade Phillips, who was supposed to be a defensive guru, was let go.

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Ryan will have some stars (DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff) and some steady contributors to work with in Dallas. It can be argued that this will be the most talent he's ever had to work with as a defensive coordinator. His other stints with the Raiders and the Browns were for some poor teams with a dearth of talent.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of Kirwan's article is his break down of aggressive play-calling from Ryan. He compares the Raiders defense and the Browns defense in the year before Ryan arrived, and the year after, to see just how aggressive a play-caller Ryan is.

Here's what he found, in terms of percentage of "pressure calls" on defense.

Team
Year
First down pct.
Second down pct.
Third down pct.
Oakland
2003 (without Rob Ryan)
29%
35%
29%
Oakland
2004 (with Rob Ryan)
48%
44%
40%
Cleveland
2008 (without Rob Ryan)
42%
42%
41%
Cleveland
2009 (with Rob Ryan)
56%
54%
39%

And his projection for the Cowboys:

Team
Year
First down pct.
Second down pct.
Third down pct.
Dallas
2010 (no Rob Ryan)
26%
44%
36%
Dallas
2011 (with Rob Ryan)
50%
52%
55%

In an interview with DeMarcus Ware I did around the time Wade Phillips was fired, I asked the star pass-rusher what he hopes for in whatever new defense the Cowboys would be running. He wanted to attack, to turn the dogs loose and blitz the QB.

Looks like he'll get his wish in 2011.