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Cowboys News: Why Blitzing Could Be Answer To Cowboys Pass Rush Issues

Latest Cowboys headlines: Will Rod Marinelli be Sir Blitz-A-Lot in 2016? Cowboys haven’t made decision on Rolando McClain’s future.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Defense and Pass Pressure, 2015 - Carl Yedor, Football Outsiders
Yedor takes an extensive look at which teams were best at making opposing quarterbacks' lives miserable, and as you would expect, the Cowboys don't figure prominently in this article.

The Cowboys rank just 22nd overall with a pressure percentage of 24.6%, which isn't particularly impressive, but you probably wouldn't expect particularly impressive numbers from a team that just managed 31 sacks.

But there is an interesting nugget in this analysis, and perhaps a glimmer of hope:

The most successful team when sending a defensive back on a blitz was Dallas, with a success rate of 76 percent. Closely following them were Seattle at (75 percent), Kansas City (71 percent) and then Carolina and Jacksonville (both at 70 percent).

20 Questions: How Will Scandrick’s Return From Injury Impact Defense? - Staff, Dallas Cowboys
Bryan Broaddus points out that Orlando Scandrick's return will add an extra dimension to the Cowboys pass rush.

With Scandrick back in the lineup, Marinelli can procced with his plan of playing him on the left side and moving Brandon Carr to the right side in order to protect him in the scheme from having to deal with the ball consistently coming in his direction. It will also give him the confidence to have a reliable slot player that can not only carry his man all over the field but also bring on that occasional blitz to disrupt the quarterback which they missed without him in the lineup.

Mailbag: Impact Of Suspensions On Pass Rush? - Staff, Dallas Cowboys
Look for a lot of blitzing this season, and not just from the occasional defensive back.

Bryan Broaddus: Where Rod Marinelli is going to have to get creative is with his blitz packages – especially with the linebackers and Orlando Scandrick. I look for similar game plans like we saw in Washington where you had Sean Lee attacking the pocket. It was a plan they used early in the year against New England as well with some success. On straight four man rushes – keep an eye on Benson Mayowa. I believe this is an area that he is going to be able to generate some pressure from.

Cowboys' Rod Marinelli Dials Up Successful Blitzes Against Redskins - JJ Taylor, ESPN Dallas
Because Broaddus mentioned the Redskins game, here's ESPN's take on the game which turned out to be the only game the Cowboys would win without Tony Romo last season.

The Cowboys limited Washington to 266 yards and a 4.4 yards average per play. They gave up 15 first downs and just one touchdown, in part, because Marinelli kept the pressure on Cousins all night with an array of pressures from linebackers and safeties.

Understand, Marinelli doesn’t like to blitz. Abhors it. He wants to use a four-man rush to harass the quarterback and drop seven into coverage because he believes that’s the best way to play pass defense. The problem, of course, is the Cowboys’ pass rush has been useless much of the season.

Marinelli changed his tactics against Washington because the Cowboys needed to enhance their pass rush, and they believed Washington would have difficulty handling the blitz.

Sizing up the Dallas Cowboys, the Browns’ Week 9 foe - Patrick Maks,
Cleveland hosts Dallas for the first time since 2008, and the official Browns site offers a brief profile of the Cowboys, including what they consider the Cowboys' biggest loss for 2016.

If you are standing right now, sit down; if you are holding a hot beverage, or a cold one, or holding anything at all, put it down; if you are eating or drinking something, make sure you clear your mouth and throat of any potential choking hazards, because here goes:

Biggest loss: QB Matt Cassell — Without Cassell, who signed with the Titans in free agency, there’s a notion that the cupboard is bare when it comes to the Cowboys’ backup quarterback situation.

Travis Frederick is the best center in the NFL - Doug Farrar,
Farrar ranks the best centers in the NFL, and the best player is a guy many pundits laughed about when the Cowboys drafted him.

Remember when Dallas took Frederick with the 31st overall pick in the 2013 draft and everybody thought it was ridiculous? Nobody's laughing now. Frederick has become the most reliable and technically sound center in the NFL, and the epicenter of the league's finest offensive line. In 1,027 snaps last season, per Football Outsiders' charting database, he amassed just six blown blocks, allowed one sack, and just two hurries. Frederick has always been a mauler in the zone run game, but it's his development as a pass protector that puts him at the top of this list.

Here's Pro Football Talk's take on Travis Frederick at the time.

On Mike Mayock’s list of the top 100 prospects in the draft, Frederick checked in at No. 92 — 50 spots lower than the next-lowest player selected in the first round. On the draft board, Frederick was listed as a third-round pick.

But that’s just members of the media. What did NFL teams think? Ed Werder of ESPN surveyed five NFL teams and asked for their grades on Frederick. One team rated him a fourth-round pick, two had him as a fifth-round pick, one had him as a sixth-round pick and one had him as a borderline sixth- or seventh-round pick.

And because we're in a giving mood today, here's Ed Werder's original tweet on the topic.

The NFL’s best offensive tackle: Tyron Smith - Greg Bedard,
More accolades for the Cowboys' O-line, this time for Tyron Smith, the best left tackle in the NFL.

Smith allowed just 22 pressures last season according to PFF and while there are bouts of inconsistency, they are few and far between at this stage in his career as his technique rises to an elite level. Smith has the prototype frame and athletic ability, and he’s now coming into his own. Thomas is more consistent as a pass blocker, but Smith is an absolute butt-kicker in the run game and that’s why he should be the best tackle in the game this season. Smith is on his way to a Hall-of-Fame career.


Projecting The Cowboys' Starters On Offense - John Owning, Today's Pigskin
The Cowboys offense is fairly easy to project, and most and the first 10 guys are basically set in stone: 5 OL, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB, 1 QB. That leaves the 11th starter, which can be a second tight end, a third receiver, or a second running back. Owning opts for a fullback.

Fullback: Rod Smith

Versatility. That’s what Rod Smith brings to the fullback position for the Cowboys’ offense. Smith understands the reads that a running back must make; therefore, he knows the best way to shield or block defenders to give the running back the best opportunity to gain the most amount of yards. Furthermore, Smith brings an ability to contribute as a receiver, which the Cowboys haven’t had in many years. This opens up the Cowboys offense even more and makes the defense account for another weapon.

20 Questions: Writers Debate Which Position Could Use More Depth - Staff, Dallas Cowboys
The four staff writers each pick a different position and explain why the Cowboys don't have enough depth at the position. Predictably, almost the entire defense gets a mention (Broaddus: Linebackers, Phillips: defensive ends, Helman: defensive backs), which I'll take to mean the Cowboys have good depth at defensive tackle, so that's something.

Nick Eatman gets to write up the only offensive position, quarterback.

I think the obvious answer here is quarterback. I tried to go through the roster and look at all of the other positions and find areas that could be upgraded from top to bottom. But how is this not quarterback? Last year was proof enough how different things are from the starter to the backup – or backups in last year’s case. And so what changed? The undersized guy who has yet to win a game in his career is your backup quarterback with a rookie draft pick in the mix. They didn’t exactly address the position this offseason with proven talent. I do think Moore will be better and more comfortable in the offense. But I also thought Weeden and Cassel could win a few games each, and that obviously didn’t happen. So considering the injury history recently with Romo and the inexperience behind him, coupled with what we saw last year, I think the answer is definitely quarterback.


Cowboys haven’t made decision on Rolando McClain’s future - Charean Williams, The Star-Telegram
The always reliable Charean Williams notes that while the Cowboys might like to release suspended middle linebacker Rolando McClain, financial considerations could prevent them from doing that right now.

The Cowboys re-signed McClain to a one-year, $4 million contract, including a $750,000 signing bonus, on March 9. The league suspended McClain on June 30.

McClain has forfeited his signing bonus, per the collective bargaining agreement, but his release would prevent the Cowboys from recouping the money.

"The main thing is strategically, [financially], it’s not good for us," Jones said of the potential of releasing McClain, "and he doesn’t take up an active spot on the roster [during the season]."

Machota: How Cowboys can avoid John Clayton's scenario of having to rebuild by 2018 - Staff, SportsDay
Jon Machota, addresses Clayton's prediction from earlier in the week that the Cowboys will enter rebuilding mode in 2018 when Tony Romo retires.

If they can find Tony Romo's successor, there won't be a rebuilding mode. Finding the next franchise QB is the key. If it's not Dak Prescott, then how will they acquire that player? They have pieces on the offensive line and running back that will likely still be playing at a high level a few years from now. I think as long as Dez Bryant avoids any significant injuries, he has the type of game that should translate into quality production into his early 30s. It's a QB league. Find that next QB and you won't be rebuilding.


Dean Blandino: Still No Catch, Dez - Mark Lane, Cowboys HQ
NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino was in Dallas for the league's annual Officiating Clinic and maintained that Dez Bryant's catch in Green Bay still wasn't a catch, though he conceded that "there are always going to be those plays that are subject to debate."

This is the second time the league has adapted the rule, and they continue to bungle it, and Blandino continues to try and sweet talk his way out of the mess of his own making.

Keep in mind that like a thief in the night, the league published this year's new rulebook, along with the re-re-worded catch rule, over the 4th of July weekend in an effort to bury the entire thing at the end of the news cycle. That is not how an organization works that's confident in what it's doing.

For completeness's sake, here's Blandino's spin on the new rule:

"Control, plus two feet, plus time," Blandino explained on what constitutes a catch. "Where we've gotten to is that everybody tends to agree what control and two feet look like, but it's that time element that tends to be the debatable subject. It is subjective, but what the time element means is having the ball long enough after the second foot is down to become a runner."

Said Blandino: "So control, plus two feet, plus time. If you don't have those elements before you go to the ground, then the standard becomes hold onto it when you land. And if [it doesn't] survive the ground, then it's an incomplete pass. That's the rule in a nutshell."

Rams, UC Irvine agree to three-year training camp deal -
The Rams will officially return to Southern California by opening training camp at the University of California, Irvine. The two have agreed to a three-year deal to host Rams training camps at the school. Which means the Cowboys have uncontested access to Oxnard for the next three years - if they want to.

​All 32 teams pass on the six eligible players in the 2016 NFL supplemental draft -
The six players are now considered street free agents and can sign with any team.