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‘One, Two, Go!’ - How opposing QBs may try to avoid getting sacked by Cowboys

A look at how fast opposing QBs are getting the ball out and what that could mean for the Cowboys defense.

Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

No matter how good your pass rush is, if the opposing QB can get the ball out in less than two seconds, you’re probably not going to sack him. Unless the offensive line completely forgets to block Micah Parsons - which happens!

So it stands to reason that if you want to avoid getting sacked, get the ball out quick; “one, two, go!”

But not all QBs can do that, not all plays allow for that, and not all schemes are designed for that.

It’s still early in the 2022 season, but two games have already been played, and we now have the “Pocket Time” for those two games for all NFL QBs. Pocket time measures the average time the QB had in the pocket between the snap and throwing the ball or pressure collapsing the pocket, in seconds.

And that pocket time number, even if it may change as more games are played, suggests there could be three tiers of QBs in the NFL:

  • “Red” QBs that get the ball out in less than 2.4 second on average and may be tough to bring down.
  • “Yellow” QBs that get the ball out in 2.4 seconds, which is the median value in the NFL.
  • “Green” QBs that hold the ball longer than 2.4 seconds and that might provide stat-padding opportunities for pass rushers.

Here’s the full list, courtesy of

Rk Player Tm PktTime Rk Player Tm PktTime Rk Player Tm PktTime
1 Cooper Rush DAL 2.0 T10 Ryan Tannehill TEN 2.4 T23 Trey Lance SFO 2.5
T2 Josh Allen BUF 2.1 T10 Baker Mayfield CAR 2.4 T23 Geno Smith SEA 2.5
T2 Joe Burrow CIN 2.1 T10 Aaron Rodgers GNB 2.4 T23 Marcus Mariota ATL 2.5
T4 Tom Brady TAM 2.2 T10 Jacoby Brissett CLE 2.4 T23 Lamar Jackson BAL 2.5
T4 Davis Mills HOU 2.2 T10 Jalen Hurts PHI 2.4 T23 Russell Wilson DEN 2.5
T6 Dak Prescott DAL 2.3 T10 Jared Goff DET 2.4 T23 Matt Ryan IND 2.5
T6 Mac Jones NWE 2.3 T10 Trevor Lawrence JAX 2.4 T29 Kirk Cousins MIN 2.6
T6 Mitchell Trubisky PIT 2.3 T10 Jameis Winston NOR 2.4 T29 Carson Wentz WAS 2.6
T6 Matthew Stafford LAR 2.3 T10 Patrick Mahomes KAN 2.4 T31 Daniel Jones NYG 2.7
T10 Derek Carr LVR 2.4 T31 Justin Herbert LAC 2.7
T10 Kyler Murray ARI 2.4 33 Justin Fields CHI 3.0
T10 Tua Tagovailoa MIA 2.4
T10 Joe Flacco NYJ 2.4

The Cowboys have already faced two “red” QBs in Tom Brady (2.2 seconds) and Joe Burrow (2.1 seconds) and have collected two sacks against Brady and six against Burrow.

And that could bode well for the rest of the 2022 schedule, at least from a pass rush point of view. The remaining 15 games feature only two more “red” QBs in Davis Mills (2.1) and Matthew Stafford (2.2).

Using the red, yellow, green color designation, here’s what the remainder of the season could look like from the perspective of the Cowboys pass rushers:

Week QB Team PktTime
3 Daniel Jones NYG 2.7
4 Carson Wentz WAS 2.6
5 Matthew Stafford LAR 2.3
6 Jalen Hurts PHI 2.4
7 Jared Goff DET 2.4
8 Justin Fields CHI 3.0
10 Aaron Rodgers GNB 2.4
11 Kirk Cousins MIN 2.6
12 Daniel Jones NYG 2.7
13 Matt Ryan IND 2.5
14 Davis Mills HOU 2.2
15 Trevor Lawrence JAX 2.4
16 Jalen Hurts PHI 2.4
17 Ryan Tannehill TEN 2.4
18 Carson Wentz WAS 2.6

Of course, opponents might anticipate a strong Cowboys pass rush, and devise a game plan with a lot of quick throws. But that could turn out to be a double-edged sword.

A quick-throw game plan necessarily favors the short pass over the long pass, thus also reducing (though not eliminating) the threat of a big play. Also, if you’re considering changing your game plan just to protect against the pass rush, you may also decide to keep in an extra blocker to help with protection (perhaps doubling Micah Parsons with an extra TE?), leaving just four guys on offense to run routes.

If the Cowboys can continue to generate pressure on the QB with just four pass rushers (and this has been their key to success in both games so far), you’ve potentially got seven guys dropping into coverage to defend against four route runners, and that matchup is going to favor the defense every time.

As an opposing offensive coordinator, do you trust your offensive line to protect against the Cowboys’ pass rush, do you build your game plan on a quicker passing game, or do you avoid the pass rush altogether by simply running the ball a lot? How opposing teams answer that question is going to be fun to watch this season, starting with the Giants on Monday night football.

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