The Dallas Cowboys often get heat for their low blitz rates but perhaps they’ve been right all along and we’re the ones who need who need to get with the trend.
Often times, it’s the fans, media, and analytics community leading the charge in change. And it’s the NFL front offices and coaches stubbornly clinging to the traditional. But in the case of creating pressure, it’s the teams that seem to be on the right path.
That’s because blitzing is often more harmful than it is helpful. And pressure is best obtained by an elite front, rather than by blitzing. Because blitzing requires stealing from coverage to throw additional personal at opposing passers, it’s basically a case of “stealing from Peter to pay Paul”.
Pro Football Focus’s study on whether a good pass-rush or a good coverage unit has a greater impact on winning, brought the importance of coverage to light. The greater the DB density is in coverage, the harder it is for a passer to complete a pass.
That explains why NFL quarterbacks perform better against the blitz than they do in normal pressure situations. That’s right, NFL QBs are better when blitzed than they are against a standard 4-man rush. It makes sense too – With less players in coverage, it’s easier to see open receivers.
Pressure is different from blitzing
We’ve long been led to believe blitzing is how to best create pressure and pressure is key to stopping opposing passing attacks. But teams are finding ways to generate pressure WITHOUT stealing players from coverage. The Star Tribune recently reported NFL sack totals rose from 641 in 2015 to 736 in 2017 while blitz rates have dropped. Cool, huh?
When a QB sees a blitz coming, he’s quick to get the ball out. If he only sees a 4-man rush coming, he’s going to take his time, go through progressions, and execute more casually. This gives elite pass-rushers the opportunity to make plays as well, which explains the swelling value of elite pass-rushing linemen.
Pressure, not surprisingly, is hugely effective in stopping opposing passing attacks. According to Football Outsiders, the Dallas Cowboys offer up a -58.8% DVOA when they applied pressure last season. The key is creating pressure without relying on the blitz.
Dallas Cowboys fans have been calling for a more aggressive approach for years. And the volume has only increased since notorious non blitzer, Rod Marinelli, came in to lead the defense. Kris Richard’s entry brought the hope more blitzing would be on the horizon, but the reality is he came to Dallas with a lower blitz rate than even Marinelli.
All of this explains why Dallas was never going to let DeMarcus Lawrence leave in free agency. And it also explains why they have invested so many picks in the pass-rush over the years. Getting the job done with the front four is vital to stopping opposing passing attacks.
Because good coverage is more directly related to winning than a good pass-rush. To sacrifice the former to aid in the latter, is nothing short of absurd. The Dallas Cowboys have known this all along. That’s why they they’re consistently in the bottom half of the NFL in their blitz rates.
Luckily for them their 2019 pass-rush isn’t just strong and deep, but it’s potentially elite.
Should the Dallas Cowboys blitz more? No way! Creating pressure with the front four is key to success in this league and the Dallas Cowboys are positioned to do just that.
- Published on 07/14/2019 at 12:30 PM
- Last updated at 07/12/2019 at 20:55 PM