Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Kiffin Report - Week 6 - Washington

As we study the defense every week, we try to emphasize some important factors to their performance, while understanding how much of it is "opponent-driven".  Some teams present challenges that others do not, and when you consider your defense's performance, it is important to remember that Peyton Manning does not play on every team. - nor does his cast.  Look at Washington as they pretty much conceded during the game that they have Pierre Garcon and a bunch of guys at WR who don't scare anyone right now.  They threw to Garcon all night (14 targets), but as the game raged on, it seems that they believed that their 2nd most dangerous weapon was their new TE from Florida, Jordan Reed.

Meanwhile, we are judging this Cowboys defense on their opponent and what our expectations are for the players they can put on the field.  When we complain in the offseason that their depth is going to be their unlikely undoing, we had no idea how bad things were going to get on the line of scrimmage.  Now that we have an defensive line that has Jason Hatcher left from the 6 who we opened training camp thinking would fill out the rotation (DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, Tyrone Crawford, and Sean Lissemore), it is enjoyable to watch Drake Nevis, George Selvie, Kyle Wilber, and Nick Hayden accomplish some of the things that they are accomplishing, but there is that looming question of whether or not this will have a lasting effect or if this is the "dead cat bounce".  

During weeks they make plays, we champion their efforts and the coaching of Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin, but the weeks they don't make plays we admit that they are playing with a waiver wire defensive line.  And honestly, only 6 games into a 16 game schedule, it is way too early to be down to this supply.  That is why I am quick to compliment the pro personnel department when they keep churning that roster (yesterday, say hello to Jarius Wynn and goodbye to David Carter) but also leery of how long this can keep running along.

2 Takeaways and 3 sacks against the Redskins is fantastic.  And there were several other plays of substance like the one I want to feature immediately below, but I already feel that this is reaching critical mass in that if they lose anyone else behind that defensive line (Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Barry Church, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick, or JJ Wilcox) this could get very difficult to navigate - especially with 10 games to play.  

Great effort from the defense, but losing DeMarcus Ware for 1-4 games and then seeing Jason Hatcher dragging his arm around in the 4th Quarter are making us sympathize a bit with what they are trying to win with defensively.  


Sometimes, this game is not about Xs and Os.  Sometimes, you need a special player to defy those Xs and Os.  And I believe this happened below in the 1st Quarter when Sean Lee made a special play.  

Above, note what Washington wants to do on this 3rd and Goal from the 9.  They want to spread the defense out wide and then have Griffin do Griffin things against Sean Lee.  The Cowboys are in a standard 3 over 2 coverage on both sides - 2 WR threats to each side, 2 defenders up tight with a safety as a 3rd man to help the deeper threat and then close on the ball in front of them.  That leaves Lee vs Roy Helu if they try a draw, but the Redskins are planning to use Helu and their center 63-Will Montgomery to clean up any issues.

The frame above sows that the Redskins can't believe how great this worked out.  Here is a Cowboys 4 man rush where all 4 went north, leaving the middle completely unoccupied.  This is never a pass, as Griffin is just dropping long enough to set the hook at the receivers are just trying to get leverage inside on their cover-men.  Look at how beautiful this looks for Washington.  Lee is by himself with Montgomery and Helu right next to each other, and then Griffin at the 12 yard line with a path that looks fantastic on 3rd and long.

Just a moment later, Montgomery is engaging Lee and Helu is not worried about that, so he goes looking to help on Bruce Carter or Barry Church, but look how Reed has Carter's inside shoulder and Church is way too deep to do anything.  The Cowboys are out-manned, badly.

Unless, Sean Lee can get off his block before Griffin gets there.  This means that he practically has to make Montgomery whiff, while maintaining his balance to then secure the man with the ball.

You can see how dire this situation is above.  Griffin is home free, unless Sean Lee can take on everyone.  Montgomery must not enjoy reviewing this play in the film room and Maybe Helu is wondering if he should have chipped Lee on the way by.  Regardless, at the moment of this frame, Griffin has to be very excited about his chances of getting to that goal-line.

I know Sean Lee has praise heaped upon him in huge amounts these days, but it is a play like this that makes you understand why.  This is phenomenal play from your MLB who was not going to let a convoy of Redskins stop him from getting to the ball and turning a Touchdown into a Field Goal.  

Just magnificent work that was a small part of a fantastic game all around for #50.

WEEK 6 vs Washington Redskins

First, a reminder of what a splash play is: 

What is a splash play? Well, for purposes of this blog I believe a splash play will include the following: A sack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a batted ball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how this leads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdown at all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles for loss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle where a player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of an exceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play, but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in the secondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the play will determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who just caught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generally pass the test on this blog. So, stop doing it. 
I am trying to be careful about handing out too many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but too extreme in either direction. When I log a splash play, I will put time of the game on the chart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, you are welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a single play, we will try to see that as well. 
Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays on the defense. We don't want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to see broader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help the Cowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will not deduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasions where we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particular idea.  
A splash play is a play that makes a major difference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see which defenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. We already have our thoughts on both categories, but let's see if we can dig a bit deeper and actually have numbers to back up our claims.

Here are the final results for 2011 and here are the final results for 2012.

A couple oddities in this week's splash play ledger.  First, I awarded a 3 splash play to Wilber on that sack, strip, and recovery.  I don't think that has ever been done, but, it was an amazing individual effort and should be rewarded accordingly for doing everything there.  Also, I gave Lee a splash for the play above, even though it was a 7 yard gain for Griffin.  I don't do that often, but when you are defending your goal-line, it seems like something worth doing.

I admit that corners have a hard time getting splash plays, and therefore, it is difficult to judge them in the same award system as a defensive end or linebacker, but Brandon Carr really showed up everywhere on Sunday and moved up the list.

1-7:242/7/D43LeeRun Stuff 
1-6:061/10/D32Selvie/LeeRun Stuff
1-3:112/9/D9WareRun Stuff
1-2:273/9/D9Lee3rd Down Stop
2-10:471/10/O49HatcherTackle For Loss
2-10:072/14/O45SelvieRun Stuff
2-3:312/7/O40CarrPass Defended
2-3:073/7/O40LeeBig QB Pressure
3-14:591/10/O20SelvieBig QB Pressure
3-11:363/7/D32Lee/CarterTackle For Loss
3-6:561/10/O30Hatcher (2)Sack and Fumble Strip
3-2:112/7/O42CarrPass Defended
3-0:061/10/D30CarrTackle For Loss
4-15:002/11/D31ClaibornePass Defended
4-9:562/9/O21SelvieHolding Drawn
4-9:472/19/O11Wilber (3)Sack, Strip, Recovery
4-0:141/10/O3NevisHolding Drawn


Selvie       13.5
Wilber  4
Hayden     3.5
E. Jones3        
Wilcox 1
Team Totals100


Pass Rush/Blitzing REPORT

This segment of the defensive study is simply to find out how well the Cowboys are doing at getting pressure on the opposing QB.  We have spent a good part of the offseason talking about Monte Kiffin's philosophy that, like so many of the great 4-3 schemes, is based on using blitz as a weapon, not a necessity.  If you use the blitz as an ambush weapon that is always threatened but only used at the perfect times, you can often get free runs at the QB.  If, on the other hand, you must use the blitz because your normal pressure is not getting it done, then the offense usually is waiting for you and prepared - so even 6 rushers don't accomplish much.

Here, we look at the big plays for (Explosives are plays 20 yards and longer) and the big plays against each week (Sacks and Interceptions) and see what role (if any) was played by the defensive coordinator.

Check above to see why the blitz was burned and hardly used.


2-0:443/7/D46Griffin to Reed, +294
3-12:463/5/O36Griffin Scramble, +265
3-3:531/10/D45Morris Run, +453
4-7:531/10/O21Griffin to Moss, +264
4-3:061/10/O16Griffin to Garcon, +254


2-1:481/10/O46Hatcher Sack 4
3-6:56  1/10/O30Hatcher Sack4
4-9:47  2/19/O11Wilber Sack   4
4-5:16  2/7/D23  Scandrick Interception 4


You might read this blog for many years and see many passing charts and never see one as revealing as this one below.  Look at the side to Robert Griffin's left and notice all of the incompletions.  I would love to have charts from his first several games to see if this is a trend, but since I don't think anyone else does charts like these, we only have 1 game from his 2013 season.

It looks like everything he threw to his right went pretty well and everything to his left did not go so well.  I don't know if this is a health issue or not, but if I was a Redskins fan I would certainly pay attention to this.  Otherwise, you can see how the corners did so well, as this was not much of a night for the Redskins passer with his arm.  Give credit to the Cowboys corners for sure, but he is still off right now after a 2012 where he seemed to put the ball where he wanted to for the most part.  Any way, Tim Krajewski's chart this week is fantastic stuff.

Red (Incomplete), Black (Interception), Blue (Complete), and Yellow (Touchdown)

Pass Rushers Against Washington Redskins - 45 pass rush/blitz situations:

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0000
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)01610
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0010

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0100
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0710
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0410

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0210
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0402
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0300

Here's the lone instance Dallas rushed seven Sunday night, which will be added to the season chart beginning next week.

And, here are the full season numbers to date:

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 RushTotal
1st Down5 - 4%100 - 83%12 - 10%3 - 2%120 - 43%
2nd Down1 - 1%76 - 85%6 - 6%6 - 6%89 - 31%
3rd Down3 - 4%43 - 67%10 - 15%8 - 12%64 - 22%
4th Down1 - 16% 5 - 83%006 - 2% 
Totals10 - 3%224 - 80%28 - 10%17 - 6%

The game by game pressure numbers:

Wk 1 - NYG: 7/49 - 14%
Wk 2 - KC:   10/43 - 23%
Wk 3 - STL: 11/57 - 19%
Wk 4 - SD:  4/43 - 9%
Wk 5 - DEN: 6/42 - 14%
Wk 6 - WAS: 8/45 - 18%

2013 Totals:  46/279 - 16.5%
2012 Totals:  134/551 - 24.3%

SUMMARY:  More than anything, you want your defense to rise to the occasion inside a game and fight in every situation.  If there is one characteristic that seems to present itself, it is that this defense is relentless in the way it battles.  That is a direct reflection of their coaches who preach that consistently and will not let anyone not hustle to the ball at all times.  As they continue to bring players in, I am quite sure that the "motor" is something that is a prerequisite to getting a chance here and that is clear in the new players here - George Selvie fights as hard as any new Cowboys player I have seen in years.  

If they remain relentless in their pursuit of the ball and positive plays, they will always have a chance.  I thought last year's team lost its spirit on a few occasions and I don't see that much here.  There is an accountability that is clear in the defensive huddle with this new squad and it is quite encouraging.  They will clearly be tested in the next few weeks against teams that can generate tons of offense with Philadelphia and Detroit next, but they seem to have the correct frame of mind:  In that, it might only take one big play to win a game and despite whatever has happened on the last 20 snaps, that big play might happen next.  

I don't often write about tangibles, but I wanted to stress that this week.  I think this defense is exactly the type that Marinelli/Kiffin people tell us about - that they appear to always fly to the ball and look forward to street fights.  That doesn't mean they always have an answer for what the opponent can throw at them, but I appreciate seeing them battle rather than turn into a bend-and-bend-some-more defense.  

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