Over the years, Rod Marinelli has shown to be a man with a belief system from which he attempts to never waver. He learned to run his defenses with certain cornerstones and pillars in place that should not be considered optional. Mandatory methods of how one sees the game and the job of the defense -- to stop and destroy the many threats that are directed at his group over the course of a game.
One characteristic of his defense has been to not deploy too many players in pass rush. "Get there with four rush men" has always been a notable characteristic of a Rod Marinelli system. There will be many ways to accomplish this as his defensive line moves around with stunting and slanting methods, working individually some and as a group some, to get to the quarterback with the four guys up front. This allows the seven behind to be in coverage on most occasions, making it far more difficult for opposing QBs to find openings down the field. It puts a lot of pressure on that defensive line, but when it works, a QB holds on to the ball waiting for something to open up and then the pass rush arrives and gets a sack.
This isn't to say he doesn't blitz, because he does. There are games when he even approaches a dozen (twice last year: at Tampa Bay, at Washington), but for the most part, he is far more comfortable at around 6-8 blitzes per game. He believes in using blitzes as a weapon, not a necessity. After years of Wade Phillips and Rob Ryan believing differently about this way to coach defense, Marinelli is quite a departure. In fact, Wade Phillips just coordinated his Denver Broncos defense to a Super Bowl season with a 42.6 percent blitz rate. The NFL average in 2015 was at 30.2 percent. And the Cowboys were down in the basement on frequency at 21.4 percent.
Using blitzes as a weapon, not a necessity makes sense. In fact, Dallas has not shown that it's very good at it. But, the Cowboys have a massive necessity in September with two of their best edge rushers -- DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory -- suspended. Those two aren't Harvey Martin and Randy White, but they might be the best two on the current roster, and they won't play until Oct. 9. Gregory may be out even longer.
That is why when one studies the preseason tape, it suggests the possibility that Marinelli is planning to step that blitz rate up. He has a free safety in Byron Jones who gives him more confidence protecting center field and his best blitzer has returned from injury in Orlando Scandrick. He certainly has not shown his cards or advertised a plan for public consumption, but with a major increase in man coverage last season and these alterations in the secondary, combined with the absence of his important rush men, the conditions seem right for an increase in frequency in blitzing. ... Sometimes, linebackers -- other times, corners off the edge -- but always looking for chances to change a game with a blind-side hit on a passer with a surprise blitz.
It may be an experiment that depends on early success, but I am looking for Marinelli to do something that ventures out of his normal belief system to create pressure opportunities during this time of suspensions, starting Sunday against the Giants.