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3-4 DE vs. pass-rush specialist

Discussion in 'Patriots Draft Talk' started by MaineMan, Jan 30, 2011.

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  1. MaineMan

    MaineMan Rookie

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    Here's my hypothesis:

    The pass defense sucked in 2010, NOT because we didn't get a sufficient pass rush, but because D-line tackling sucked.

    Passing yards allowed and passing first downs allowed both exploded to 22% and 26% over their 10-year averages, respectively. Meanwhile, sacks INCREASED to 36 (20% above the past two seasons) - to less than 5% below 10-year averages. How does that correlate? It doesn't.

    Total scrimmage (non-special teams) tackles were NOT up significantly over average, in spite of what some folks appear to believe. The defense made 1044 tackles this year vs. a 1013 10-year average. That's two tackles per game. Not a big deal. In fact, the 2003 and 2006 (pretty good) defenses made 1049 and 1054 tackles respectively. So, the total tackle count doesn't appear to correlate to much either.

    The question is, where did those tackles come from? Mayo was in on 174 of those 1044 - 17%. How did he get all those opportunities? Obviously, somebody between him and the LoS had to be slacking.

    In fact, over the past 10 years, the top three D-linemen in tackles (always Wilfork and nearly always just the two starting 3-4 DES) typically accounted for about 175 tackles. That's just three guys generating about 11 tackles per game, most of them very near the LoS. Contrast 2010, when all EIGHT D-linemen accounted for a meager 152 tackles. Taking the most productive three, who weren't on the field for every down, of course, the D-line made only about 6 tackles per game instead of 11.

    Meanwhile, rushing yards allowed and rushing first downs allowed in 2010 were only up over their 10-year averages by about 2% and 9% respectively.

    In order to keep those rushing numbers relatively respectable with D-line tackle production being down by nearly 50% from average, somebody had to make up for those missing tackles. Mayo, of course. And certainly the other LBs. And probably the safeties. Which meant that they couldn't be in optimum position to defend the pass, even on 2nd-and-long and third down. AND, when our guys were in good pass defense positions, the opponent simply ran for 1st down yardage, knowing that our D-line alone couldn't stop them and that they wouldn't even need to use an extra blocker and take a pass-catcher out of the set to do so.

    D-line tackle production was really the only significant statistical category that was "off" by an amount proportionate to the deterioration in pass defense. If we truly want to improve our pass defense, we should focus on acquiring a gap-clogging, run-stuffing 3-4 DE. Such a guy might allow our defense to keep an extra guy back in coverage and force opposing offenses to take a pass-catcher off the field in order to effectively run the ball - a two-man swing.

    Seems to me that going out of our way to acquire a guy specifically to add 5-10 sacks per year wouldn't help nearly as much.
  2. everlong

    everlong Rookie

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    #12 Jersey

    My first question would be how many of Mayo's 174 tackles were on runs vs passes? It seemed like a high percentage were on runs but still probably 65:35.

    Next in 2007 with the Patriots nearly always playing with the lead and teams having to pass Seymour, Warren, Wilfork and Green combined for 109 tackles. Bruschi, AD, Vrabel, Harrison, Seau, Sanders and Hobbs all had over 50 tackles each. Again a limited pass rush with teams passing all the time played into this.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
  3. MaineMan

    MaineMan Rookie

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    I probably should have specified this. First, I used exclusively the numbers on Pro-Football-Reference, for the sake of comparative consistency and because they don't include ST tackles (which NFL.com and the other big sites don't separate). Second, I used solos + assisted across the board.

    For 2007, they have:
    - Warren = 51
    - Wilfork = 48
    - Green = 39
    - Seymour = 23

    The total is 161, one of the lower annual totals. But that was also the season that Seymour was out half the year with his injury and Green filled in.
    ---
    WRT Mayo's tackles - pass v. run - there's really no way to know without going through the play-by-play for each game and I've selfishly chosen to leave that research to someone who has even less of a life than I do.

    In any case, it's a very good question and one of the first that I bring up when I encounter one of those knee-jerk contrarians who insist that Mayo is actually mediocre because "too many of his tackles are made too far beyond the LoS." As if they've actually made the distinction between pass and run tackles or have in hand some statistical standard on which they're basing their claims. And, of course, none of them ever bothers to wonder why Mayo is getting so many tackle opportunities in the first place.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
  4. Sciz

    Sciz PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I don't think it was so much that the DL tackling sucked, but that DL couldn't shed blocks well enough to have a chance to make a tackle.
  5. alvinnf

    alvinnf Rookie

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    34 DE for me. I like the current players we have at OLB. I am interested to see how both Moore and Cunningham could do with both, another year in the system and a solid DE. TBC is on the bubble for me next year's camp. So bring in another draft pick 2nd or 3rd round and let TBC earn his spot. Or even higher of a pick if there is someone they really like. End might be an easier position to fill in FA. OL and 34 DE in that order are our areas of biggest need. I think this years draft is looking good for rush backers and OL in the first 2 rounds or so. Not so much for DE.
  6. MaineMan

    MaineMan Rookie

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    Yeah. I didn't really mean that their tackling sucked in the way that, say, Meriweather's tackling sucks. ;)
  7. MaineMan

    MaineMan Rookie

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    See, I'm sorta on the opposite side WRT 3-4 DE and rush backers. I think there may be a couple proven rush backers we could get in FA (if there is such a thing this year). But, I'm not seeing a tall, run-stopping 3-4 DE anywhere. Besides, I think we want to set ourselves up for a few years to come, not just try to stop-gap the position again.
  8. alvinnf

    alvinnf Rookie

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    I don't think finding a 34 End is all that easy. Sure a stop gap, but not a legit 2 gapper. It's funny, we see the solution as completely opposite. In all the years we had Seymour here, mediots and pundits would try to define his worth by sacks. The problem is that in this defense the End is there to make everyone else better. Finding a player that can demand attention from two OL or a T and a TE, makes the whole thing go. I would love to see how well Moore and Cunningham would do lined up next to a legit DE. Now that does'nt mean I am not all for taking an edge rusher high. Do it, to it. I just think finding a good pash rusher will happen when we find good End play. Alla TBC's 10 sacks a year ago.
  9. MaineMan

    MaineMan Rookie

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    Wait. Maybe I misrad you and we're on the same page after all. The DE you describe - the one "who makes everyone else better" is exactly what I see us needing. I think there are at least two candidates in this draft who will be within reach of our existing picks. On the FA side, I'm not so sure.

    WRT pass rushers, OTOH, I think there are guys we can get in FA. There are obviously several in this draft, as well, but I don't think we'll spend a high pick on one.
  10. dryheat44

    dryheat44 Rookie

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    #75 Jersey

    Well, your logic flows from your hypothesis, but I'd say your hypothesis is wrong. Yes our D-line tackles were down. Why?

    Without putting in the research effort that you have (I'm working), I'd venture a guess that tackle numbers are down because rushing attempts were way down, because:

    1) The NFL, as a whole, is evolving into a pass-heavy league,
    2) The Patriots offense was uncommonly good early in games this year, forcing teams to pass often,
    3) The book on the 2010 Patriots was that their defense can be exploited in the passing game, with 3 out of 4 DBs in thei1st or 2nd year, and Tully Banta Cain as the only OLB capable of generating a pass rush. Throwing often was probably the game plan for most of their opponents, and
    4) There were very few games that the Patriots trailed late, where the opponent was trying to kill the clock with the running game.

    Now, to answer the question posed in the thread, if I'm Belichick I take whichever guy is the best value in the spot, whether it be DE, OLB, or OL. There are clear needs at each position...I wouldn't advocate passing up a talented DE who fits the system to reach for a pass rusher.

    However, I think the mentality that a mid-to-late first round pick needs to be a 3 down player needs to be re-evaluated. According to Reiss's homework, the Patriots were in a nickel or dime defense 57% of the time. Assuming the Brady-led offense maintains its level of efficiency, that percentage isn't going to decrease for a few years. If there's a run on 3-4 DEs in the first round, and the best value is a OLB whose strength is rushing the passer, then he should be drafted. 57% is a pretty good number of plays considering the rotations and sub-packages Belichick likes to use.

    To me, the QB hurries and hits are just as important as 5-10 sacks. If a guy comes in and gets 8 sacks, he probably has twice as many hurries forcing the QB to get rid of the ball early and more instances of getting a hit on the QB.
  11. MaineMan

    MaineMan Rookie

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    I'm not really concerned about how the "NFL is evolving as a whole", though I have some reservations about that as a blanket assumption. I'm much more concerned with the teams on the Pats' schedule for 2011:

    KC #1 rushing offense
    OAK #2 rushing offense
    NYJ #4 rushing offense (play them twice)
    PHL #5 rushing offense
    NYG #6

    That's six games next year vs. top-6 rushing offenses. Add in the Steelers at #11 and the Chargers at #15 and half our games will be against teams in the top half of the league this season running the ball.

    Also, I seriously doubt that the Pats were in sub-packages as much as they were because that's BB's ideal for the defense. I'd much rather have 3 guys up front who I'm sure of being able to make most of the ground game tackles, leaving the OLBs freer to do other tings, like drop into coverage or rush the QB. It would certainly reduce the number of times Ninkovich bites on play-action.
  12. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I thought your idea made a lot of sense, but I checked and the numbers don't bear it out. Looking back at the # of rushing attempts faced by the Patriots defense each year since 2004, 2010 was totally average.
  13. dryheat44

    dryheat44 Rookie

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    #75 Jersey

    Thanks for doing my research I'm too lazy to do myself. I wonder if Warren being out all year had a big impact on the DL tackles. I've long felt he was the strongest run defender at DE we've had under Belichick.
  14. dryheat44

    dryheat44 Rookie

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    So would replacing Ninkovich with somebody better.

    In all seriousness, did Ninkovich bite on play-action because the DL had lesser tackle numbers, or did Ninkovich bite on play-action so much because he's vulnerable to play fakes.

    Your hypothesis seems to be (and correct me if I'm off-base) that with a DL that makes more tackles, the Pats pass defense would improve because we would need one less player in the box and he could help with coverage instead.

    But according to Reiss's numbers, the Patriots played with five DBs on the field more than half the time, which only leaves 6 big bodies up front - one of which is Guyton, whose struggles vs. the run are well-documented. I'm sure they're not going to go replace another lb with a db as a matter of usual course to help out with coverage. Actually, it wouldn't surprise me if Belichick called for so many sub-packages to encourage other teams to run so as to protect the pass defense. Yeah, teams had success running vs. the subs against us, but it allowed the defense to give up yards in 4-7 yard chunks and force them to string together several mistake-free plays down the field in order to get touchdowns, instead of taking yardage in 15-40 yard chunks throwing vs. a base defense.

    In short, I agree that we need a significant improvement at the DE position...and it needs to be addressed on day one of the draft or early day two. I just don't think it will help our pass defense nearly as much as improving the edge pass rush will.
  15. mgteich

    mgteich PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    40Are there any posters who do not want us to draft a DE and an OLB in the first 40 picks if the value is there?

  16. MaineMan

    MaineMan Rookie

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    Ninkovich just finished his first year as a fulltime OLB in any 3-4, much less BB's version. Of course, he needs to get better about biting on play fakes. OTOH in down/distance situations against decent running teams where the play could go either way, an LB who KNOWS that his D-line is unlikely to stop a run has a decision to make a lot more often. It's not just about stopping the run, it's about the number of bodies you need to devote to doing so.

    A D-line with three guys who can make more tackles in the run game than our best FOUR guys did this season frees up some resources someplace. It also maybe forces the opposing offense to bring in an extra blocker in order to run, thus possibly taking one of their better pass-catchers off the field - one less guy to cover.

    So, yes, I think a high-quality 3-man line that significantly restricts the opponent's ability to gain significant chunks of yardage on 1st/2nd down certainly helps the pass defense.
  17. patsfaninpittsburgh

    patsfaninpittsburgh Banned

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    teich

    How do you define value.

    [Edit: irrelevant material not about draft value obliquely attacking another poster deleted]

    In the end, value should mean having a smart, flexible front seven guy that can execute the Belichick philosophy. Flexible means doing many things well...including bringing pressure and executing blitzes.

    If "value" means "pass rush specialist". Keep it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 1, 2011
  18. patsboy44

    patsboy44 Rookie

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    I agree with the Ware statement. Cowboys defense could be a model.
  19. patsfaninpittsburgh

    patsfaninpittsburgh Banned

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    The Cowboys are the perfect model what not to do.

    1. Develop an elite secondary. This gives you flexibility. If we can get one "stud", I'd take another CB with Bodden coming back.

    2. Develop our Dline rotation to include four guys that can get pressure. May not always use them but a pressure from four option is ideal. if we get everyone back, Pryor, Wright, and T Warren are a good basis.

    3. Linebackers that are multi dimensional and can execute blitzes.

    The fact is the Cowboys rely way too much on their edge rushers and it's too easy to scheme against them.
  20. dryheat44

    dryheat44 Rookie

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    #75 Jersey

    One of these days you'll figure out that adding a pass rusher such as Ware to the Patriots defense is not the equivalent of installing the Cowboys defense. I'm not sure when that day will be, but I have faith it's coming soon. My guess is that you've already figured that out but derive some pleasure by being combative.

    And to think I could have avoided your entire childish behavior by using Cameron Wake or Shaun Phillips as an example instead of DeMarcus Ware. My point would have been 100% the same, but now I've used pass rushers from Top-8 pass defenses, so your objections should go away.

    In fact, in every thread I've written DeMarcus Ware, mentally replace it with Cameron Wake. Thank you.
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