Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 7/11/13
As we continue to examine 2012 as a primer for what needsto be accomplished heading into training camp of 2013 and beyond, we shouldfollow up ourbreakdown of the offensive numbers with a thorough checkup of thestatistics that the defense was responsible for. Clearly, this is less relevant when you consider the wholesale adjustments tothe defense moving forward. They spent the offseason changing thecoaching staff and the scheme of the defense and asking much of their 3-4personnel to now simply switch to the 4-3. Most NFL experts wouldargue that this is a very unwise endeavor as players are often identified asone or the other on draft day and yet now the Cowboys are asking their entireFront 7 on the defense - who were all drafted because they were tailor-made forthe 3-4 scheme to not only learn but perform at a high level on the 4-3. Much of this is also mitigated by the fact that the Cowboysdid run a very multiple and versatile front with Rob Ryan in the last few yearsand that they have very talented players who should work in any scheme, butstill, it is not a sure thing this will work when they have 6 of theirprojected 7 starters as hold overs from the old scheme. Only newcomerJustin Durant, the projected SAM linebacker in Monte Kiffin's scheme has everyplayed a snap in a 4-3. That is a shocking reality of what theCowboys are about to try to do. On the other hand,what you are about to see are the statistics that the Cowboys defense hasamassed in 2012 with their old scheme. Now remember, health had a tonto do with another disappointing effort from the defense - so much so that thefiring of Rob Ryan doesn't really seem fair based on 2012 performance - but,make no mistake; we should not be too bothered with the Cowboystrying a new defensive strategy moving forward. Trouble is, we know from experience that scheme doesn't make the team.Players do. Special ones. And, honestly, I havesignificant doubts that the Cowboys can be a special defense based on a schemethat requires a team to get pressure with only the front 4 (The Tampa 2 seldomblitzes) and is based on the cognitive skills of safeties to orchestrate theentire secondary. But, I will let the coaches sort through thoseissues in a long camp and see where it goes. In the meantime,let's try our best to sort through those 2012 numbers. When we didthe offense, we found 5 great stats, 5 good stats, and 5 poor stats to analyze.Unfortunately, finding 5 great stats from the 2012 defense will notbe easy, so I am forced to relabel the categories. Here we go: 5 Good to Great Stats from the CowboysDefense in 2012 Opponents QuickStrike Drives: Rated 9th in NFL with 28 drives of 4 plays or less.NFL Average was 41 drives and Playoff Teams averaged 31 drives wherepoints were scored in 4 plays or fewer. 3rd Down andLong 10 yards Conversions: 4th best in NFL with 15.9. NFL Average =20.6, Playoff Average = 21 Opponents rushing for 4yards: 42 was 7th in NFL. NFL Average = 43.5, PlayoffAverage = 43.9 Opponents rushes for 50 yards:Allowed 0 plays ranked 1st. NFL Average = 1, PlayoffAverage = 1 Opponents Drives Starting inside the 20:5th in NFL, 56. NFL = 48, Playoffs = 48 As you can see, I am really scraping the bottom of ourbarrel to find 5 stats where the Cowboys rank in the Top 10 in the league.And let's be honest - none of them really seem to be a major categoryof excellence. Rather, they are subcomponents of larger categories.It is certainly good news that the Cowboys did not give up huge playsvery often, but they did give up tons of other things - long drives and bigtime of possession ground and pounds. You do have tolike that they made teams work hard for rushing yards and did not allow 4 yardsa lot relative to the league. Also, it should be pointed out that the5th stat I found - opponents' drives starting deep in their own territory isactually a stat that is reflective of strong special teams work - not defensiveexcellence. Overall, as you can see, there justwasn't much at all that this defense was really good at. So, wearrive back at the question of what is the argument for keeping the scheme andthe coaching staff the same? 5 League Average Stats from the CowboysDefense in 2012 Opponents NetPassing Yards Per Game: 230, 19th in NFL. NFL Average =231, Playoff Teams Average = 230 Opponents Red ZoneScoring: 54.5 TD, 18th in the NFL. NFL Average = 54.1,Playoff Teams = 53.1 Explosive Plays (Plays of 20yards or more): 67, 22nd in NFL. NFL = 60, Playoffs = 60 Opponents First Downs: 317, 16th in the NFL.NFL Average = 318, Playoff Teams = 312 Opponents Time of Possession: 29:27 for 13th in NFL. NFLAverage = 30:00, Playoff Teams 29:23 Here we see thatthe squad did some things in line with the pack in the NFL. Theyweren't killed with yardage through the air and did a reasonable enough jobwith the clock and limiting the first downs. However, 67 explosiveplays is at the low end of average and there just wasn't enough meat here tohelp when it mattered most. They found themselves behind quite a bitearly in games and that actually might lead to some misleading numbers throughthe air as well. As you will see below, when QB's wanted to move theball against the Cowboys, they didn't struggle to do so. 5 Very Poor Stats from the CowboysDefense in 2012 Opponents Negative Plays (in yards): Cowboys -295,30th best in NFL. NFL Average = -370, Playoff Teams -385 Takeaways: 16, which ranked 28th. NFLAverage = 25, Playoffs = 27 Opponents Passer Rating:94.7, ranked 29th. NFL Average = 85.6, Playoff TeamsAverage = 81.8 10 Play Drives Allowed: 32, 28th. NFLAverage = 27, Playoff teams = 28 Opponents PasserRating vs Blitz: 106.1, 29th. NFL Average = 83.4, PlayoffTeams = 77.8 Holy Cow. Look at those opponent's passer rating numbers. So, first, just look atall passes. We have always talked about how 80 is the NFL average and90 is an elite QB. As you can see, the Cowboys defense made theirentire schedule to be elite QBs. Then, with theblitz, they actually got even worse. They somehow conceded a 106.1 QBrating when they brought pressure. They also did not turn the ballover (again) and had fewer tackles for loss and sacks than almost anyone in theleague. This is particularly depressing given the monster investmentin the cornerback position last offseason. They justdidn't make any plays on defense. They didn't take the ball away, nordid they make the opponent lose yardage and set up longer plays. They just didn't do much defensively that you can sink your teethinto. Moving forward, we look to better health, a newscheme, and better safety play (gulp) to improve upon things. But,looking at these numbers, you can see the reason some were scratching theirheads when the Cowboys did nothing to address the defense of note in the earlypart of the draft or free agency. These numbers are the argument forShariff Floyd or players like that could have added a playmaker to the front 4. But, they elected to look elsewhere and we will seeif they end up regretting that.
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