Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 9/26/12
As we look at the defense week after week, it is important that we keep a close eye on their progress and while noting that the caliber of opponent and quarterback is a very important consideration, we also don't want to minimize a gradual, but physical domination like we saw against Tampa Bay. The Cowboys took a step back against Seattle, and all week you would think that Tampa was pretty sure that they could just follow the recipe and run the ball down the Cowboys throat while staying in a down and distance that would allow some things to happen down the field. The Cowboys were very strong in forcing 3 and outs and flipping field position on more than one occasion. They were tempering their attacks, but continuing to fly to the ball. It will be most interesting to see how they try to compensate for all of the safety injuries and replacements that are in front of them right now with the mysterious injury to Barry Church and the nagging calf muscle of Gerald Sensabaugh. But, for now, they seem like they are using common sense by fixing that issue from depth. Using Mike Jenkins as a real piece of the puzzle, but not at safety. Moving Brandon Carr to safety in the nickel is a very nice fix, provided it allows you to get Orlando Scandrick, Mo Claiborne, and Jenkins out there together. You would think that would match-up well with most offensive attacks. It puts Carr in the middle of more situations that will require tackling, but he is a very big player and should handle himself well. Also, don't expect seam tight ends to trouble him much. When I look at the defense from a standpoint of who is showing up week after week, I keep coming back to Jason Hatcher. This might be the first play-maker on the defensive line not named Ratliff since the days of Greg Ellis. He is coming into his own and making everyone happy the Cowboys showed so much patience with him. After all, he is one of the longest-tenured Cowboys and a holdover from the Bill Parcells era. And yet, he still seems like a relatively young player. The other player that looks the part after 3 weeks is still Bruce Carter. He is really a force in the running game and can keep up with most running backs who head for the sideline. Athletic middle linebackers are required for the upcoming matchups with Washington and so forth, but the startling contrast to Bradie James and Keith Brooking is remarkable every week. Let's take a look at the "Splash Plays" from Week 3 versus Tampa Bay: Splash Plays are key impact plays from the defense. Usually, they are obvious, but there are some that blur the line. I have listed time and play of each one for those who want to double check my work. For more, read a detailed explanation of this study here: What is a Splash Play? WEEK 3 Q-TimeDDYdPlayerPlay1-12:2031D3SpearsRun Stuff 1-3:28314T17LeeInterception2-14:10110T47WareSack and FF (2) 2-13:203215T42HatcherRun Stuff 2-10:13110T35HatcherDrew Holding Pen 2-9:39110T46SpencerRun Stuff 2-8:0933D47Carter3rd Down Stop 3-9:4727T22CarrHit Pass Breakup 3-5:5026T42LissemoreRun Stuff 3-4:5936T42CrawfordBig Pressure 3-2:00110D31LeePressure draws Grounding 3-1:59210D41JenkinsPass Break Up 4-5:5734T15WareSack and FF (2) 4-2:30110T20SpencerRun Stuff 4-2:1039T21CarterRun Stuff 4-1:22110D40L. LewisPass Defended 4-0:5023T10WarePressure HTML Tables Lots of newcomers registered their first contribution of the year. Included in that group is the promising Tyrone Crawford from Boise State. He had a big pressure that rattled Josh Freeman and I look forward to seeing more of his work as we go. They seem to be bringing him along slowly, but I am all for adding to his work load. Here are the team standings kept on a week-by-week basis with the numbers below: PlayerSplashesWare9Spencer8Carter6Hatcher4Lee3Brent2Spears2Carr2Sensabaugh1Lissemore1Crawford1Jenkins1Lewis1Church1Claiborne1Scandrick1VButler1Team Total45 HTML Tables =========== BLITZING REPORT Whenever we look at the blitzes for the Cowboys, we want to take special note of what the blitz situation was on all of the big plays for both the offense and the defense. It is important that we do not just note the great moments the blitz causes, because as we have seen a number of times with Rob Ryan, the blitz opens up opportunities for the offense, too. If the blitz is doing more harm than good - as it did in 2011 - we must recognize that and alter the delivery or the pattern. So far in 2012, the blitz has been used sparingly, and for the most part, the first 3 opponents have not been able to punish the Cowboys for being short in coverage. To date, the Cowboys have only conceded 8 explosives (plays of 20 or more yards). This ranks 3rd best in the NFL behind the Steelers and Chargers. Obviously, we must consider the offenses that the Cowboys have been playing, but under any circumstance, that number quite good so far. Q-TimeDDYdPlayRushers4-2:00411T19Freeman to Jackson, 294 4-1:22210D43Freeman to Williams, 235 HTML Tables Meanwhile, the Cowboys had an interception and 2 sacks, one of which came on the blitz: Q-TimeDDYdPlayRushers1-3:2831417Lee Interception4 2-14:10110T47Ware Sack 14 4-5:5734T15Ware Sack 25 HTML Tables Here is how Rob Ryan deployed pass rushers, separated by down. Pass Rushers Against Tampa Bay - 32 pass rushblitz situations: Pass Rushers1st D2nd D3rd D4th DTotal3 Rush002024 Rush41031185 Rush423096 Rush102037 Rush00000 HTML Tables The best way to look at those numbers is the percentage of blitzes by downs. Meaning, how often do they bring pressure (5 or more) in certain downs. To properly do this, we would also need to list distances to go, but I want to try to keep this simple enough for everyone to follow along, so I will keep that to myself unless I find something that jumps out. So, on 1st Down, they brought pressure 55 of the time (5 of 9), 16 on 2nd Down, and 50 on 3rd Down. Our studies show that Rob Ryan generally likes pressure when you don't expect it, and coverage when you do expect a blitz. But, he has to make sure his call sheet isn't too predictable, thus a different plan for each opponent. Make no mistake, game planning for Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and a much improved (we think) Chicago offense will have nothing in common with the last 2 offenses that hardly did anything adventurous. This will be a much better test on Monday.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Five teams that may be interested in Blake Griffin this summer

Nigel Hayes slams New York ahead of Sweet 16 game at MSG

Report: Tony Romo ‘believes it’s Texans or retirement’

Clay Matthews Sr. passes away at 88

WWE’s Kane is inching toward running for mayor in Tennessee

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jung Ho Kang denied visa for DUI, may miss 2017 MLB season

Jets not ready to say Josh McCown will be starter

Sens owner on Sidney Crosby: He’s 'a whiner' and should be suspended for Methot slash

Report: Griffin could be growing more open to leaving Clippers

Brandon Brooks accepts wedding invite from Eagles fan

Report: Josh Gordon expected to get reinstatement update in May

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Box Score 3/24: Waiting on West Virginia

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

With Team USA's victory, World Baseball Classic (finally) lived up to its potential

The NFL distraction playbook

Which Sweet 16 team should you be rooting for?

The Aesthetic: The world of player exclusive sneakers

Lingering issues for each 2016 MLB postseason team

Box Score 3/23: Team USA wins their first WBC title

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

The NFL distraction playbook

With Team USA's victory the WBC (finally) lived up to its potential

The Aesthetic: The world of player exclusive sneakers

Which Sweet 16 team should you be rooting for?

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Steph Curry pushes OKC's buttons

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker