Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Breakdown: Bringing in Reinforcements

This week's animated play breakdown in the Washington Post details one way the Giants are adding bodies to their front four to shore up outside contain and enhance their pass rush.


by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 10:40am

I think people underestimate the impact of safeties ( and corners) on run plays. Yes, rushing defense is mostly your front 7, but having a terrible run defense safety could be the difference between a 10 yard run and a 50 yard touchdown. Big runs destory a defenses yards against, yards per rush etc. It isn't always that the D-Line is getting blown up, or the linebackers can't tackle, sometimes teams have horrible tackling safeties ( or corners) that turn decent runs into great runs.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 12/23/2009 - 3:47pm

And even if it is that the DLs and LBs aren't playing well, support by the secondary can prevent a 10-yard run from becoming a 50-yard run. Really good safeties can even mask a weak LB to a certain extent.

The nice thing is that, particularly for bad teams, weakness on run defense isn't quite as much of a problem as weakness on pass defense. Yes, struggling to stop the run can prevent you from coming back in a close game, but if your pass defense is bad enough, you could have the best run defense in the league and it won't matter. Even an average run defense (Seattle, Detroit) is irrelevant when you can't stop the pass.

Or should be ... one reason Detroit came back to beat Cleveland is that once the Browns had that 24-3 lead, for some reason they began running on first and second downs. Yes, I know, Brady Quinn and all that, but it was the same Quinn who failed to miss wide-open receivers on the first three touchdown passes. The Browns ran the ball 40 times in that game. Forty! 131 yards rushing. Passing DVOA: 61.1%. Rushing DVOA: -14.8%.

Of course Detroit was guilty of the same thing: passing DVOA was 47.2% (fun fact: the Lions' offensive passing DVOA was positive in both their wins and negative in all their losses; also, their overall DVOA has been negative every game, and their defensive DVOA has been negative in three games, all of which they lost) and rushing DVOA was -41.6%. No, you can't just run all the time, but you know what? You're running too often. There is no need to set up the pass against these defenses. You set up the pass by bringing a quarterback onto the field.

The Lions have bad safeties; it makes a bit of a difference on run plays, but not nearly as much as on pass plays.

by tuluse :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 5:23am

Of course if the Browns had been giving the ball to Jerome Harrison, maybe those 40 rushes might have turned out differently.