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Cowboys’ Defense: Is More Blitzes From The Secondary A Possibility?

Brian Martin

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Cowboys' Defense: Will Rod Marinelli Blitz More In 2017?

When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys' defense, there is no denying there will be changes on that side of the ball. The personnel is what will change the most, so get ready to see a lot of new faces in 2017. Two of those faces could dramatically change how the defense performs, hopefully for the better.

Enter Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods.

I'm personally really excited to see how these two players are utilized on the Cowboys' defense and how Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli will incorporate their unique skill set into his defensive scheme.

Both Awuzie and Woods played a variety of positions in college and that versatility could get them on the field early and often on defense. But, it's not just their versatility that will get them on the field. It's their knack as a blitzer, something that can be utilized to help the Cowboys pass rush.

Of course, we all know the NFL is a step up in competition. But, with these two players on board, I could really see Marinelli utilizing the secondary to blitz more often this season. It really puts pressure on the opposing QB and can help the entire defense.

Let's take a look at how Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods' unique skill set can help the Cowboys' defense.

Disrupting the QB

Sometimes disrupting the opposing quarterback is just as effective as getting the sack. Anything to throw the QB off their game is usually beneficial to the defense. Both Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie have proven to be more than capable at accomplishing this when asked to blitz the QB.

Let's take a look at how disrupting the QB can help the Dallas Cowboys' defense.

Awuzie applying QB pressure - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

In the clip above, you see the Dallas Cowboys 2017 second round draft pick, CB Chidobe Awuzie, being sent on a blitz. This is an area of his game that should help the Cowboys' defense and something he has a real knack for.

He cleverly walks up as if he is going to cover the slot WR, but at the snap of the ball he explodes around the right side of the offensive line. Washington's right tackle was immediately put in a tough situation and all of this is in clear view of the QB.

Now, he doesn't get the QB sack, but he does force Washington's quarterback to step up in the pocket in order to throw the ball. Because of the pressure applied by Awuzie, the pass was tipped by one of his teammates at the line of scrimmage and almost resulted in a turnover.

Chidobe Awuzie isn't the only Cowboys' rookie that has shown a knack for applying pressure to opposing QBs. Xavier Woods has shown the ability to do this as well.

Woods applying QB pressure - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

In this clip, you see Xavier Woods playing around the line of scrimmage as a box safety. This particular play however doesn't look like a designed blitz. Instead, it looks as if his responsibility is covering the running back in the passing game. Upon seeing the RB is going to pass block, he then decides to rush the QB.

Woods is able to push the RB back into the lap of the QB, causing him to step to the side in order to throw the ball down the field. Unfortunately, the QB is able to connect with his receiver for a sizable gain, but he did make the execution of the play more difficult by forcing the QB to throw the ball little off balance.

Not always, but sometimes these kinds of forced disruptions can benefit the defense, hopefully resulting in turnovers. This is something the Cowboys' defense can certainly use more of.

Sacking the QB

Applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks can usually throw them off their game a little bit, but it doesn't always result in a negative play. That is why QB sacks are so important, but unfortunately the Cowboys' defense has really struggled in this area over the past several years.

Fortunately, Cowboys' rookies Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods can help with this and it also allows Rod Marinelli to get creative with his blitz packages if he chooses. Awuzie had four QB sacks in each of his last two seasons (2015 and 2016) of his collegiate career, and nine altogether. Woods had four QB sacks in his career, but three of those came in 2016 as a senior.

Chidobe Awuzie blitzing - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

In the clip above, you can clearly see why Chidobe Awuzie accumulated nearly double digit QB sacks as a defensive back in college. A sack/fumble is something that the Dallas Cowboys haven't had a lot of recently and can definitely use a lot more of.

Awuzie's ability to play any position in the secondary and blitz from that position makes him extremely valuable for the Cowboys' defense. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli can utilize this versatility to disguises coverages, but also blitz Awuzie from just about anywhere on the field.

These blitzing instincts simply can't be coached. A player is either born with them or not. Awuzie possesses these instincts in spades and that should make opposing QBs around the league a little bit worried.

Of course, he is not the only Cowboys' rookie that has these kind of instincts.

Xavier Woods QB sack - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

In this clip, you can see how Rod Marinelli can utilize Xavier Woods as a blitzer for the Cowboys' defense. On this play, it looks as if Woods is lined up as a cornerbacck instead of his traditional safety spot. But, in the end the result is the same.

Woods does a good job blitzing off the edge and getting good depth to ensure the QB doesn't escape the pocket to his side. Often times, you see defensive backs either rushing too flat or too deep, which can sometimes allow the QB to slip through. But, this is either good coaching or good instincts on the Woods' part, possibly both.

Xavier Woods is also another versatile defensive back that can be blitzed from several different places on the field. At Louisiana Tech he played both free and strong safety, and also played in the slot. I'm sure Marinelli can find a way to utilized that versatility.

✭✭✭✭✭

The Dallas Cowboys' defense definitely has the pieces in place in order to incorporate more blitzes from the secondary in 2017. But, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has never really been known for blitzing a lot.

Of course, that could all change in 2017 if the pass rush struggles like it has the past several seasons. With Orlando Scandrick, Chidobe Awuzie, and Xavier Woods, it wouldn't be all that surprising if Marinelli incorporates their strengths into the Cowboys' defense.

I for one, think this is a very real possibility and something that could become a staple on defense to help provide a spark to the pass rush.

Do you think the Cowboys' secondary will blitz more in 2017?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Donny Cook

    May 29, 2017 at 8:11 am

    until Dallas’s front 4 can prove they can be true pocket pushers and get home I am all for blitzing a few times a game

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      May 29, 2017 at 10:58 am

      Hopefully, the front four steps of their game. It would really help improve the Cowboys pass rush. Then throw in a few blitzes from the secondary, and we should be looking at an improved defense.

  2. dallas1966

    June 2, 2017 at 4:37 am

    I’m agreeing with you , hopefully, the front four, will bring consistent pressure on the quarterbacks, to make the blitz unpredictable, on the opposition offense.

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Star Blog

2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones

Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.

Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.

Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.

The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.

Pro Football Focus on Twitter

Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas

Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.

Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.

The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.

Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Time to Stop Making Excuses for QB Dak Prescott?

Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.

Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.

Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Pues en Dallas, hoy dos  jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.

Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.

Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.

Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.

Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Star Blog

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

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Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 2

Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.

The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.

The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.

Lock Down the Big Guns

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

@Randy81MossRetires, via Twitter

Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.

Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.

As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.

Adding New Talent

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 1

@brkicks, via Twitter

One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.

Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.

If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.

Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.

Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.

The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.

As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.

Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.



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