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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.

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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
  • Donny Cook

    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

      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.

  • dallas1966

    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.

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: 3 Escenarios Para el Futuro de David Irving

Mauricio Rodriguez

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- David Irving, #95

En la NFL, la falta de noticias en Junio generalmente significa buenas noticias. Los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys saben esto mejor que nadie y en caso de que lo hayan olvidado, David Irving se aseguró de recordarle a Cowboys Nation el porque de esta frase.

La semana pasada, se anunció que David Irving recibirá una suspensión de cuatro partidos por haber violado la política de abuso de substancias de la liga. Es la segunda suspensión que Irving recibe en años consecutivos y lógicamente, esto es preocupante para el equipo de los Dallas Cowboys.

Las últimas dos temporadas hemos visto a Irving convertirse en una pieza de suma importancia para la defensiva. El año pasado, Irving consiguió siete sacks (capturas) en sólo ocho juegos y se convirtió en un caza cabezas muy efectivo.

Demostrando ser uno de los jugadores más talentosos de su posición en la NFL, es difícil imaginar el futuro del #95 en la liga. Tras recibir un tender de segunda ronda hace unos meses (explico que es eso aquí), el futuro de Irving es muy incierto. Por eso, esta semana en Cowboys en Español, exploraremos tres escenarios posibles para el defensivo de 24 años.

#1 David Irving se va de Dallas prematuramente

Hace unos días, me dediqué a defender mi posición de que los Cowboys estarían cometiendo un error al cortar a David Irving. A pesar de que realmente despedirse de un defensivo como Irving parece muy poco probable, es un escenario que debemos discutir.

Irving ha sido un dolor de cabeza para el equipo en más de una ocasión. Dos suspensiones en años consecutivos no es una buena imagen para un jugador que busca un contrato jugoso al terminar el año.

Si Jason Garrett y la administración quieren "dar un mensaje" cortando a David Irving, ¿qué tanto serviría? Esta idea de enviar un mensaje, a la hora de pensarlo fríamente, parece una idea romántica de parte de nosotros los fans. Al final de cuentas, estamos hablando de un locker room lleno de jugadores adultos y profesionales, no de un grupo de niños.

Además, bien sabemos todos que Irving no es el único Cowboy que ha tenido problemas. ¿Será el hecho de que ha ocurrido dos años seguidos razón suficiente para dejarlo ir? Personalmente, no lo creo. Los Cowboys dejarían ir a un jugador muy bueno en una posición de necesidad.

Datone Jones, Jihad Ward y Maliek Collins podrán ser suficiente. Pero David Irving es especial en el campo. Mejor tenerlo por 12 juegos a tenerlo cero.

#2 Irving se queda para el 2018, pero no más allá

David Irving recibió un contrato de un año que le pagaba (antes de ser suspendido) 2.91 millones de dólares. Si hubiera demostrado que no era problemático y que podía mantenerse al 100% toda la temporada, probablemente hubiera recibido un gran contrato de los Cowboys o de otro equipo en la NFL.

Sin embargo, el dicho lo dice todo. "En la NFL, la disponibilidad es la mejor habilidad." Irving no se ha terminado de ganar la confianza necesaria para una gran extensión.

En este punto, Dallas puede esperar a que su tackle defensivo regrese de su suspensión, juegue doce juegos con ellos y les consiga un sack por juego por menos de tres millones de dólares. Después de eso, el equipo pude darse el lujo de dejarlo ir sin una extensión y verlo convertirse en un agente libre.

Does DT David Irving Have a Future With Cowboys?

Dallas Cowboys DT David Irving (Albert Pena / CSM)

#3 Irving se queda por más de un año

En este caso, hay dos "sub-escenarios." Suponiendo que, efectivamente, Irving regresa y juega como sabemos que puede hacerlo, no será tan fácil dejarlo ir. Si llega a sorprender y demuestra que realmente es quien creemos que es y consigue diez capturas en sólo doce juegos, ¿realmente no le dará el equipo una oportunidad?

La primera opción sería asignarle la etiqueta franquicia y obligarlo a jugar un año más para un equipo que busca desesperadamente un Super Bowl.

Si se sienten cómodos dándole el salario de una etiqueta franquicia para evitar perderlo, ¿podríamos culparlos después de que les dio por ejemplo, diez capturas? Yo, personalmente, no podría hacerlo.

La otra opción, y una que podría ser la más realista, es más simple. La inmadurez y los problemas de Irving le costarán la confianza y el interés de otros equipos y es posible que en un punto, Dallas sea el único equipo que le pueda brindar seguridad de trabajo.

De esta manera, Dallas podría ofrecerle una extensión de dos, tres o más años a un precio mucho más barato que el de cualquier DT que consiga dos dígitos de sacks.

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David Irving sin duda tiene un futuro incierto delante de él. Realmente sería una sorpresa verlo fuera de Dallas en el 2018, pero más allá, quien sabe lo que pueda pasar. Por ahora, esperemos que una vez que vuelva de la suspensión, esté en forma para ir detrás de los quarterbacks oponentes.

Con un poco de suerte, quizá nos olvidaremos de esto en Noviembre.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: 3 Escenarios Para el Futuro de David Irving" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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

Is Kris Richard Actually Jason Garrett’s Replacement, Not Rod Marinelli’s?

Brian Martin

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Is Kris Richard Jason Garrett's Replacement, Not Rod Marinelli's?

Much has already been made about the Dallas Cowboys hiring of Kris Richard. He was brought in to be this year's defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, but it's a title I don't think he will hold for long.

It has already been speculated that Kris Richard will become Rod Marinelli's successor to become the Dallas Cowboys next defensive coordinator. Marinelli in fact contemplated retirement after the completion of the 2017 season, but decided to give it another go in 2018. But, anything beyond that is unknown at this point.

It isn't that hard to believe that Kris Richard will be the Dallas Cowboys next defensive coordinator. He already has a pretty good track record as a DC from his time with the Seattle Seahawks (2015-2017). During that time, the Seahawks had one of the better defenses in the league, which is why a lot of Cowboys fans are excited about what he can do in Dallas.

This was a terrific hire by the Dallas Cowboys. Richard is one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the league today and is highly respected around the league. For him to take a step back from defensive coordinator to become the DB coach/passing game coordinator in Dallas is a little confusing.

Why would he take a step back in his coaching career to come to the Dallas Cowboys?

Kris Richard

Dallas Cowboys DB Coach/Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard

Before he agreed to come to Dallas, Richard interviewed for the head-coaching job with the Indianapolis Colts. To already be considered a head-coaching candidate tells you all you need to know about the trajectory of Richard's career. Again, why take a step back with the Cowboys?

We all know that Jerry Jones is a fantastic salesman. He must've been able to convince Richard that he has a chance at a big promotion sometime soon. But, would a promotion to defensive coordinator be enough for Richard? Does he have his eyes set on something bigger?

I know that I'm not alone, but Jason Garrett is on thin ice this season. If he doesn't at least get the Dallas Cowboys into the playoffs this year, he could be looking for a new job, which would create a vacancy at head coach. This could be the kind of opportunity Kris Richard is looking for.

I find it a little hard to believe that Kris Richard would be willingly to come coach in Dallas knowing that the entire coaching staff could be dismissed after the season if Jason Garrett isn't successful. That's not typically the kind of job security you look for, so something has to have been promised to him behind closed doors.

I know it's a lot of speculation right now, but I don't think it's completely out of the realm of possibility. Someone is going to have to replace Jason Garrett if he falters this season and Kris Richard is a logical choice. After all, it's kind of the way Garrett became the head coach of the Cowboys when he replaced Wade Phillips. Could history repeat itself?

Do you think Kris Richard is Jason Garrett's eventual replacement?



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NFC East Position Rankings: The Quarterbacks

Kevin Brady

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5 Points: Thoughts on the 2018 Dallas Cowboys Schedule 1
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The long NFL offseason is finally beginning to come to a close, with teams participating in mandatory mini-camps and training camps just a month away. Still, though, there is a lot of time left before the 2018 NFL season really begins.

With that time it's always fun to rank things and put together lists. I mean, who doesn't love a good article ranking players? Over the next few weeks I'll be ranking position groups in the NFC East to see which team comes out on top.

Today we begin with the NFC East quarterbacks, arguably the most scrutinized position group in all of sports.

4. New York Giants QB Eli Manning

Though he is the most accomplished quarterback in this division, Giants QB Eli Manning comes in last in our current rankings. Manning has seen his play decline throughout the years, even being benched in favor of Geno Smith late in 2017.

With a healthy cast of pass catchers and rookie running back Saquon Barkley surrounding him, however, Manning could be poised for improvement in 2018.

The Giants offense might be the best in the league if each game was a 7 on 7 tournament, so it will be interesting to see how Eli Manning performs this season.

3. Washington Redskins QB Alex Smith

The newest starting quarterback in the NFC East is Washington's Alex Smith, and he comes in third in our rankings. Smith has gotten the reputation as a check-down artist throughout his career thus far, but when surrounded by the right talent he can be very effective.

Smith had arguably his best season to date in 2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs, but I just don't see Washington's offense being nearly as dangerous as those Chiefs were a year ago.

To me, Smith is at best a marginal upgrade over former starter Kirk Cousins, and won't bring too much of a difference over the long haul in Washington.

2. Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Second on our list is Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. The now third year quarterback is coming off a bit of a "sophomore slump" to end his 2017 campaign, though his first season and a half warrant him our number two spot.

I expect Prescott to look like himself in 2018, especially with the improvements the Cowboys made to their offensive line. Ezekiel Elliott should be available for all 16 games, and the turnover in the receiver group gives some cause for optimism as well.

Prescott is the former Rookie of the Year and has had a good start to his career thus far, but sorry, Cowboys fans, we can all admit Dak Prescott doesn't deserve the top spot as of now.

1. Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz

The top quarterback in the NFC East right now is Eagles QB Carson Wentz. Wentz was a legitimate MVP candidate in 2017 prior to his injury, and once returning to full health Wentz should be able to impress once again.

The Eagles offense was downright dominant while Wentz was healthy, and though they did win the Super Bowl without him, Wentz brings their productivity to another level.

And with arguably the best supporting cast of the entire division, Carson Wentz is poised for success going forward.



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