In Rob Ryan, Jason Garrett Finds a Coordinator As Fast as He Is

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Update, Sunday, 11 am:  ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that Rob Ryan is the Cowboys new defensive coordinator.  (See box on right.)

Jason Garrett wants a fast football team.  The biggest initial change to appear once he took over from Wade Phillips involved pace.  He practiced faster.  He practiced harder.  He urged his men to work mid-week at the same place they would play on Sunday.  The urgency translated onto the field — his Cowboys scored 27 or more points in their first seven contests.

Garrett’s new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan probably sealed his job by selling increased pace on defense.

On page 3 of a recent Ravens coaching clinic presentation on their style of 3-4, brother Rex Ryan’s case for the 3-4 is made in several points.  The front creates increased confusion, because it offers more rush options for the offensive line to prepare for.  The Ryan 3-4 presents a mobile front which can line up in a straight up 2-gap look, or shift to a shaded look, the front Wade Phillips presented the majority of his snaps, and an attacking, slanting look.

In those bullet points sits a point which will answer a question many Dallas fans have asked for years:

“A dominant nose can control a game — increased pressure on the center.”

This is a 3-4 maxim straight out of papa Buddy Ryan’s 46 scheme.  The elder Ryan took his best defensive lineman and parked him over the center.  He reasoned the center was often the weakest lineman and putting your best man over him created a major mismatch at the point closes to the quarterback.  Ryan did this in Chicago, moving DT Dan Hampton to nose tackle in the 46 and he did this in Philadelphia, sliding DE Reggie White inside, where he terrorized centers.

In Dallas, Ryan will have interior rusher extraordinaire Jay Ratliff, whose 17 sacks the past three years top all interior linemen, 3-4 or 4-3 players.

Ryan stresses disguise, a quality lacking in Phillips’ ’10 incarnation, whose blitzes seemed telegraphed and obvious to opponents, especially those in the division.  The Ryan 3-4 uses a four man rush as its default, but will work five man “fire zone” blitzes and use lots more pressure from corners and safeties.  It will use the outside rushers like Demarcus Ware most of the time, but will change up from time to time.  With four men as a default, look for Ware and Anthony Spencer to play more with their hands down, even when starting in a base 3-4 look.   The emphasis on rushing from the ends suggests that the top DEs we’ve discussed in our draft talks all fall may be even more important to Dallas’ defensive plans.

The philosophical mesh comes in the Ryan practice philosophy.  See if you spot similarities with Garrett’s preparation methods in these bullet points from that same presentation:

  • If your players cannot RUN, are not trained to DEFEAT BLOCKS and TACKLE, the best schemes in the world are worthless.
  • Create a fast practice tempo — no wasted time!
  • Coach effort.  Never accept anything less than great effort.  Reward hustle/punish loafing!
  • Stress Tempo!  Playing Fast!  Play on our terms!

The next Cowboys training camp, whenever it comes, will likely be the hottest, fastest environment since Jimmy Johnson left.

Better get that camp donation fund going…

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Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ TheBoys.com in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for SportsTalkLine.com