October 31, 2012

Cowboys have tweaked their approach on 3rd down

Over the course of their last three games, the Oklahoma State defense has performed closer to the lofty expectations heaped on them in the preseason. The changes that have brought the improvements are subtle. There hasn't been a major change in scheme or in the depth chart.

An area that has shown significant improvement recently is the Cowboy defense's ability to get off of the field in third- and fourth-and-long situations. Bill Young's "speed package" drew ire from fans early in the season. Young has not gone completely away from the three-man front that is the most noticeable aspect of the package. He has tweaked it, and now opposing offenses see a variety of alignments, blitzes and personnel.

To highlight this, we took a look at nine third- and fourth-down situations from last Saturday's OSU win over Texas Christian and noted the front shown, any blitzes and the result of the play.

8:04 1st Quarter, 3rd & 10 - The Cowboys went with their "typical" three-man front that consists of three defensive ends in the game. Cooper Bassett slides inside to play noseguard. On this play, the defensive linemen all rush the passer and are joined by blitzing linebackers Shaun Lewis and Joe Mitchell. The pressure forces a checkdown to the flat, where Lyndell Johnson makes the tackle for a gain of four. TCU punts.

5:20 1st Quarter, 3rd & 5 - OSU shows a four-man front. It's the normal "speed package" (Bassett inside), but adds defensive tackle Calvin Barnett playing a five-technique. The Cowboys do not blitz on this play. The middle linebacker (Lewis) obviously has a zone to cover, but is literally standing around in the the same spot he was in before the play. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin makes a throw that is practically right over Lewis' head and hits his receiver in front of Brodrick Brown for a 12-yard gain and the first down.

12:09 2nd Quarter, 3rd & 4 - Alignment is the four-man front version of the speed package. No blitz. Boykin is pressured moderately and overshoots a throw to a receiver right at the line to gain where safety Daytawion Lowe is in good position. Lowe likely could have had an interception, but instead is focused on hitting the receiver at the marker.

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