NFL Team Identities, Defense

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Continuing on last week’s series NFL Team Identities, Offense, today we bring you the counterpart to the to last week’s post: Team Defense Identity. Again, the purpose here is to give those serious about the game a true lens to view what a team’s strategy actually is. Please refer to last week’s article for key notes, but remember, all that’s considered are plays during relevant gameplay (within 2 possessions score difference at any point in the game).

For Defense, the variables we consider are

  • Rush x or Rush 3, 4, 5 and more than 5 is the rank within the league of how often a defense rushes x quantity
  • Light (<7), Normal (7) and Heavy (>7) is the respective box size a defense deploys, with “Light” being less than 7 defenders, “Normal” being exactly 7 and “Heavy” being more than 7 defenders in the box
  • Blitz Rk as defined by our friends at Football Reference (Note: this is their definition, not necessarily the way FPS records it, as anytime a team rushes x + 1, where x = the amount of rushers deployed most for a team)
  • Base, Nickel and Dime Rk or ranks refers to the quantity of 4, 5 and 6 DBs deployed on a given play respectively
  • 0/1, 2/T2, 3 and 4 refer to the respective ranks a defense deploys said coverage. Note that Cover 0 and 1 are combined (man coverages) and Cover 2 and Tampa 2 (when a MLB flys deep into the “hole” zone) are combined
TeamRush 3 RkRush 4 RkRush 5 RkRush >5 RkLight (<7) RkNormal (7) RkHeavy (>7) RkBlitz RkBase RKNickel RkDime Rk0/1 Rk2/T2 Rk3 Rk4 Rk
49ers2619951462210119241826261
Bears20523301121182982717242278
Bengals151819424148152311167142918
Bills311487202218301271927164
Broncos19102011131321820818630276
Browns30427281711173013723273292
Buccaneers133029101224541630281657
Cardinals232842252054125261282519
Chargers28231272913732221215233149
Chiefs242317112525917304963213
Colts2933023193203121331293815
Cowboys8925292826227264192192112
Dolphins3321563010621028103291327
Eagles321321531192812231311182221
Falcons11217212215101214532572432
Football Team181710184243013913252521123
Giants4132931329292025208315229
Jaguars2711141018181116521222251726
Jets1424681319146282291741528
Lions5162219238162524151210171430
Packers121212328728221632122112011
Panthers22528225302324322223219110
Patriots12926139271923311834231131
Raiders17624257222626186211622820
Rams2571326232312127195262065
Ravens16273122628111517148241922
Saints9201616162512142910612123114
Seahawks102211142717411226203013317
Steelers213113219153331915101823
Texans726520324376291114151025
Titans615212415161317192471382324
Vikings22818176232719714282013016

As an example, the Chicago Bears can be classified defensively as a:
-Rush 4
-Typically lighter box
-RARELY blitz
-Mainly base Defensive Backfield
-Heavy Cover 3 and 4, ZONE defense

As mentioned last week, this info is pertinent looking back, and relatively pertinent looking forward, (that is, usage, is relatively stable from year to year) with the EXCEPTION of OC/DC Changes. We took the liberty of including those changes as reference to lookup when considering teams with any changes. I should also note, the data is most useful in the first 4 weeks of the season as we both don’t have enough data for that season during weeks 1-4, and congruently once we get season x data, season x -1 data is less and less relevant.

OC CHANGEDC CHANGENEW OC LY TMNEW DC LY TM
ATLX X TEN (OC)TEN (DC)
CHI X INT (DB ly)
DAL X ATL (HC)
DET X X LAC (HC)NO (DB)
GB X LAR (LB)
HOUILLINOIS (HC)
IND X INT (QB)
JAC X X DET (OC)BAL (DL)
LAC X X NO (QB)DEN (DB)
LAR X ATL (DC)
MIA X INT (RB/TE)
MIN X INT (QB)
NYJ X X SF (PGC)ATL (LB)
PHI X X LAC (OC)IND (DB)
PIT X INT (QB)
SF X X INT (RGC)INT (LB)
TEN X X INT (TE)INT (OLB)

Note:

-“X” means there was a OC or DC change made on this team
-Included in the “New OC or DC” section is where the NEW coach came from and (position they held)
-For example, its fair to look at TEN’s offensive tendencies when considering ATL’s likely identity in 2021 (within reason, good coaches change scheme to match talent, not the other way around)

In the near future we plan to disclose exact correlations to certain plays we’ve leveraged with regard to “matchup-based” value plays in the coming weeks, but use this as a baseline and make 2021 adjustments as you deem fit,

2 thoughts on “NFL Team Identities, Defense

  1. I’ve always found humorous the word identity. A successful team plays to their strengths and the opponents’ weaknesses. The most successful teams do this the best, and at the right times. Nothing more.

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