2021 NFL Defensive Identities

*Updated from a series in Spring

You can read more about this series in the 2021 NFL Offensive Identities.

House cleaning:
1. All data ONLY considers moments in game where the difference in score is 16 points
2. Unless specified, does NOT include 4th downs or the 4th quarter
3. And this is the MOST important of all: all data presented is factually “what happened LAST YEAR”, which does not necessarily mean it will happen this year (this is especially true if a team has changed coordinators on the side of the ball in question)


-Rushers %: How often does a defense send (x) rushers
-Base, Nickel and Dime: BY ROSTER (not formation), how often does a defense take the field with 4, 5 and 6+ DBs respectively
-Light, Normal and Heavy Box: pre-snap, by percentage how often does a defense lineup with <7, 7 and >7 men in the box (the area roughly 2 yards outside of the end man on the line of scrimmage x 1 yard deeper than the deepest ILB)
-0/1 COV: Cover 0 and Cover 1 combined, could be read as “man” (excluding Cover 2 Man)

As an example, Dan Quinn was the DC for the Cowboys last year, and will continue in the role this year. With that I would identify his defense as such:

-HEAVY Blitzing team, sending the most 7 man rushes, 8th most 6 man rushes, and 11th most 5 man rushes
-Base defense has 2 or fewer LBs on the field (2nd most Nickel and 6th most Dime)
-Crowds the line of scrimmage with defenders (most heavy boxes in the NFL)
-Loves man coverage, as the Cowboys were 2nd in the NFL in man rate, while none of the 3 “main” zone coverages they ranked higher than 21st

*In other words, I would absolutely describe the identity and philosophy behind the Cowboy defense as one of aggression, that dares you to throw the ball in the hopes that pressure will minimizes the time his cover guys need to stick on their assignments.

Next week, we will repeat this data dump for college football (which is much tighter year-over-year in terms of tendency).

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