Oct. '22 - Blitz of the Month: Buccaneers Cross-Dog Pressure
Tampa Bay's Trap 2 Cross-Dog pressure vs. the Cowboys.
Head Coach Todd Bowles has done a fantastic job over the several years he has been with the Buccaneers. Defensively, Tampa Bay has had a Top 10 DVOA (Football Outsiders) for the past two years, and the 2022 campaign has them on track to finish in the Top 10 again. Bowles has shown a knack for evolving his defense to fit his personnel and the changing ecosystem within the NFL.
When Bowles got the Defensive Coordinator job in ‘19, the Bucs’ defense was coming off an ‘18 campaign that saw them ranked 32nd in DVOA. In one off-season, Bowles raised the level of play to a Top 10 defense, finishing 9th in DVOA. Primarily a 3-4 Cover 1 defense in his first two years, Bowles has transitioned into more of a Nickel (2-4-5) hybrid zone defense, which matches the trend around the league.
In ‘19 and ‘20, the Bucs’ secondary ran primarily Cover 1, but the past two seasons have seen Tampa Bay shift to a zone scheme that bases in Cover 3 with Cover 2 (and some Quarters) as a change-up. Bowles’ willingness to pressure the QB on passing downs is one constant within the scheme.
Over the past three seasons (‘19-’21), Tampa Bay has had a consistent passing down blitz rate in the 40s. An overwhelming majority of those pressures are five-man pressures (~70%) that use the box ‘backers as the primary blitzers. ‘19 and ‘20 saw that percentage around 57%. One trend that I am seeing at the higher levels of football is to move away from blitzing secondary players in volume. Instead, defenses are using their ILBs to do the blitzing. ‘21 saw the percentage spike to 65% (PFF).
Five-man pressures are a great way to create one-on-one blocking for your defenders. At protection manipulation through front structure, a defense can get their best blitzer or pass rusher on the offense’s worst blocker. Using box ‘backers in pressures has a tendency to keep the RB in to assist the protection.
The defense changes the math for their pass coverage by keeping in the RB. With 11 players on the field and five in the rush, the defense can utilize six in coverage. If the RB stays in to protect, the defense now has a plus-two advantage. With pressure, the defense has changed the math. Plus, most RBs aren’t great at pass blocking, which is illustrated in the clip below.