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Pass Coverage or Pass Rush?

Pass Coverage or Pass Rush?  

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  1. 1. Which is more important?



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A lot of you are probably already aware, but there's been on ongoing argument from the analytics community for the past few years - with PFF leading the charge - that Pass Coverage is more important than Pass Rush on both an aggregate team and individual player level.

I wanted to see how many on this site agree with this.  If so, why?  If not, why not?

Here are a few articles on the subject.

https://www.pff.com/news/pro-pff-data-study-coverage-vs-pass-rush

https://www.pff.com/news/pro-pff-data-study-coverage-vs-pass-rush-revisited

https://www.pff.com/news/nfl-pff-data-study-coverage-vs-pass-rush-part-three

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Belichick builds up defense back to front while conventional wisdom dictates a pass rush helps the team more.

For me? Would I rather have the Sack Exchange or Revis Island + Cromartie...probably lean more towards Revis and Cromartie only because I like to blitz.

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It depends on who I’m facing. That’s the beauty of the NFL.

 

Having an elite secondary isn’t going to do you a ton of good against Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb. However, a great pass rush won’t help if Mahommes or Russell Wilson are putting your guys on skates.

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Posted (edited)

If my coaching staff is dumb or average probably a great pass rush because they will win their individual matchups and dominant. If my coaching staff is smart, they might be able to get better results with elite coverage and finding ways to confuse the offense. One of the best things about a pass rush is that it doesn’t require much sophistication if you have a couple dominant players.

Of course, if your great pass rushers are dominant all around they will do more against the run and make themselves the obvious choice. 

Edited by patriotsheatyan

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pass coverage allows for more flexibility. 

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2 hours ago, KingOfTheDot said:

Belichick builds up defense back to front while conventional wisdom dictates a pass rush helps the team more.

Ravens particularly in recent years with the influence of DeCosta, Harbaugh, and a more analytics-oriented approach growing have also made a noticeable shift towards prioritizing coverage over pass rush. The idea seems to be that it's easier for the modern short passing games to scheme around great pass rushers than it is to scheme around great coverage. There's also more flexibility in the way you can rush the passer if you trust your coverage guys - Ravens blitz at a much higher rate than virtually every other team in the league and use a lot of different/unique looks, which allows us to manufacture pressure without necessarily always possessing great individual rushers - whereas things are a little more black and white if you have a great pass rush and so-so secondary - you're just hoping on a given snap that you get to the QB because odds are if they don't there's gonna be a man open before long. 

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6 minutes ago, BaltimoreTerp said:

The idea seems to be that it's easier for the modern short passing games to scheme around great pass rushers than it is to scheme around great coverage. 

Yes, this is the crux of the argument for coverage > pass rush.  And the Ravens and Patriots have definitely been at the forefront of that in recent years.

My take is that coverage, as an entire unit, is probably more important than pass rush.  But, on an individual level, I'd rather have a great pass rusher over a great DB.  In the secondary, I'd focus my resources on building solid starter-level depth to minimize any weaknesses in coverage instead of trying to find one or two star players, as your 4th best DB will be picked on regardless of how good your other 3 DBs are.  But I think one great pass rusher can have a greater impact on the DL than one great CB can have in the secondary, at least with today's rules.

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If you look at the top 10 teams by PASS DEFENSE DVOA in 2019, it's an interesting mix of teams with standout secondaries (Patriots, Ravens, Bills) and teams with great pass rushers (Niners, Steelers, Vikings).  Though most of these teams are good in both coverage and pass rush.

RK TEAM DEFENSE
DVOA
LAST
YEAR
WEI.
DEFENSE
RK PASS
DEF
RK RUSH
DEF
RK NON-ADJ
TOTAL
NON-ADJ
PASS
NON-ADJ
RUSH
VAR RK SCHED RK
1 NE -25.5% 16 -16.8% 4 -33.8% 1 -14.0% 6 -28.5% -37.2% -16.3% 11.8% 31 -5.5% 32
2 SF -19.7% 23 -15.2% 5 -26.3% 2 -12.0% 11 -17.7% -23.0% -11.5% 8.8% 28 0.7% 13
3 PIT -18.4% 13 -24.3% 1 -16.5% 3 -20.3% 3 -17.5% -17.4% -17.6% 7.1% 22 0.0% 16
4 BAL -12.7% 3 -20.4% 2 -16.5% 4 -7.0% 20 -16.8% -22.7% -8.1% 7.2% 24 -5.2% 30
6 BUF -11.5% 2 -12.7% 6 -13.4% 5 -8.9% 18 -13.6% -17.5% -8.5% 5.2% 12 -5.4% 31
14 KC -3.4% 26 -5.3% 13 -9.3% 6 4.2% 29 -1.2% -6.0% 5.0% 5.8% 16 1.7% 8
7 MIN -9.9% 4 -11.2% 7 -7.6% 7 -13.1% 8 -9.8% -6.1% -15.0% 2.9% 3 1.7% 9
8 CHI -7.2% 1 -6.8% 10 -4.1% 8 -11.0% 13 -3.9% 1.1% -10.4% 3.8% 4 3.7% 1
15 GB -1.1% 29 0.0% 16 -1.3% 9 -0.8% 23 -1.1% -2.3% 0.5% 8.1% 27 -0.2% 17
9 LAR -6.4% 17 -7.5% 8 -1.3% 10 -12.5% 10 -3.2% 0.6% -7.7% 9.2% 29 3.3% 3

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A single elite pass rusher around other below average rushers will have a bigger impact than a single elite DB will have amongst a group of below average players in the secondary. So the individual pass rusher is probably more valuable than the individual DB. 

But as a unit, having a great secondary is the way to go in today’s NFL, IMO. 

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I think you can get by with either, provided the other unit isn't bad. Elite pass rush and solid coverage or elite coverage and solid pass rush can bring you to an elite defense. I do think, if you have elite coverage, it's easier to manufacture elite pass rush through coaching and play calling, than the opposite. You can still only drop so many guys into coverage, so if the rush doesn't win the one on ones, you can't as easily manufacture coverage. Whereas if you're great in man, you can blitz more and more creatively and manufacture pass rush. That is more coaching dependent, though, so an elite secondary with a coach that isn't going to call and structure those blitzes well still won't get you a pass rush. I do think pass rushers are a bit easier to find, too. Cover men that can do everything are rare. So building that elite secondary is likely tougher, though definitely cap cheaper. I also agree with Yin-Yang's point, one elite pass rusher is far more impactful than one elite DB. DB core has to be a whole unit. One gap there and they just exploit that man. Harder to do that against pass rushers. You can slide protection but that still makes everyone else's job easier, so the impact is there.

I guess this is just a really long paragraph to say you're fine either way. I don't think one is substantially superior than the other. If you have the ability to get either, do it. If you have either, pay them and keep them.

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Give me the pass rush all day. Defenses that know how to get into quarterback’s faces and force them to make quicker decisions, fluster them, and make them feel their presence are the ones you talk about as the best. Coverage sacks do happen, but let’s be real: There are a lot more interceptions created by pass rushers than sacks created by coverage.

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Maybe the Redskins selected the wrong defensive player from Ohio State...

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Posted (edited)

The NFL has much more quick passes than in the past.  I feel like a good corner can disrupt the passing game regardless, while a good passrusher can be neutralized with the quick passes.

Edited by Gmen
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