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Division Links: BtB discusses the impact Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will have on the Cowboys defense

11 June 2020

Chicago Bears v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Blogging the Boys

Will Ha Ha Clinton-Dix provide a real upgrade at the safety spot for the Cowboys?

The Cowboys finally added a veteran safety, but is he really an upgrade over what they’ve had in previous years?

Some of the uproar about Dallas always needing to upgrade the safety spot came from the issues many had for the starter at the time, Jeff Heath. In his three years starting, he became one of the favorite targets of the Cowboys fanbase. Whether it was getting run over by Adrian Peterson, or dominated by Calvin Johnson and Alshon Jeffery, there was a common belief that Heath was holding the Dallas defense back.

When Mike McCarthy took over this offseason, the belief of not valuing the safety spot held by the old regime immediately seemed to change. For the first time in years, Dallas signed a legitimate, starting-caliber safety in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. McCarthy knew Clinton-Dix well, he drafted Clinton-Dix back in 2014 with Green Bay. The signing of Clinton-Dix all but forced Jeff Heath out the door, and one week later, he signed a two-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders, ending his tenure in Dallas.

The stats clearly back up the belief the Clinton-Dix is an upgrade over Heath. Clinton-Dix’s overall reception percentage for his career is 15 points lower than Heath’s, and he has given up almost 200 less YAC. Clinton-Dix also has held opposing quarterbacks to an NFL passer rating against of 52.9 in his career, opposed to Heath’s score of 97.4.

Big Blue View

Summer School: The Air Coryell Offense

Vertical spread
The thing that defines the “Air Coryell” the most is that it relies on vertical routes to spread the field. Last week, we talked about how the West Coast offense used horizontal routes to keep the defense thin, and this is the same principle only sideways. A team running the WCO is happy with an 80 percent completion rate for a bunch of 4-yard passes. The short distance makes it an easier throw for the QB to complete and it’s a useful solution for a team without a superstar at that position.

The Coryell system trusts that the higher risk of throwing downfield will pay off over the course of a game. If a WCO team attempts 10 passes, and gains an average of 4 yards per completion with an 80 percent completion rate, then they will end up with 32 passing yards. The Coryell team will be okay with a much lower completion rate (50-60 percent), if it means they can generate yardage quicker.

The means that rather than targeting a specific receiver, the QB targets a specific spot within the receiver’s route and trusts that the receiver can get to that spot before the ball arrives.

Power running
To compliment the downfield passing game, the Coryell offense typically employs a power running scheme. If the defense is forced to cover deep passes on a consistent basis, they cannot stuff the box with extra players to stop the run , because doing so could result in a big play.

The Norv Turner-era San Diego Chargers would be a good example of a Coryell team. With Philip Rivers at QB and LaDanian Tomlinson in the backfield, the Chargers offense was a highly potent unit that could hurt you in many ways.

Strong line
Given that the QB is targeting downfield receivers and the running game uses a power scheme against a numbers advantage, it’s important that the offensive line is among the best in the league.

The early 1990s Washington offenses of Joe Gibbs are emblematic of a team whose success came from their dominance in the trenches. The Washington OL was consequently nicknamed “The Hogs” after the team rode their success to three Super Bowls.

Tight End
Prior to the Coryell system, tight ends were primarily blockers who ran short routes. In 1980, Coryell expanded on his system to include a variety of intermediate and deep passes to the TE.

The main flaw in the Coryell system is that it requires everything to go right in order to succeed. If one element of the system fails, it can drag the whole team down. If your QB cannot master the delicate art of timing throws rather than player-based throws, then you’re going to have added accuracy issues in a system that already causes a low completion percentage. If you don’t have a dominant set of blockers up front, then your star QB could get mauled and your advantage in the running game is obsolete. If you’re simply having an off-day against an excellent defense, then you better hope your own defense can hold up....

Bleeding Green Nation

[PODCAST] Ranking sophomore quarterback breakout candidates for 2020

1. KYLER MURRAY - Arizona Cardinals

One area where it’s reasonable to expect improvement from Murray is the consistency in which he attacks the intermediate-to-deep areas of the field. With the addition of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Murray’s pedestrian average intended air yards (7.1) from his rookie campaign should experience a significant shot in the arm in his sophomore year.

2. DANIEL JONES - New York Giants

Jones never really got to play with a full compliment of healthy weapons in 2019, something Eagles fans can certainly understand. How much that matters in terms of his 2020 projection remains to be seen, but it certainly can’t hurt. Overall, Jones played better as a rookie than many expected.

3. DREW LOCK - Denver Broncos

What will help Lock is a set of playmakers that could prove to be one of the best group of weapons in the league. Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Noah Fant bring different skill sets and unique trump cards to the table, which certainly will help prop up any quarterback.

We discuss the group above plus Dwayne Haskins, Jarrett Stidham, and Gardner Minshew