Over the years, the NFL has changed. Gone are the days of a physical brand of football and in are the passing attacks that invade our television screens each and every Sunday, Monday and Thursday. And with that, more teams are trying to build defenses to stop these high-powered offenses. And going forward, many may look at the model of the Seattle Seahawks, who shut down the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. But what component is most needed for a good defense: a dominant pass rusher or a shutdown corner?
Richard Sherman is considered by many the best cornerback in the NFL. He has size, smarts and competes on every single play against whoever lines up in front of him. He is considered a shutdown corner in the NFL. More often, teams tend to avoid the elite corners and by doing so, they eliminate the amount of field the rest of the defense has to cover. And with the quarterback having a smaller field to work with, that creates smaller windows for the quarterback to throw the football into. Because of those smaller windows, opportunities are created for other players to make plays. Another benefit of having a shutdown corner is it gives the defense a free defender to roam the field. That free player could be used in a couple of different ways. He could be used as a blitzer to put additional pressure on the quarterback. And even by bringing an extra man on the blitz, your coverage is still sure because of the elite defender manning one side of the field. Another use of that extra defender is as additional help for the other defensive backs. If that elite defender needs no help, then you can rotate the defense towards the weaker side to provide additional help. And with more defenders in a smaller space, those small windows become microscopic.
But not to be outdone, dominant pass rushers definitely have a huge effect on the game. A lot of them come with the rare combination of size, speed and power all wrapped up in one. Guys like Robert Mathis of the Colts and Demarcus Ware of the Broncos wreak havoc on opposing offenses each and every game with their myriad of moves. Of course if an elite pass rusher is present, there is always a game plan to try and make him less effective. Those plans usually include a running back, tight end of another offensive lineman going over to help another player block him. When running backs and tight ends help offensive linemen block, that makes for less weapons the offense has to take advantage of the defense. It also allows for linebackers to get more depth in their coverage, making for tougher windows to throw through. If an additional offensive linemen is helping out, then other defensive lineman get more favorable matchups, making for even more problems for an offense. But not all offenses like to double pass rushers. And when single coverage happens, most pass rushers can take full advantage of the offensive lineman. When that happens, the quarterback has less time to get the football out to his playmakers. An elite pass rush takes the pressure off defensive backs because of the lessening of time. You could argue that some pass rushers make defensive backs look better than they are because of the pressure they create.
Both dominant pass rushers and shutdown corners have a huge effect in the NFL by today’s standards. More offenses are passing at higher clips and defenses have to have a chip on their side as well. Deciding which chip you want on your side is what makes it so hard. So, which one are you taking to start your defense?
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