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Arizona Cardinals stats: Comparing Todd Bowles and Ray Horton in defensive back blitzes

Both coordinators liked bringing pressure. Who did it more with defensive backs and which group was more successful?

Jonathan Daniel

Not too long ago, I compared how much the Arizona Cardinals sent their outside linebackers into coverage between 2012 and 2013, which also contrasts Ray Horton (Arizona's DC in 2012) and Todd Bowles (the DC in 2013).

I would like to do a similar comparison in another area -- defensive back blitzing.

It is important to note that both coordinators are known for aggressive, blitzing defenses. At the same time, it is also important to note that the personnel was different.

In 2012, the starting defensive backs were Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Patrick Peterson and William Gay. In 2013, only Peterson returned, joined by Jerraud Powers, Rashad Johnson/Tyrann Mathieu and Yeremiah Bell.

So let's take a look at the numbers (I'll use the numbers from all the DBs on the team both years). Note that for the team numbers, I do make the assumption that only one defensive back would blitz on any particular play, so it might not be perfect, but it should be pretty close.

(The numbers come from Pro Football Focus, premium subscription)

2012 player total snaps pass rush snaps percent blitzed
Patrick Peterson 1071 5 0.40%
Kerry Rhodes 1040 27 2.60%
William Gay 1034 10 0.97%
Adrian Wilson 869 42 4.80%
Greg Toler 308 2 0.65%
Jamell Fleming 277 0 0.00%
Rashad Johnson 166 6 3.61%
James Sanders 122 10 8.20%
Team 1107 102 9.21%
2013 player total snaps pass rush snaps percent blitzed
Patrick Peterson 1103 0 0.00%
Yeremiah Bell 1098 59 5.37%
Jerraud Powers 1060 8 0.75%
Tyrann Mathieu 803 39 4.86%
Rashad Johnson 643 10 1.56%
Tony Jefferson 202 6 2.97%
Antoine Cason 169 6 3.55%
Javier Arenas 107 12 11.21%
Team 1112 140 12.59%

As you can see, Bowles used his defensive backs to blitz just a bit more than Horton. The two coordinators are similar in the fact that they used the safeties to do it a lot, although the Mathieu numbers are a little skewed by the fact that he lined up as a slot corner nearly three quarters of the time.

Now let us look at the success rate of creating pressure.

Year Pass rush attempts Hurries QB Hits Sacks Sack percentage Total pressure percentage
2012 102 12 4 5 4.90% 20.59%
2013 140 21 6 3 2.14% 21.43%

What you can see is that Horton's group was more likely to get a sack, but that both Bowles' and Horton's units would generate pressure at roughly the same rate. Since Bowles would use DBs to pressure the quarterback more often, his unit created more pressure overall.

In this comparison, you can see that the two DCs are very similar in philosophy, at least when it comes to using their defensive backs as blitzers.

Another similarity between the two is the unlikeliness of using an outside cornerback to go after the quarterback. In 2012, Peterson only had five attempts. William Gay had more (10), but he would move inside when there were three corners on the field. Greg Toler or Jamell Fleming would play on the outside and the two combined for two attempts.

With Bowles, Peterson never rushed the QB and Powers, who played outside, did so only eight times. Mathieu, who played the slot and safety, did so 39 times.

Both coordinators use their inside defensive backs and their safeties to blitz, but not their outside guys.