Dallas Cowboys and the Importance of Drafting for Pressure

John B. HaffordContributor IMarch 6, 2011

Gerald Sensabaugh, Cowboys Safety
Gerald Sensabaugh, Cowboys SafetyLarry French/Getty Images

I like games of war and strategy and tactics.  They teach valuable lessons, but one lesson that stands out is the lesson that pressuring your opponent with zone coverage and eliminating your enemy's leader can—and often times, will—win games.

Take cornerbacks for example:  They are similar to sharpshooters on a battlefield.  Their job is to interrupt the play in a manner that will instantly decide the game in the favor of the defense's team.  If they were sharpshooters in a war game, their job would be to lay a cross-fire pattern and lay in wait for the best target of opportunity, big or small.  However, a sharpshooter's first priority is to take out the head honcho of an enemy unit.  In zone coverage, the cornerback's big target of opportunity is the wide receiver.

Now, imagine Terence Newman as a sharpshooter.  Really?  Okay, let's say T-New and our own legendary Deion "PrimeTime" Sanders are sharpshooters on a battlefield.  T-New is so slow, his running is akin to him using a musket while Deion "Prime Time" Sanders was so fast and deadly accurate, we could say he used an SR-15.  It boils down to Musket vs. Machine Gun. 

Now, drafting a corner can be as tricky as any prospect, but one thing we know for sure is that the Cowboys have guys on the team who could be moved to CB.  Still, the Cowboys need to seriously consider Van Dyke and/or Peterson and draft them if the opportunity presents itself.  Now, if CBs are battlefield sharpshooters, strong safeties are snipers.

Safeties create targets of opportunity.  They take their station, scout their opponent, lay a line-of-sight and aim for the quarterback.  Before the offense knows what's happening, the safety has already picked what slot he's going to drive up into.  The quarterback can only look for a receiver and hope that someone is blocking that strong/free safety.  If the block is missed, then—WHAM—Tony Romo gets a busted collarbone.

The safety, by rushing the QB, creates pressure that winds up creating overthrown/inaccurate passes and/or quarterback sacks.  Either way, this kind of pressure sets the offense back in space and time, a combination that will give the ball back to the defending team.  Indeed, space and time is what it boils down to.

Should Dallas draft talented and eager cornerbacks and safeties, the Cowboys will do all that much better in creating situations defensively where space and time on the field become the opposing team's worst enemies. 

If you need convincing, think of every great war movie ever made where a sniper is present: The unit can't move on until that particular gunman is isolated and neutralized.  It's a metaphor that can go either way, but defensively, it works for CBs and safeties and spells doom for opposing QBs.  BANG!  BANG!