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Blitzing or No Blitzing? Data shows Browns front 4 struggled to get pressure

A big question when looking at new DC for Cleveland

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the Cleveland Browns set to interview their second candidate for their defensive coordinator position today, the four known candidates can be divided into a few different groups. First, two of the candidates have head coaching experience.

The second, and maybe more interesting and important, is that two of the candidates are aggressive, blitz-heavy-minded guys while the other two are more likely to expect the front four to get the job done while coverage carries the load. Browns fans, after Joe Woods’ failure, are likely to prefer the blitzing guys more.

Looking at some data at the end of the year, it is clear that Cleveland put the emphasis on DE Myles Garrett and company to bring the heat on the quarterback. The Browns were right about the middle of the pack when it came to blitzing but, interestingly enough, one of the worst at getting pressure when they didn’t blitz:

A few interesting things to read into the above graph:

  • Cleveland pressure was basically dependent on Garrett
  • More than half the playoff teams were at or below the league average in blitzing
  • The New York Giants were the rare team that blitzed a ton AND got pressure when they didn’t
  • Philadelphia and Washington show the power of a great front 4
  • The group in the top left quadrant is one whose pressure rates are highly dependent on blitzing
  • The group in the bottom right doesn’t blitz much because they can get pressure without it

When we look at the four coordinator candidates, three out of the four are below the league-average blitz line. The narrative around the four candidates mostly plays out:

  • Despite not calling plays, Brian Flores is a part of the most blitz-happy defense of the four
  • Jerod Mayo is the second most blitz-happy of the four but lower than expected on the chart
  • Despite not calling plays, Jim Schwartz is a part of a defense that doesn’t blitz a ton
  • Also not calling plays, Sean Desai, as advertised, is a part of a team that blitzes at one of the lowest rates in the league

For Cleveland fans, not blitzing didn’t work with Woods so there is the thought that the team must blitz to be successful. Given the lower level of blitzing among playoff teams, that doesn’t seem to be accurate. Flores, when he was running the defense, and Mayo are the two most aggressive candidates while Schwartz and Desai are not going to bring the blitz very often according to the defenses they are a part of now and in the past as well as the working narratives.

Does the data influence your thoughts on who should be the next DC?