Smart Scheming: Sean McDermott's blitzes

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

With such an impressive front four, Sean McDermott doesn't need to blitz very often, but when he does, the results are unusually sublime.

Hailing from the Jim Johnson school of defensive thought, Carolina DC Sean McDermott cut his teeth in a pressure heavy system before arriving in Charlotte. Due to personnel restrictions the first year or so of his tenure, and more recently the prowess of his defensive line, McDermott hasn't dialed up the blitz.

Looking at Pro Football Focus' data, the Panthers are one of the least blitzing teams in the NFL. They have Carolina applying extra-men pressure 41 times over 190 drop-backs for a blitz percentage of 21.6%, 28th in the league. With Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy, Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, and Dwan Edwards (when healthy), the Panthers are capable of exercising incredible strain on the opposition.

In his Monday press conference, Head Coach Ron Rivera, talking about McDermott, said that the defensive coordinator had markedly improved in applying "intelligent pressure [...] situational pressure" on opposing offenses. This was all the more apparent during the Panthers last game, versus Minnesota.

Turning attention to Football Outsiders' look at unblocked sacks, Carolina has four sacks from unblocked defenders, which is the seventh highest rate in the NFL; and in only five games. A fairly straightforward quote from the author, J.J. Cooper:

Whenever a defensive coordinator can get a rusher unblocked with a free run at the quarterback, he's done his job well.

When you marry these two stats, Carolina's low level of blitzing and high rate of unblocked sacks, it's quite impressive. In fact, using some elementary mathematics, the Panthers have the highest rate of unblocked sacks per blitz, with approximately 10% of blitzes ending in an unblocked pass rusher sacking the QB.

Bravo Sean McDermott.

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