It is predicated on one belief that I think GM Gene holds: That stopping the run is key in having a consistent pass rush. I came to this conclusion after being able to fully analyze the recent free agents that Gene brought in on the defensive side of the ball as a whole. Two linebackers and a safety that specialize more in run defense, a cornerback that is better as a blitzer than a cover guy and a defensive end that can hold the point against the run with adequate pass rushing ability. While at first sight it may seem as if nothing has been done to help the pass defense, if this belief that I think holds reigns true, by the time it is all said and done, we should see a much improved performance in both aforementioned phases of the defense. Let me explain.
I think we all know that a good pass rush makes defending the pass easier and vice versa. So how does stopping the run help the two? It's simple really. When a defense can consistently stop the run and make the opposing offense become one dimensional, it does a number of things for a defense. It lessens the affect of play action and it forces passing plays in short yardage situations. Combine those two things and it becomes less of a mental game for the defense, allowing the pass rushers to rush and the pass defenders and to cover with more confidence. With the mental aspect being such a big part of the game, when the guessing game is slightly diminished it should free each player to focus on their job instead of making mental errors by trying to overcompensate. Hopefully, this will lead to less blown coverages, bites on play fakes, more QB pressures and an overall increased playing speed of the entire defense leaving the players in a better position to make a play. Eventually getting the defense in the mode of attack rather than react.
This is what I think this has to do with this years defense (in no particular order):
Knighton, Alualu, Daryl Smith, Posluzny and Sessions will be key to it's success - If Knigton and Alualu can consistently direct running plays into the sure tackling of Smith, Poz and Sessions, that will be the first step to achieving the goal
The DPR role should increase in importance - Guys like Aaron Morgan, Larry Hart and Marc Schiel (which ever of the two make the team) could get more playing time with more offenses being forced into more passing situations
Dawan Landry will improve the play of Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis - As I believe Landry will rotate between both safety positions with Greene at strong when he is at free and Prosinski will be at free when he plays strong
We will see more of a Cover One (one safety deep) as Prosinski develops - As the coaching staff gains faith in his ability to cover over the top, which will allow the additional safety to come up and help defend short to intermediate passes, especially against tight ends
Mel Tucker will be put to the challenge - Gene has given Tuck an assortment of abilities to work with, but it will be up to him to use them the most affective way
The turnover rate should be much higher - I think we all seen a glimpse of that in the preseason opener, even though we only recovered one. Interceptions should improve along with forced fumbles as the defense bonds
More QB pressures should translate into more sacks - As the defensive line (mainly the ends) are allowed to focus on rushing passer, which should create more pressure and the secondary (mainly the corners) are allowed to focus on defending the pass more, which should create a better overall coverage; it should all work in congruency turning more of those pressures into sacks
We will see more one and two man blitzes than normal - Linebacker Daryl Smith, cornerbacks Drew Coleman and Rod Isaac and safety Dawan Landry all make for good blitzers from their respective positions
The defense will do better on 3rd downs - for all of the reasons stated in this post
As there is still no way to know how good this defense will be against the run for any this to become a possibility has yet to be seen, I think it is totally possible that this can become a reality. Tony Boselli stated that he thinks this can be a Top 10 defense at the beginning of the broadcast before the kickoff of the first preseason game. I'm not sure if we'll be Top 10 this year but I'm sure we will be a better defense than last year. I have a final prediction: That one of our defensive ends will have a 10+ sack year. It hasn't happened in a while, which probably isn't coincidental the last time we had one is when our run defense was one of the best in the league.
*I'm going to go research when the last time we had someone get 10+ sacks in a year and update it here later, unless someone here already knows and don't mind sharing.