The blitz is coming to Detroit

July, 10, 2009
7/10/09
10:30
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Most NFL people associate Detroit defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham with an up-tempo scheme. And in this story on the Lions' Web site, Cunningham gets more specific about his blitz tendencies than you normally hear from NFL coaches when talking about their own scheme.

Here's the relevant quote from Cunningham:

"One of the things I've always believed in is high blitz. Up to 40 percent in a game, which is off the charts for most people. But that's what I believe in. I think you have to keep the quarterback nervous all the time."

If you take Cunningham's words at face value, then you can expect the Lions to blitz on two out of every five plays this season. Teams define blitzes in different ways; technically, it's when you assign at least one non-defensive lineman to the line of scrimmage in a 4-3 scheme. In general, though, I can tell you that a 40 percent blitz rate is pretty high, but definitely not unheard of in the league.

Disciples of legendary Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson have been known to hit that number or soar past it if game conditions call for it. In last season's regular-season finale, for example, New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo -- now St. Louis' head coach -- blitzed Minnesota on 80 percent of its snaps. At the time, defensive coaches I talked to said that you'll rarely see more than 50 percent blitzing in a given NFL game.

Lions fans should start getting ready for a blitz-heavy defensive scheme this season. It might not be off the charts, but it should be intense nonetheless.

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