There is nothing inherently bad or dumb about dropping defensive linemen in to coverage. It has risks and rewards, just like any other play call. And just like any other play call, execution is important.
There are plenty of examples from this season where it worked out well - and other examples where the defense got burned.
Some good reasons to use it are to a) confuse blocking schemes to get a free rusher, b) confuse the quarterback and receivers who are expecting a certain coverage pre-snap but see something different post-snap, c) give opposing coaches another thing to prepare for. Also, if your pass rush isn't getting home consistently anyway, might as well have some O-linemen blocking air and put an extra man in underneath coverage.
I think it ties in to other changes in the defense (keeping two safeties deep leaving more gaps underneath, where you don't have a safety way up on the LOS at the snap, or a robber rotating in to shallow coverage from a 2-deep look pre-snap.
Ideally you have players that are well-suited to doing this, DBs and LBs who are good blitzers, and defensive linemen who are versatile and athletic enough to a) get in to position quickly, b) have awareness and anticipation in zone, and c) can potentially make a play when the ball is in the air. Even if the players aren't particularly suited, there is still value in doing this occasionally, but the better suited the personnel, the more often you can get away with doing it.
From the DB perspective, I think Pete and KNJ were hoping to have Adams (SS) and Blair (Nickel) rushing more often to provide more of threat (including zone blitz calls) but the corners were so bad early on that they were forced to play a lot more two-deep coverages, Blair got hurt and wasn't an option at Nickel, and by the time the corner play improved Adams got hurt. From the DL perspective, the coaches didn't really know how the players would adapt to covering more (Pete talked about this a lot in pre-season, particularly in regards to players like Taylor and Robinson).
If you're going to do this you want both of your edge players (SAM and LEO, typically) to be capable of pass rushing AND coverage. That way there's a credible threat that one, both, or neither of those players could either rush or drop on any given play. This became even more important when using Tite/Bear fronts where the SAM and LEO positions are even more similar and interchangeable. I think this is a big reason KJ Wright wasn't retained - he lacked the pass rushing threat that coaches want out the SAM role, and they wanted to get Brooks on the field so KJ wasn't going to go back to WILL.
No matter what, it takes plenty of reps from all involved to make it work.
Last edited by A-Dog
on Fri Jan 14, 2022 4:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.