Charging Full Speed Ahead

them and to the right of them - thus two gaps.

Phillips also talked about doing more zone blitzing than the Cowboys have previously done, an attempt to confuse the offensive linemen with just who is rushing and the quarterback with just who is in coverage. And he doesn't mind blitzing either safety.

But it would seem Phillips' defensive calling card is sacks. Like lots of them, and nearly everywhere he's been. And this will be one of those what-comes-first deals, the chicken or the egg. Do Phillips' teams or players produce a high numbers of sacks because of what they do on defense and how he teaches the pass rush, or are they a product of having great pressure players?

This you will have to decide, because during Phillips' 30 years in the NFL, he's had the likes of Curly Culp, Elvin Bethea, Robert Brazile, Rickey Jackson, Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Karl Mecklenburg and most recently Shawne Merriman.

Again, coincidence or coaching?

"I think I can teach pass rush," Phillips says.

He also says he's learned from coaching so many great pass rushers like White, Smith and Jackson, that he passes tricks of the trade onto the guys at his next stops.

So what might he teach DeMarcus Ware, whose 11½ sacks in 2006 were the most by a Cowboys player since Tony Tolbert had 12 in 1996 and the first double-digit total since that same 1996 season?

"There are some secrets involved," Phillips said.

Ha, bring them on. The Cowboys finished last season with 34 sacks. They haven't had a 40-sack season since 1994. That's 12 seasons. Twice they've had as many as 37 during that span and a high of 38 in 1997, which pales in comparison to the 15 consecutive non-strike seasons for the Cowboys with at least 40 sacks, stretching from 1973-88.

Believe me, Everson Walls will readily tell you how much Ed "Too Tall" Jones and Randy White meant to his career, if you catch my drift.

So let's try these numbers on for size, and again, you decide if it's coaching or personnel. But his teams have totaled at least 40 sacks in 20 of his 29 non-strike NFL seasons. That comes to just more than two out of every three seasons, which sure beats none of the past 12.

Also, get this: During those 29 seasons - and remember, the first two were only 14-game seasons - 20 times he's had at least one defensive player with double-digit sacks, and one year his leader had 9½. And we're not just talking the Merrimans, Whites, Jacksons, Smiths and Beatheas here. We're talking the likes of Jesse Baker, Marcellus Wiley, Bryce Paup, Simon Fletcher and Patrick Kerney.

Now granted, the Eagles in White's days were loaded, and for sure Buddy Ryan gets a lot of credit for those defenses, but Phillips was there when White was recording 18, 21 and 18 sacks in his three consecutive seasons as Ryan's defensive coordinator (1986-88). My goodness, Paup had 17½ sacks his first season (1995) as Buffalo's defensive coordinator. And Fletcher had a high of 16 in 1992 for Phillips' Denver defense.

Guess I don't even need to mention to you Merriman's 10 and 17 sacks the past two seasons.

So, coincidence Phillips just happens to wind up where all these sacks are going down? Where all these pass rushers are excelling? Maybe. But what are the odds of such lengthy good fortune?

And when it comes to play in the secondary, well, Phillips says he does "whatever it takes."

When he was the defensive coordinator in New Orleans (1981-85), he says he had the Saints mostly playing a Cover 2. When he was in Buffalo (1995-2000), the Bills played mostly man. When he was in Denver (1993-97), he aggressively utilized his safeties. Believe he had one there by the name of Steve Atwater the entire time, by the way.

"It just changes from team to team," Phillips says, "and that's what coaching is."

Amen to that, brother.

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