Pass Rusher Profile: Jeremy Mincey
The productive veteran Mincey will be asked to hold down the job for Dallas once again.
Pass Rusher Profile: Jeremy Mincey
After fielding one of the league’s worst defenses in 2014 the Dallas Cowboys saw a marked improvement in 2014 with a step forward from their pass rush in particular. A year earlier their pass rush was non-existent but for two players (Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware) who left for pastures new in 2014.
The interior pass rush void was filled by a combination of Tyrone Crawford and Henry Melton but on the edge it was veteran Jeremy Mincey who shouldered the load providing the team’s most consistent pass rush.
Though the team has tried to upgrade on the edge this season both rookie Randy Gregory and veteran Greg Hardy may need time before they can contribute for different reasons. That will leave the Cowboys in need of Mincey to continue the form he showed last year.
After a solid but far from spectacular campaign with the Broncos in 2013, Mincey seemed like an unlikely candidate to carry the Cowboys’ edge rush last season. He started well, registering nine pressures in the first three games to sit inside our Top 10-graded pass rushers after three games. Strong showings followed in close wins over the Seahawks (+3.0; 5 Hu) and Giants (+3.3, 2 Ht, 4 Hu) as he set his stall out in the first half of the season as a player the Cowboys could rely upon as their whole defense took a step forward.
Mincey’s consistency was his greatest trait last season as he recorded a pressure in every game except one (Week 4 victory over the Saints) while recording seven of his eight sacks in the second half of the season. Not eye-popping production, but relentless consistency that the Cowboys needed.
In his ninth season Mincey was never going to buck the trend of his career and suddenly overwhelm opposing pass blockers with raw speed off the edge, so it should be no surprise to see that he generated more of his pressure by way of bullrush and inside opposing pass protectors than he did by winning to the outside.
Only Mincey and Jason Babin among edge rushers managed this feat last season, two veteran pass rushers who understand how to engineer pressure without having the physical tools they once had to beat pass blockers with speed. Mincey isn’t going to gain athleticism at this point of his career, so manufacturing pressure to win in multiple ways without relying on speed will be once again crucial for him in 2015.
Mincey’s limitations are again highlighted by how his production was limited by the slide of the center last season. Of the 112 times the center turned or slid towards Mincey’s side of the field in pass protection, he recorded pressure only five times. While this shows Mincey’s limitation it also shows the group effort that was the Cowboys’ pass rush last season and how it will need to be again until the likes of Gregory and Hardy are perhaps ready to take on more of the load. DeMarcus Lawrence’s playoff performances hint at a two-pronged attack at least this season, even if Gregory is unable to contribute from early on.
The group effort of the Cowboys’ defensive improvement last season also stretched to the offense, presenting the likes of Mincey with a lead to go and get the quarterback late in games. By far Mincey’s most productive quarter was the fourth (as much pressure as he recorded in first and second quarters combined) as the Cowboys’ offense made life easier for their defense, allowing them to chase quarterbacks late in games in 2014 rather than the running backs they were chasing in 2013. Though the personnel has changed on offense the focus will likely still be the same for the Cowboys: protect the defense once again and allow them to flourish in favorable game situations.
Mincey’s 2014 was a welcome boost for a Cowboys defense that many expected to be one of the worst in league history entering the season. Dallas will surely seek to protect their defense once again in 2015 and may even look for Mincey to do a similar job of it while they blood their new defensive personnel.
After a quiet final season in Jacksonville, Mincey’s career appeared to be on the wane but a repeat of his 2014 display should ensure he remains in the league as a player teams can turn to for reliable performance when they have an abundance of uncertainty in their pass rush. A team like the Buccaneers would surely wish they had a dependable veteran in their ranks on the edge at this point.
Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben
Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.