In somewhat of an odd spectacle, the Cowboys’ defensive players scoop the ball off the ground after every incomplete pass, and participate in a ball punching tactic coined as the “peanut-punch” during practice.
Fans and conventionalists alike have to wonder what’s going on.
Defensive Line Coach and former Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli has held the task of teaching the Cowboys how to create turnovers through the first seven days of camp.
With Rob Ryan running the defense last season, the Cowboys forced only 16 turnovers and their 7 interceptions tied the Kansas City Chiefs for the league low.
The low number of turnovers is a huge reason why Jerry Jones decided to part ways with Ryan, and hire Monte Kiffin. In Tampa Bay, Kiffin’s teams produced an average of 33 turnovers per season.
Hiring Kiffin was also one of the key reasons why the team was able to bring in Marinelli, one of his own disciples and good friends. Marinelli ran the Chicago Bears defense last season that produced a league high 44 turnovers.
Do the math Cowboys fans. That’s 28 more turnovers than Ryan’s unit created last season.
With Marinelli on the team’s case during practice, the team hustles to every incomplete pass to practice “scooping” the ball up when it hits the ground. Members of the defense have also started learning a ball punching technique known as the “peanut-punch”, made famous by Chicago Bears Safety Charles “Peanut” Tillman. The punch involves taking a short jab underneath the arm of the ball carrier. Tillman led the NFL with 10 forced fumbles last season for Marinelli’s unit.
Marinelli’s Bears team had 28 more scoring opportunities than the Cowboys last season. That’s a substantial amount.
The defense seems to be buying into his drills during practice, and hopefully it transcends to more on-field success on Sunday.
Not only does the team hear about the importance of turnovers from Marinelli, they are also prodded by Head Coach Jason Garrett. Garrett has placed a huge emphasis on creating takeaways, stressing the importance of having more scoring opportunities.
Just how important are turnovers to the Cowboys?
The team is 0-9 in Garrett’s two seasons as head coach when they don’t have a turnover, and have lost 15 consecutive games when they don’t have a takeaway.