Cowboys Film Study: Draws
The Cowboys are thought of as one of the best draw-running teams in the NFL. A lot of their success is due to the footwork of Tony Romo. His quickness and athleticism allows him to effectively fake slant passes before handing the ball off to either Barber, Jones, or Choice.
As we progressed through the 2009 game film, we noticed that defenses began to become accustomed to this fake and (it seemed) were able to more efficiently defend the Cowboys’ draw plays. We sorted through our database to uncover the offense’s draw statistics and what we discovered is below.
Before we tallied the final numbers, we wanted to eliminate any draw plays that could be considered “give up plays”–those draws on 3rd and long that the Cowboys ran simply to gain field position and punt. There were actually only two times all season that Dallas ran a draw on 3rd and 7 or more and these two plays were discredited.
The Cowboys ran 121 other draws for 547 yards last season (4.51 yards-per-carry). This average is well below the 5.52 yards-per-carry the Cowboys maintained on non-draw plays.
But why would the Cowboys’ average be so low on a play which they are thought to run better than just about any other team in the league? One possible explanation is the frequency with which Dallas runs draws out of the formation “Double Tight Right Strong Right.”
Remember in our study on Double Tight Right Strong Right, we noticed the Cowboys ran a strong side dive out of the formation 71.6 percent of all plays and 85.7 percent of the time when motioning into it. The success of the dive decreased as the season progressed. Dallas averaged a stout 7.8 yards-per-carry over the first five games but, as defenses became accustomed to the formation, the Cowboys were only able to manage 4.4 yards-per-carry on these dive plays the rest of the season (including just 3.2 against all teams except Oakland).
Of the 116 dive plays they ran out of Double Tight Right Strong Right, 23 of them were in the form of a draw. The Cowboys gained just 87 yards on these plays for a per-carry average of 3.78 yards.
While this isn’t particularly efficient, the sample size of 23 plays is not enough to significantly alter the overall results of the overall draw plays. Even if we disregard these Double Tight Right Strong Right draw plays, the Cowboys still averaged only 4.69 yards-per-carry (460 yards on 98 runs) on the remaining draws.
Ultimately, it appears as though the Cowboys’ poor average on draw plays is due more so to dialing up the draw too often than to them simply not being an effective draw team. There is no doubt that draws can be extremely useful, but perhaps offensive coordinator Jason Garrett could maximize their effectiveness by calling them just a bit less often in 2010.
In the case of the Cowboys’ draw plays, the old euphemism holds true: you really can have too much of a good thing.