The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys 16 Best/Worst Running and Passing Formations in 2009

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We recently detailed the Cowboys success running and passing out of every formation they ran in 2009.  Today, we will briefly explain why the Cowboys prospered in some formations, yet failed in others.  You can see diagrams of every formation listed below by clicking here.

Note:  To be listed, a formation had to have a sample size of at least 10 runs/passes.

Best Running Formations

1.  I Left/Right (18 runs for 124 yards–6.89 YPC)

The Cowboys had a ton of success out of the standard I-formation (including passing the ball as well).  This could be because the position of the fullback (directly behind center) makes running weakside quite easy.

2.  Wildcat (16 runs for 108 yards–6.75 YPC)

We absolutely love the Wildcat (or Razorback, as the Cowboys call it).  The formation is particularly useful in goal line and other short-yardage situations because its largest weakness, the lack of big-play potential due to the absence of a legitimate pass-thrower, is limited.

3.  Double Tight I (31 runs for 208 yards–6.71 YPC)

The only difference between “Double Tight I” and a standard I-formation is personnel–an extra tight end is substituted for a wide receiver.  This version of Double Tight was much more successful than the Double Tight Strong variety (again likely due to the ease with which the team can run weak side).

4.  Gun Tight End Spread (27 runs for 166 yards–6.15 YPC)

We detailed the effectiveness of Gun TE Spread a few days ago.  The Cowboys do a tremendous job of running out of this “passing” formation–something they don’t do out of Gun Trips.

Worst Running Formations

1.  Weak Left/Right (11 runs for 29 yards–2.64YPC)

We admit 11 carries is not a huge sample size, so we must take this particular statistic with a grain of salt.  In theory, “Weak” should be a useful running formation for Dallas as there is no true “strong side”–and thus the offense can easily run in any direction.

2.  Tight End Trips Left/Right (15 runs for 46 yards–3.07 YPC)

This formation is similar to Gun Tight End Spread, with the exception of an extra wide receiver lined up on the strong side.

3.  Double Tight Left/Right Ace (22 runs for 72 yards–3.27 YPC)

The primary reason for the lack of success running out of this formation, we believe, is the absence of fullback Deon Anderson.  If Anderson is off the field, it might be a good idea for the Cowboys to run out of formations which spread the field to a greater degree than Double Tight.

4.  Strong Left/Right (49 runs for 196 yards–4.00 YPC)

The Cowboys simply had little success running out of any Strong formation, whether it employed two tight ends or not.  We think the reason for this is due to the unbalanced nature of the formation.  With the fullback lined up all the way behind the tackle on the same side as the tight end, it is extremely difficult to run weak side.

To see the best and worst Cowboys passing formations, click page 2 below.

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9 Responses to Dallas Cowboys 16 Best/Worst Running and Passing Formations in 2009

  1. Jared says:

    I always liked the two tight-end formation for one simple reason. If you can gain more protection by keeping in a tight-end (even both sometimes), a qb will carve up a defense (especially one like Romo). Unless in an effective zone defense, no db is going to be able to cover a receiver for more than 3-4 secs. Someone will get open. Less QB pressure, the more accurate the throw and the better the decision will be. And, with both tight-ends as eligible receivers, you have two large safety valves that can flare out if you get in trouble. I can imagine a TE screen for Martellus Bennett developing in my mind right now. I need football to come back….

  2. I also like passing out of double tight, although I hope the Cowboys do just that in 2010–PASS out of it. . .and run out of more spread looks.

  3. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Jon,

    Have you looked at the times the Boys lined up in a formation and used play-action to pass? I think w/ Williams, Ausint, Byrant, Crayton and Witten all being able to contribute in the passing game, PA will be more important.

  4. I did an analysis of PA passes…..http://dallascowboystimes.com/2010/02/film-study-an-analysis-of-cowboys-playaction-passes/

    I did not make it formation-specific, however. I will try to do that for you ASAP.

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