Dallas Cowboys 16 Best/Worst Running and Passing Formations in 2009
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Best Passing Formations
1. Tight End Spread (17 passes for 239 yards–14.06 YPA)
Tight End Spread is the same as Gun Tight End Spread, just with Tony Romo under center. We’ve already discussed both formations and why they are successful for Dallas.
2. Ace (24 passes for 275 yards–11.46 YPA)
The numbers from the Ace formation surprised us more than any. It is typically a running formation, yet the Cowboys found tremendous success when implementing it in the passing game (they averaged just 2.0 YPC out of it).
3. Gun Tight End Trips Left/Right (68 passes for 666 yards–9.79 YPA)
The Cowboys used this formation a lot when in hurry-up mode, meaning the results could be slightly skewed. Nonetheless, we are seeing a trend of success in the passing game when Jason Witten is lined up in the traditional tight end spot.
4. Gun Tight End Spread (141 passes for 1246 yards–8.84 YPA)
The Cowboys threw 141 passes from their most fruitful formation, including 16 plays of 20+ yards.
Worst Passing Formations
1. Gun 3 Wide Pro (52 passes for 210 yards–4.04 YPA)
Dallas continually struggled when passing out of Gun 3 Wide Pro. The reason? In our estimation, it has everything to do with Witten being lined up in the backfield (see left). Don’t forget the Cowboys averaged nearly two more YPA with Witten out in a route as compared to when he stayed in to block.
2. Weak Left/Right (10 passes for 41 yards–4.10 YPA)
The “Weak” formation was, well, weak for Dallas in 2009. It was also the team’s worst running formation.
3. 3 Wide I (12 passes for 63 yards–5.25 YPA)
Not only did the Cowboys have a poor YPA out of 3 Wide I, but they also allowed a sack on 25 percent of all dropbacks from the formation.
4. Gun Spread (34 passes for 189 yards–5.56 YPA)
Does lining up Witten at tight end (as opposed to in the backfield or split out wide) really lead to such a dramatic difference in passing efficiency? We think so.
There are some obvious trends here. First, the Cowboys seem to have more success running the football in more balanced formations (I-Right as opposed to Strong Right, for example). Dallas rarely ran weak side in 2009, so perhaps defenses were able to stack up defenders on the strong side to limit Barber, Jones, and Choice.
In the passing game, it is obvious the Cowboys are much more efficient with Witten in a route. Specifically, the offense flourishes when he lines up in the traditional tight end position. All four of the top passing formations employ Witten in this manner, while only one of the bottom four does the same.
In 2010, we would love to see Dallas run the ball out of “passing” formations a bit more, particularly those which are balanced. This will give the defense no indication as to the play-side and will create pre-snap running lanes–ideal for Felix Jones in particular.
We’d also like to see Jason Garrett send Witten out on more routes (Witten went out in a route on 77.1 percent of passes last season), particularly from the traditional in-line tight end position.
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