Mailbag, 8/27/10: Could Felix put up Chris Johnson-type numbers?
Q: Do you think if Felix Jones got as many carries as Chris Johnson that he’d put up the same type of numbers?
Blake Scurlock, Houston, TX
A: Without looking at the statistics, I can tell you the answer is no. Even though Jones is a bigger running back, his running style and skill set make him more prone to injury. Johnson is able to handle a rather hefty workload because he rarely takes big hits. His quickness and elusiveness are his weapons against the big boys.
While Jones is very quick, he isn’t nearly as elusive as Johnson. In a short area, Jones is much more likely to take hits. I just don’t think he’d hold up with a workload of more than about 15 touches a game.
Nonetheless, I always look at the statistics. So let’s check ’em out. . .
Over his two-year NFL career, Johnson has rushed for 3,234 yards on 609 carries (5.31 yards-per-rush). Over that same period, Jones has rushed for 951 yards on 146 carries (6.51 yards-per-rush). Obviously Jones’ yards-per-carry is sensational, but the question is whether he could maintain such a high figure after rushing the ball four times as much as he already has.
In my opinion, the answer is no. Not only is it likely that Jones would break down before reaching the 300 carry-per-season mark, but his efficiency would plummet with the extra work. Right now, the Cowboys use Jones in situations with high upside–in between the 20-yard lines and on runs such as draws, counters, and tosses. Actually, Jones averaged 10.0 yards-per-carry on counters last season.
It is truly remarkable that Johnson has been able to maintain a 5.31 yards-per-carry mark over such a large sample size of runs. Even when LenDale White was in Tennessee, Johnson frequently remained on the field in goal line and other short-yardage situations, particularly last season.
Jones doesn’t stay on the field for Dallas in those scenarios. One of the most incredible stats I came across this year was that Jones has never carried the football inside the opposition’s five-yard line. Let that sink in.
So, while Jones is certainly an awesome running back and a very vital cog in the Cowboys’ offensive attack, he isn’t on the same level as Johnson just yet.
Q: Why do the Cowboys use Robert Brewster at left tackle sometimes? He isn’t athletic and was meant to play right tackle.
A: Actually, I really don’t know. Brewster has gotten a lot of reps on the left side during the preseason, and I’m assuming it is because they want to see if he can be their swing tackle of the future (if he doesn’t prove he can start at right tackle). Alex Barron probably isn’t a long-term solution for the Cowboys, meaning they would probably like Brewster to be the primary backup tackle at both spots by next season.
However, I agree that his skill set is not suited for the left side. He isn’t exactly agile and his quickness leaves something to be desired. He played well in the Cowboys’ last preseason game when on the right side, and I agree that is where he should stay.
Barron is going to get the start at right tackle tomorrow night against the Texans. His play will be very indicative of Dallas’ future moves at the offensive tackle position. Brewster is currently running with the second-team at left tackle, but I think you’ll see him move back to the right side (for good) if Barron struggles.
Q: What kind of play-calling can we expect from Jason Garrett against the Texans since we play them during the regular season? He probably won’t give away much.
Timothy Solt via Twitter
A: Vanilla. Very, very vanilla. Garrett has already said as much:
Preseason games are used primarily to evaluate talent and to set your roster. Also, you don’t want to show too much, particularly in a game like the one upcoming against Houston because we play them in the regular season. So you certainly hold things back. Things that you want to do. . .you’re almost chomping at the bit to say, “Hey, this play would really work.” But we can’t use it because we play them during the season, so you become very vanilla, very basic. You’re still sound, there are still good plays but they’re base plays, they’re common plays that almost everybody has but you’re still using them to evaluate talent.
The stats show that Garrett has indeed been very “simplistic” (not necessarily a bad thing) during the preseason. The Cowboys have motioned on just 26.8 percent of plays, down from 42.5 percent during the 2009 regular season. You can expect the number of pre-snap motions and shifts (of which there have been zero) to increase dramatically come September 12.
Dallas has also continued to run the same plays from the same formations, including a strong side dive from “Double Tight Strong” 85.7 percent of the time.
The predictability of Garrett’s preseason play-calling really means nothing since teams aren’t game-planning particularly hard for the Cowboys during this time of the year. Garrett wants to see the fringe players simply react and play football instead of worrying about assignments. Thus, the basic plays are dialed up again and again.
The Cowboys’ last game against the Chargers is a perfect example of this. Although the Cowboys ran the aforementioned strong side dive seven times in that ballgame, it was not called once with the starters in the game (the first 18 plays). And what was play number 19–the first play for the second-teamers? You guessed it. . .a strong side dive out of “Double Tight Strong.”
Against Houston, you can expect a lot of the same from Dallas. Strong side dives, little motion or shifts, and whole lot of ‘base’ personnel.