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19 (Very) Bold Dallas Cowboys Predictions for the 2010 NFL Season

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Jonathan Bales

I love making predictions.  Last year, I hit on quite a few of them.

So far this week, I’ve already posted my 2010 fantasy football predictions, “regular” football predictions, and Week 1 picks.  These aren’t your run-of-the-mill “Cowboys will be between 4-12 and 14-2” predictions either.  They are bold to the point of being brash, my friend.

I have a lot of thoughts on the Cowboys’ 2010 season, and the most “drastic” of them are listed below.  Keep in mind that I’m not just saying these things to say them. . .I actually believe each has a better chance of coming to fruition than not.

1.  Tony Romo will lead the league in passing yards.

With more three-receiver sets likely for Dallas and possibly even a higher pass ratio (which I actually support), 4500+ yards is very, very attainable.  The other “top dogs” in contention include Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning.

2.  Jason Hatcher will record at least five sacks.

This is somewhat bold for a player with one sack last year and 1.6 sacks-per-season during his four-year career.  However, as you can see to the left, Hatcher recorded 17 pressures last season–tied for the most of any defensive end.  The 4.40 percent rate at which he reached the quarterback was also the best on the team.

Hatcher should see more snaps this seasons as well, particularly because he’s Marcus Spears’ primary backup.  With Spears likely to be on another team in 2011, the Cowboys may try to phase Hatcher into the starting lineup, assuming he can hold up against the run.

3.  Tashard Choice will score 8+ TDs

I already think Choice should be the team’s short-yardage back.  He was five-for-seven in limited short-yardage opportunities last season and led the team with 5.8 yards-per-carry on runs up the middle (which is why I gave him a ‘B+’ in my 2009 running back grades).

Apart from the fact that I think Dallas will use more Wildcat in the red zone this season (which is exactly what they should do), Choice is the third option behind two players who don’t have the most injury-free of pasts.  If either Marion Barber or Felix Jones goes down for an extended period of time, Choice could be “the man”–he’s already the team’s best all-around running back, in my opinion.

4.  Alan Ball will move back to cornerback (full-time) at some point this season in favor of Akwasi Owusu-Ansah at free safety.

The Cowboys obviously already view both Ball and AOA as safety/cornerbacks or they wouldn’t have kept only three “true” cornerbacks on the 53-man roster.  Having said that, I think Ball’s tackling will become a liability for Dallas at some point this season.  He struggled mightily against the run in the preseason, and last year he missed 22.2 percent of his attempts.  If he doesn’t make a lot of plays in the passing game to compensate for his lack of elite tackling ability, I think ‘Kwasi could get a shot.

5.  Speaking of AOA. . .he will have at least one return touchdown this season.

I loved what I saw from AOA on returns during the preseason.  More than anything, he was decisive.  That’s perhaps the most important trait for a return man to possess.  Felix Jones is explosive, but he became indecisive on kick returns and was subsequently quite ineffective.

AOA should end up manning both return positions by season’s end (or perhaps even by opening night if the Cowboys don’t use Dez Bryant on punt returns).

6.  Victor Butler will play close to 250 snaps and will record at least five sacks.

The kid has shown he is ready for more playing time.  There’s no way Coach Phillips wants DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer playing 1,100+ snaps again this season, so either Butler or Brandon Williams will have to step up.

Butler was phenomenal in the preseason, particularly against the run (and we know he can get to the passer).

7.  Anthony Spencer will lead the team in sacks.

If Spencer played on just about any other team, this prediction might not be very daring.  When you play alongside DeMarcus Ware, though, no one is really expecting you to lead the team in sacks.

Well expect it, folks.  Spencer is sure to see less double teams than Ware and actually led the squad in sacks over the second half of last season.  Butler will likely steal some of his snaps, but that may just increase his efficiency.

8.  Dez Bryant will have a solid, but not spectacular, rookie season.

800 yards and 6 TDs is a realistic expectation.  He simply won’t see enough targets for much more.  He’s starting the season as the third option, and even if (when) he overtakes Roy Williams, he still has to battle Miles Austin, Jason Witten, and the running game for looks.

9.  Jason Williams will have a pick-six at some point this season, and he will do a backflip after he scores.

I just really want to see this.  Williams promised me awhile ago he will do a backflip if he scores this season.  Just don’t touch the ground, Jason.

10.  David Buehler will be a top five kicker in terms of accuracy.

Now I’m just getting crazy.  Honestly, I have no good reason to believe this will happen, but kickers’ performances vary so much from year to year that there’s really no good reason why it won’t happen, either.

Let’s hope Buehler is in the upper echelon of kickers.  I’ve shown before that the difference between a 70 percent kicker and a 90 percent kicker is rather substantial.

11.  Phil Costa will be starting at some point this season–and he’ll do well.

Let’s face it–the Cowboys’ offensive line is old, particularly in the interior.  The big hogs inside have an average age of 31.7.

Left guard Kyle Kosier is already hurt, meaning Costa is one injury away from starting as of now.  If Gurode goes down, I have a feeling the ‘Boys would turn to Costa over Kosier to replace him.  Costa looked really good in the preseason, albeit against primarily second-teamers.

12.  Bradie James will make the Pro Bowl.

It can sometimes be tough for a 3-4 inside linebacker to gain recognition.  The outside backers get all the glory, but the guys inside are nearly just as vital.

For the Cowboys, James’ importance is severely under-appreciated.  He’s on the field basically all the time, and he does everything really, really well.  He’s shown improvement in pass coverage this preseason, and I think Coach Phillips may blitz him more than ever this year.  If that’s the case, James should be able to put up all-around numbers that can come closer to matching his overall ability than ever before.

13.  Mike Jenkins will haul in at least seven interceptions.

“Ladies and gentlemen, today we have Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis going to camp with us.  Jerry tells the jokes.  Dean sings the songs and gets the girls.”

– Coach Boone in ‘Remember the Titans’

Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman are the “Jerry and Dean” of the Cowboys.  Yeah, Jenkins makes big-time plays and “gets the girls,” but Newman’s role is just as important.  Without Newman’s coverage ability, Jenkins would never get challenged enough to secure seven picks.

And he will get seven picks.

By the way, I just realized that quote is really quite irrelevant to my point and makes for an awful analogy, but I’m deciding to keep it in because I like it.

14.  The Cowboys will run less draws in 2010.

Dallas ran a draw 128 times last season, which comprised 30.0 percent of their overall running plays.  In my ultimate guide to Dallas Cowboys draws, I noted that the Cowboys averaged a full yard less on draws as compared to non-draws.

The numbers would seem to suggest that the ‘Boys aren’t a great draw-running team, but that’s simply not the case.  Romo is as good as any quarterback in the league at faking the slant before handing off on draw plays, and the running backs all possess an adequate skill set to do well on them.

The problem came in the abundance of draws.  The team simply dialed up the draw too often in 2010 and it subsequently limited its effectiveness.  I think you’ll see the Cowboys run closer to 75 draws this season (particularly out of spread formations), with much better results.

15.  Dallas will run more counters, screens, playaction passes, and rollouts.

Ready for some interesting stats?

  • Felix Jones ran for 220 yards on 22 counters in 2009.  For all the Redskins fans reading out there, that’s, like, 10.0 yards-per-carry.  The team averaged 7.9 yards-per-carry altogether on counters last season. Here is my study on counters.
  • The Cowboys threw a screen pass on just 7.1 percent of non-playaction passes, but that rate increased to 22.9 percent on playaction passes.
  • In my ultimate guide to Dallas Cowboys playaction passes, I noted that 63.9 percent of playaction passes went to the right side of the field in ’09, compared to just 37.0 percent of non-playaction throws.
  • Of the 83 playaction passes, only four, FOUR, were attempts of 20 yards or more.   That is 4.8 percent of all pass plays.  In comparison, the Cowboys threw the ball downfield 20 yards or more on 46 of the other 467 attempts, or 9.9 percent of all passes.
  • The Cowboys ran only four (FOUR!) playaction passes all season with 1-4 yards-to-go, and just 18 with less than 10 yards-to-go (only 19.8 percent of all playaction passes).
  • Dallas used designed rollouts less than once per game in 2009.

16.  Strong side dives from “Double Tight Strong” will all but make their way out of the playbook.

They were fun while they lasted, weren’t they?  Actually, they were awful.

Last season, the ‘Boys ran 116 plays from “Double Tight Strong,” 71.6 percent of which were strong side dives.  That rate increased to 85.7 percent when Dallas motioned into the formation.

In my in-depth study on the formation, I made the following observations:

Weeks 1-5 (Dallas ran the formation just five times per game over the first four weeks, so defenses likely had yet to recognize it as a trend): 7.8 yards-per-carry

Weeks 6-17: 4.4 yards-per-carry, including just 3.2 YPC against all teams but Oakland

Weeks 1-17: Ran strong side dive out of the formation 83/116 times (71.6 percent), including an incredible 42/49 times (85.7 percent) when motioning into it.

The play has stuck around this year through the preseason, but I have a feeling it will die out.  The only way it can become effective is if Garrett varies his play-calling from the formation.  In fact, a high rate of dive plays could be worthwhile if the offense, at least once in awhile, faked the dive and went deep.  That never happened in ’09, though.

17.  The Cowboys will be just 4-4 on the road.

The schedule is tough for every NFC East team, but check out these road opponents: Washington, Houston, Minnesota, Green Bay, New York Giants, Indianapolis, Arizona, and Philadelphia.  Even if they go 2-1 on the road against the division (a very difficult task), Dallas would still have to go 3-2 against the remaining opponents to be above .500.

Washington, Arizona, and even Philly late in the year are all very winnable, but Houston, Minny, Green Bay, New York, and Indy are all nightmare road games.

18.  The Cowboys will get to the NFC Championship game, but lose to the Packers.

I picked Green Bay to win the Super Bowl, but let me be clear: I don’t think the Packers are a better team than the Cowboys.  I do think they have a better chance of winning home field advantage, though, simply because of their division.  The Cowboys will probably have to go at least 5-1 in the NFC East to have a shot at home field.  That same record is much easier for Green Bay to attain in the NFC North.

If Dallas has to travel to Green Bay late in January, there’s no way they’ll be the favorite to win.  If the Cowboys do end up winning home field advantage, my prediction may be different.

19.  Wade Phillips will still be the Cowboys’ coach in 2011.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Wade Phillips is a Championship quality coach.  He’s a gaudy 33-15 during his three years in Dallas.  The component of the team which he monitors most closely, the defense, was ranked No. 2 in the NFL last season.

He’s just 1-2 in the playoffs with Dallas, but three games is hardly an adequate sample size to determine a coach’s worth.  I am a big believer in giving coaches time to implement changes and multiple chances to win the ultimate prize, assuming all of the right signs are present.

For Phillips, the signs of greatness, like it or not, are very present.

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18 Responses to 19 (Very) Bold Dallas Cowboys Predictions for the 2010 NFL Season

  1. Omar says:

    Bro, if the Cowboys lose to the Packers in the NFC chip and if it’s a blow out or a close loss Wade will be fired in the post game press conference.

  2. I disagree. Despite all of the reports that Wade is on the hot seat basically every game, I think Jerry Jones has altered his approach to coaches. He was upset he fired Chan Gailey so soon and I think he knows coaches need time to implement their philosophy and personnel into an organization.

    Has it been enough time for Wade already? I don’t know, but I think an NFC Champ. game appearance shows improvement and will result in him getting another year.

  3. nick says:

    i agree with most of this but why greenbay. i think there a good time but to win a sb now?

  4. Dearl says:

    Wade is one of teh very best coaches active in the NFL and anyone that says otherwise is not knowledgable about football obviously and must simply be jumping on internet badn wagons. Wade has put together the best team in Dallas since 1993 and maybe even better talent over all than then. JJ is not stupid and there is no way he will fire Wade because garrett is having enough difficulty learning to be OC much less HC and Wade cannot be replaced on defense period, He is a brilliant defensive mind, probably the best or top two ever to coach DC. We have a great chance to win the Super Bowl this year or at least give it a great run and then the next couple of years they will strengthen the O line and I believe Dallas is on the verge of multiple Super Bowls in the next 5 years, ad all of it is because of Wade Phillips and his ability to spot talent and bring it out in a player like HOF coach which he will be once he takes Dallas to the Super Bowl at least 3 times in the next 5 years. There is my predictions.
    GO COWBOYS!!!!

  5. I’d have to say Rodgers. There are a few great QBs in the NFC, and I think he’s one of them. In reality, I’d say there are only five teams in the NFC that have the QB and supporting cast necessary to win it all. . .Dallas, Green Bay, New Orleans, New York, and Minnesota. In my opinion, GB has the best shot at home-field. That will be huge in January. Plus, their 3-4 system should take big strides in its second season.

  6. Dearl,

    I’d have to agree. It is easy to criticize the head coach and QB, but do we really want to go back to a coach like Chan Gailey or Dave Campo (love him as a secondary coach), or a QB like Quincy Carter or Chad Hutchinson?

    Great point about Garrett. He is NOT ready to become a head coach because he simply hasn’t done enough as an OC yet.

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  8. john coleman says:

    I think all of it is within reason. I would expect the two tights formation to result in more weakside runs with a FB lead and more passes. In other words used as a decoy. At least until late in the season. I’m actually hoping for a very different looking offense.

  9. I definitely, definitely see more weak side runs coming. Off-hand, I believe only 19.5 percent of their runs last season went to the weak side (and they were very successful). Although some people think all preseason is meaningless, I do think there are a few things which can be gained from it. The fact that Garrett called nearly twice as many weak side runs is one of those things I think certainly means something.

  10. omar says:

    i like your thopughts on the playcalling, i tdo hink there a lot of draws, i also think there sdhould be more PA and i think it’ll be. the rollouts, i simply just don’t know how garrett doesn’t call PA rollouts at least once a game, mainly if you have an scrambling Romo as QB, i think the rollout could help a lot on redzone

  11. chris stallcup says:

    i think garrett actually wanted to, plus it seemed as if last season garrett is trying to help morph romo into a better qb by not going deep every other play. this season i see garrett mixing things up quite a bit with rollouts, pa, and using the “blitz buster”……btw the blitz buster is what jj callas dez lol

  12. Omar–there were more rollouts in the preseason and we will see how Garrett uses them this year. I agree they could help with a struggling line. They could also actually help on other plays because the defenders can’t just pin their ears back and rush to a spot where they know Romo will be.

  13. Chris–JJ calls Dez the blitz buster, but I think Austin will be that guy. He figures to be in the slot more often and already has that uncanny chemistry w/ Romo.

  14. chris stallcup says:

    yeah i know that jj cals dez the blitz buster and i agree with you in the fact that Miles will actually be the blitz buster, well from what i saw miles do last week it seems like he will. especially the way he runs slants and curls

  15. In the event the Cowboys loose this Sunday in Houston, I believe Coach Phillips deserves to get sacked by Jerry Jones.

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  17. Ben says:

    How you feeling about these predictions now eh? Haha

  18. Prettyyyyyy awful haha….my fantasy predictions always fare better.

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