The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys 2010 Weak Side Runs

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Jonathan Bales

In the preseason, I made it clear that I thought the Cowboys should run more to the weak side of the formation.  There are less blockers there of course, but also (generally) less defenders to block.  The Cowboys also had a lot of success in 2009 when running to the weak side.  Although the big play (10+ yards) and negative play rates remained steady (as compared to strong side runs), the Cowboys averaged 5.2 yards-per-carry on weak side runs last year–half a yard more than strong side runs.  In a previous article on weak side runs, I explained how Jason Garrett should use game theory to increase the number of weak side runs until he reaches the Nash equilibrium.

So how is Garrett performing this year?  Before getting into the numbers, let me define what I mean as the “weak side.”  In a previous article, I wrote:

I have designated the weak side of the formation as that which is opposite the tight end and has less than three skill position players. Thus, in “Twins Left,” the right side is the strong side. In “Twins Left, Weak Left” (below), however, the left side is strong.

If a formation has no tight end, the strong side is simply the side with the most skill position players.  Also, a multitude of formations have no strong or weak side, such as “Ace” (below).   These formations were not counted toward my results.

As you can see to the left, the Cowboys are again finding more success running to the weak side as compared to the strong side.  Dallas has called 17 weak side runs for for 75 yards (4.41 yards-per-carry).  The Cowboys have had only one “big play” so far on a weak side run (a 12-yarder), so that average is not skewed by an outlier.  There have also been zero negative plays.

The Cowboys have called 27 strong side for 112 yards (4.15 yards-per-carry).  They have had three “big plays” on strong side runs, but also one negative play.  As we saw from last year’s weak side run statistics, we can expect the number of big plays for the two variations of runs to level out, meaning the difference in yards-per-carry could become even more drastic than it is already.

The 38.6 percent rate at which Garrett is calling weak wide runs is far superior to last year’s 19.5 percent rate.  Although I personally would like to see that percentage climb even higher, it is certainly manageable.   No matter which side of the formation the ‘Boys choose to run, however, they need to become more efficient if they want to continue the success they had last week in Houston.

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5 Responses to Dallas Cowboys 2010 Weak Side Runs

  1. Mark Watkins says:

    Interesting Jonathan. I’d be curious to find out how the strong side runs compare when different tight ends are in the game. Since Bennett seems to be more highly regarded as a blocker, I would think that their numbers would be better with him in the game.

  2. Hey mark,

    I’ll try to check out that info for you next week.

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