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Dallas Cowboys’ 2010 Draw Play Analysis

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Jonathan Bales

Note: Two 3rd and Long draws were excluded as "give up" plays.

Now that the Cowboys have played seven games, we are starting to creep into “statistically significant” territory as far as a lot of trend analysis goes.  In other words, we can know the statistics we find (of many, but not all trends) are due to something inherent to the team and not simply random variance.

The Cowboys ran 121 draw plays last season and averaged 4.51 yards-per-carry.  This rate isn’t poor, but still far worse than their 5.52 yards-per-rush number on all non-draws.  In my Ultimate Guide to Dallas Cowboys Draws, I noted this decrease in efficiency was due to dialing up the draw too often.  I later predicted they’d run far less draws in 2010.

Another method by which I predicted the Cowboys could have more success with draw plays (aside from calling them less) was to run them out of “passing” formations and situations.  Last season, the team averaged nearly 1.5 times the yards-per-carry on draws from “spread” formations (3+ wide receivers) as opposed to “tight” formations (any formation with two tight ends and/or a fullback).

Further, the yards-per-carry for draws from spread formations was still significantly higher than those in tight formations even after I corrected for changes in down-and-distance.  For example, when I removed the draws that came during situations with 11+ yards-to-go, the Cowboys still averaged 1.24 yards more per carry on spread draws.

This season, the Cowboys have shockingly called only 28 draws all season–or four-per-game.  That rate is just over 50 percent of that from last season.  The Cowboys have gained only 109 total yards on the 28 draws–3.89 yards-per-carry.

Despite the lack of success on draw plays, I actually think offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is calling them in the right situations and with the proper personnel.   If you take a look at the chart below, you can see the Cowboys have called more than twice as many draws from spread formation as from tight formations.  Last season, the number of spread vs. tight draws was nearly identical (63 to 60).  The ‘Boys are averaging 5.05 yards-per-rush on draws from spread formations, but just 1.44 yards-per-carry on tight draws.  The Cowboys obviously have to improve that latter number, but Garrett has clearly made a conscious effort to run the ball more often from “passing” looks.

You’ll also see in the chart above that the Cowboys are running more draws on 3rd downs.  Last season, just about one draw in 10 was on 3rd down, while this season that rate is nearly doubled.  The Cowboys have converted on three of their five 3rd down draws in 2010.  If you haven’t already read, here is why the Cowboys should run more often on 3rd down.

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