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Breaking Down the Cowboys’ 2010 Air Attack: More Balls to Austin and Jones?

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Jonathan Bales

I spent the morning breaking down the Cowboys’ passing attack through the first 12 weeks of the 2010 season.  Check out the chart below, along with some of my thoughts.

Minimum 15 targets

  • There’s nothing really surprising about the target counts.  Witten once again leads the pack, and I think that needs to change.  His 7.86 yards-per-attempt is solid, but it’s trumped by all three receivers.  I realize Witten catches a higher percentage of passes (which means less difficult ‘down-and-distances’), but it’s not that much greater that it makes up for the lack of big plays.  Despite 84 targets, Witten’s longest catch all season is only 31 yards.  Less emphasis on Witten in the passing game will equate to even better efficiency.
  • The catch rates for all three receivers are outstanding.  Williams is the low-man on offense with a 60.4 percent reception rate, and that’s still really good for a wide receiver.
  • Felix Jones’ reception rate is absolutely unbelievable.  I knew he improved in the passing game, but I had no idea he has hauled in 37 of the 40 passes which have come his way this season.  His 8.65 yards-per-attempt and 11.78 yards-after-catch/reception are jaw-dropping.  With the limited upside that comes with catching passes out of the backfield, Jones’ numbers tell you he needs to become an even bigger focus in the passing game.
  • The running game isn’t the only place Marion Barber has lost explosion.  His 3.06 YPA is unacceptable, even for a running back.  The offense as a whole does benefit from his pass protection ability, however.
  • Miles Austin’s gaudy YPA (9.12) is to be expected, but who knew Williams (8.85) was just behind?  And despite frequent rumblings to the contrary, Williams is a big play threat.  17 percent of his receptions have gone for 20+ yards–by far the highest rate on the team.
  • Dez Bryant’s numbers aren’t as impressive as I thought they might be, but it could be due to the frequency with which he is thrown screen passes.  They limit his YPA and big play ability.  Despite that, he still leads the team with three receptions of 40+ yards.

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4 Responses to Breaking Down the Cowboys’ 2010 Air Attack: More Balls to Austin and Jones?

  1. Mark Watkins says:

    Johathan- Interesting breakdown. Do you think that Witten is just open more than the others or that he might be the 2nd or 3rd option on many of his catches though? It would definitely be preferable to get more passes to Austin and Jones. I was also impressed that over 20% of Williams’ catches are for over 20 yards. He’s had a pretty good year. Too bad about that fumble last week. That would have been a great play and elevated his status. Too bad he comes out with the ridiculous statements he does sometimes though.

  2. Thanks Mark. I think Witten still has the ability to get open and take advantage of the mismatches he creates, but I definitely think he’s regressed slightly this season. He’s benefited from the playmakers outside for sure.

  3. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    One thing that isn’t figured into the reception percentage is the distance. Felix mostly catches passes thrown for 5 yards or less in the flat as compared to Dez’s passes which can go for 30-40+ yards in the air. I’d expect my RB to have a better catch percentage…yet, his rate is MUCH higher than MBIIIs and his YAC is greater as well. Overall, he’s just a BETTER back.

    One thing I’d like someone to look into (possible once the season is over) is KEEP rates of draft picks by round. For instance, Julius Jones was a 1st rd pic and is gone now – we kept MBIII who was a 4th round pic and signed him to a MAJOR contract. Felix was a 1st round pick and is clearly the better of all 3 backs when healthy. TC was a 4th rd pick as well and it will be interesting to see what happens come contract time…I’m wondering where the Cowboys see their real VALUE wrt picks.

    Given the way the Boys are playing, I think they’ll likely end up 7-9 or 8-8 (I have them losing the away Eagles game). If that’s the case, they’ll draft somewhere around 10-20 range and will probably miss out on all the ELITE DEs but will be too early to draft the best OG or C at that position. Odds on Jerry trading down to like 25 or so and picking up some OL help look good (which is what I think needs to happen). If Wade was still coaching, the Boys would be picking 3rd overall and trying to get Patrick Patterson.

  4. Tyrone–JJ was a 2nd round pick but I get the idea..sounds like an awesome offseason project. Remind me then if you don’t see it up on the site within a month or so after the season.

    As far as the draft…I thought CB looked like the most likely spot, but it would be hard to pass on a top OT, even with Free set at LT. I know RT don’t go that high, but why not? I’ve spoken before about why they aren’t THAT much less important than left tackles, and Colombo is by far the worst starter on this team, IMO.

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