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By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys 2011 Recap: Interesting Offensive Stats

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Jonathan Bales

I am going to begin my 2012 Draft coverage early this year, and you can expect it to be superb. . .as per usual.  Between those articles you can also expect to find stat analysis of the Cowboys 2011 season.  Below, I have pasted some interesting numbers from both Pro Football Focus and my own Excel spreadsheets.  Similar defensive statistics to come.

Tony Romo

  • Romo finished the season fourth in the NFL in passer rating at 102.5, behind only Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.  That includes a 104.4 rating in the fourth quarter. . .not bad for a “choke artist.”
  • Taking away drops, spikes and throw aways, Romo’s completion percentage was 73.5%.
  • On deep passes of 20+ yards, Romo completed 54.8% of his attempts.  That was second in the league to Aaron Rodgers, but only 11.9% of Romo’s passes traveled that long–good for only 13th in the league.  He threw 13 touchdowns and only two picks on deep throws.  I’ve been saying for years the Cowboys would benefit immensely from more deep passes.
  • Romo was under pressure on 30.7% of dropbacks, which was 13th highest in league, but completed 56.7% of his passes in these situations.  That was second-best in the NFL to only Drew Brees.

Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Laurent Robinson

  • Cowboys quarterbacks had a 110.8 passer rating when throwing to Dez Bryant, which was the 16th-highest of any receiver in the NFL.  Romo threw three of his interceptions when targeting Bryant.
  • I have seen some criticisms of Miles Austin lately, even from “expert” Dallas-area writers.  Don’t listen to it.  Austin’s only problem has been staying healthy, as Romo posted a 117.8 rating when throwing to Austin, including zero interceptions.  That rating is good for 11th among all receivers.  Austin is an elite wide receiver who will have a monster 2012 season if he stays on the field.
  • Puzzling to me are Austin’s drops.  After a 2010 season in which he struggled with dropping passes, Austin let four more get through his hands this season.  That isn’t an enormous amount, but it was 8.5% of catchable passes and good for just 37th in the NFL.  I think this is a small sample size at work, though, as just one less drop would shoot Austin up to 23rd.
  • Meanwhile, Bryant tallied only one drop all season–second-best in the NFL of any receiver who played 25% of his team’s snaps.  Only Golden Tate caught every pass possible.
  • Laurent Robinson caught 58.8% of deep passes (20+ yards) thrown his way, good for third in NFL.  Austin was 10th at 50.0%, and Bryant 29th at 36.8%.  These numbers are misleading, as Robinson is very rarely the first read on plays.  If he is thrown to, chances are he’s fairly open.  Bryant gets balls in double-coverage, and so we’d expect his deep catch rate to be lower.  Larry Fitzgerald, for example, was just 24th in the NFL at 41.2%.
  • Robinson tallied 2.18 yards per route–the top number on the Cowboys.

DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones

  • DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones were both solid at avoiding defenders in 2011, tallying 3.01 and 2.98 yards-after-contact/attempt.  Those rates were 10th and 11th in the league.
  • Murray had 36.8% of his yardage come on runs of 15+ yards, which was the 12th-highest rate in the NFL.  Jones was 31st at 26.4%.  Again, this stat can be misleading.  While you always want big plays, a really high “big run rate” can be an indicator that a running back will regress to the mean the following season, rushing for fewer big plays and seeing a decrease in both total yards and yards per attempt.  Murray and Jones are both breakaway players, and I’d expect both of them to be around 35% in any given season.  As an example of how much these numbers can fluctuate, consider that Jones saw 44.0% of his yards come on big plays in 2009, compared to just 15.3% last season.
  • Murray and Jones were 24th and 26th, respectively, in catch rate at 89.7% and 89.2%
  • Murray and Jones both need to improve in pass protection.  Jones allowed a pressure, hit or sack on 6.3% of snaps he was in pass pro.  This was just the 41st-best mark in the NFL.  Murray’s 9.7% number came in at 62nd in the league.

Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett

  • Jason Witten dropped 3.61% of balls thrown his way (three total), good for 10th in the league.
  • 13.5% of Witten’s snaps came in the slot.  That was just the 17th-highest percentage for tight ends, and the rate was well behind the top 10 (all of whom played 25+% snaps in slot).
  • Witten was 12th in yards per route at 1.69.
  • Witten blocked on only 9.4% of pass plays, well below his rate in past seasons.  He was 18th in the NFL with 3.9% of snaps resulting in a pressure, hit or sack.  Martellus Bennett was 17th, with 3.8% of his snaps resulting in some sort of pressure.  It confirms the notion that Witten and Bennett are similar in pass protection (although Bennett is far superior as a run blocker).  Bennett blocked on 20.1% of pass plays.

Offensive Line

  • The entire offensive line was 14th overall in pass blocking efficiency, allowing a pressure, hit or sack on 18.5% of pass plays.
  • Tyron Smith was the league’s 14th most efficient tackle in terms of pass protection, allowing a pressure, hit or sack on just 4.0% of pass plays.  Free was 48th with 6.3%.  He also allowed 10 sacks, which was sixth-worst in the NFL.
  • Montrae Holland checked in at 20th among all guards in terms of pass protection efficiency, allowing some sort of pressure on 2.5% of pass plays.  This confirms my thought that Holland was very underrated this year. Kyle Kosier was 33rd at 3.2%.  He was just a league-average guard in 2011.
  • Phil Costa was 29th in the NFL among centers with 2.7% pass protection efficiency.  He really shouldn’t start in 2012, although he probably will.
  • Bill Nagy allowed pressure on 4.1% of pass plays, good for 41st in the league.

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14 Responses to Dallas Cowboys 2011 Recap: Interesting Offensive Stats

  1. Jeremiah Thompson says:

    It’s going to be interested what they do at the center and guard positions. I’m with you that Costa should NOT be our starter next year.

    Assuming Bennett is not resigned, you think they’ll draft a tight end? It seems they might only be looking for a quality blocking tight end. And maybe that can foundind that in free agency without spending a lot of money.

  2. Jeremiah Thompson says:

    hehe sorry for the typos

  3. Vince_Grey says:

    Concerning Costa and Bennett, while I agree center was a huge sore spot last year, I see Costa as a young guy with the opportunity to get much better, so I wouldn’t write him off as a pretty decent player just yet. I also wouldn’t assume MB is gone either. I can’t see many teams offering a huge contract to a run-blocking TE with below average pass catching ability. If Dallas doesn’t have a viable option available elsewhere, I could see MB coming back for another season or two under a contract that doesn’t kill the cap.

    I also agree that KK took a step back this year and that Holland out-played him, but I’d still lean towards KK as the better bet next season. He’s not so old that he couldn’t have a solid bounce-back year, and I no faith that Holland will keep his weight down and his play up, especially coming off the injury.

    All that said, I do think interior O-line and TE are positions that likely need to be addressed, just not real high in the draft or by spending big money in free agency. Not this year anyway. Defense needs too much help to waste high picks on those areas, IMO.

    JB – Please don’t confuse the Romo-hater club with facts that don’t support their idea that he’s an overrated loser who chokes.

    Agree that Miles is a stud, but he does need to fix the drops though. As for Dez, he’s a guy that badly, badly needs a full off-season and training camp. If he gets those and stays healthy, I can see the guy having a 1200-1500 yard season.

    Again, this hinges on health, but we COULD have a 1300-1500 yard RB (Murray), a 500-700 yard back in Jones, two 1000 yard receivers plus a 500 yard guy in LR, and possibly a 1000 yard TE. Be nice to see what this group could accomplish if they get the opportunity.

  4. Michael Sloan says:

    Once again Tony Romo puts up very good stats, but the team overall comes up 8-8. There were times Romo had plenty of time in the pocket and the Boy’s Offensive line was ranked highly. But I still think we need a OG/C that is above average and that can become the leader of the O-line. I don’t consider Costa that player. We switch Smith and Free and the line will be better, but still needing help.

    Both Philly and the Giants swept us. Both those teams won the battle of the trenches against us. Our defensive line/Front 7 can’t provide consistent pressure, especially when the game is on the line. Ware seemed to vanish in the 4th qtr. Granted, he gets teamed, but that means other players had opportunities that were not taken advantage of. Our DB’s weren’t much help either in crunch time. This defense needs help, badly. The team didn’t really go for defense in the draft or FA last year. Very disappointed in that, though I liked who we drafted.

    I am excited about Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Laurent Robinson, Murray and Tyron Smith. I think Romo improved his reading defense ability. I don’t have stats to back that up, but I saw him make many more good decisions than bad ones. This team has improved, but still has a long way to go.

    In a way, I am glad we didn’t make the playoffs, in that I don’t think this team would go far in it, giving everyone false ideals about where the team stands. Our defense wasn’t up to the task of helping win more games, and it looks like our talent level is sorely lacking on it. Also, I hope JG and JJ see this and draft for defense this time.

  5. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I love the article – very nice.

    From the #s, however, I agree w/ Sloan that the Boys’ record should be better than 8-8 (even w/ the defense the Boys had). Green Bay and New England have worse defenses but have much better records. So why the difference?

    One word – leadership! Leadership, or lack thereof, accounts for the obvious lack of discipline the team exhibits as well as the haphazard execution during critical times of the game. The Cowboys were 28th in the league in penalties and many of those came at crucial (third down) times and by the better players (Ware, Free). By comparison, GB was 3rd and NE was 7th in penalties per game. The Cowboys had more than a few times where just outright confusion about what to do occurred, both on offense and defense, to include when to call a timeout vs. spiking the ball, the # of people on the field during special teams (the Boys actually made a field goal once w/ 10 men on the field), etc. The had a punt blocked during the Jets game (mental error) and were 29th in the league in punts blocked percentage. They had a FG blocked during the Giants game AFTER a timeout (blocking error). They were last in the league in opponent net yards per punt (with 41.8).

    When the Cowboys get the opportunity to take their time, snap the ball and run the play like normally, they do pretty well; as evidenced in the article. However, there are quite a few instances where they are rushed into snapping the ball due to play clock timing, Romo audibles or last second kill calls, false start penalties and/or holding calls.

    Most close football games come down to about 3-6 plays; a fumble on a punt or a missed INT or a drive into opponent territory when a 3rd down sack takes the team out of FG range, etc. Dallas did make some of those plays (the 49er games comes to mind) but did miss on quite a few (the missed Newman INT vs. the Giants); overall, they missed more than they made.

    Last night, Alabama’s defense dessimated the Tigers by not missing on plays, not having any penalties and minimizing the mental errors. We all saw that Saban was LIVID when the punt return team had the teams 1st and only penalty – offsides – which occurred in the 4th qtr when the game was already decided and the penalty didn’t mean anything but a repunt 5 yards closer.

    When the Boys learn to be more disciplined, cut down on the mental errors and display some leadership (both from the coaches and on the field), then the #s they produced mentioned above will actually result in more wins.

  6. Tim Truemper says:

    Thanks Jonathan. A great summary of the individual performances. I recently read on Advanced Football Statistics (?) that starting field position for offenses had a p correlation of .45 to winning games.. Pretty substantial. While this is only my impression, I felt that in some of the losses Dallas started out in relatively bad position compared to their opponnet. I’m not asking you to run the numbers, but just throwing that out.

  7. Tom H says:

    Nice job with some interesting stats. In particular, the OL performance.
    I think Kosier is gone, decent player who’s time is up. Nice to see Holland was pretty good, especially when playing between a crappy C and LT who had a big drop off in play and will likely go back to the RT spot next season.

    I know the secondary is the biggest concern going into the off-season, but I feel the interior OL is a close second. Look at how great Romo is, even with spotty protection. Now imagine him with time to throw close to 4500 yds, 30 TD’s with solid protection upfront. Not to mention the fantastic running game we could have with improved Guard play.

    T.Smith was a great pick last year, he’ll move to the LT spot and with a full season and off-season under his belt, he really could be a top 5 LT in 2012. They can leave Holland there at LG, and shift Free to RT where he played well before, and should be even better there after his time as LT. That leaves C, and RG as weak spots.

    Looking at the early projections for draft spots, RG David DeCastro (best pure guard in the draft) should be there at #14, although he’s so good, there’s a chance he’s not. But I would love for Dallas to draft him. He looks like a can’t miss prospect. At least on par with the G-men’s Snee. If they can improve the line talent that much, maybe Costa can improve enough to be serviceable, or possibly Kowalski or Nagy take over C.

    The Boys have a group of young interior guys who have yet to distinguish themselves: Costa, Nagy, Arkin, Kowalski. I have no idea about Arkin as he failed to beat out Nagy or Dockery (a subpar player, IMO) but coming out of a small school at that position usually means not enough strength, so he might surprise and be able to compete for a spot with Holland after a year in an NFL weight program. But even with all that, I would still love to see Jerry pull the trigger on DeCastro in the 1st to solidify the line. He could step right in day 1.

    JB mentioned the downfield success that Romo had, but not given enough chances to display that talent. That goes back to the OL not giving him the extra time on a consistent basis to make those 20+ throws like Brees gets.
    We have 3 WR’s and a TE with the ability to get open deep, so I don’t think that’s the problem. It’s the spotty line OL protection.

    One last point on the importance of improving the OL. Look at the NFCE right now. The NYG and PHI both have a ferocious pass rush. Even punchless WAS has a decent pass rush. If Dallas wants to compete for division titles, they better have the big uglies in front of Romo to protect him a lot better, and blow open holes for Murray and Felix in the run game. Better run game = better play action passing game. This offense could take the next step by finishing the OL renovation started last season.

  8. Vinnie says:

    Good article and several excellent points, particularly by Tom H and Tyrone.

    During our best periods historically (70s, 90s) we had dominant and ferocious OLs and DLs. We could wear down the opponent specially running the ball in the 2nd half.

    And, yes, those disturbing mental mistakes – offsides, false starts, constantly having more penalties than the opponent, not knowing how to move down the field methodically and string together 10-15 error-free plays. When will that be fixed?

    Peter King rightly pointed out yesterday that Tom Coughlin does not get enough credit for clock and game management. Those traits must be etched into the Cowboys’ mindset as well – control your emotions in the clutch, use the right mix of plays by down and distance and situation (how many times on 3rd and say 5, when all that was needed was just 1 more 1st down to ice the game, we opted for a low percentage play and turned the ball over), and for God’s sake know how to use timeouts!

  9. Rick says:

    I really don’t see how Costa starts next year. Even if they don’t find a better replacement on roster, I have little doubt that, with a year in an NFL weight room, Kowalski, Nagy, and Arkin would ALL be upgrades over him.

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  11. Phillip says:

    I don’t believe that the DBs are as bad as everyone makes them out to believe. (Although, I do think its obviously time for Newman to be gone) When your defensive front 7 create so little pressure on the QB, it leaves DBs on an island. Granted, I’d love to see us upgrade the secondary as much as possible, but a good pass rush hides deficiencies in the secondary very well. Compare the Giants and Cowboys… both have seemingly terrible secondaries, but NYG’s front seven consistently creates pressure, forcing the ball out of the QBs hands much faster than they’d like. Also, I know it seems so elementary, but if the QB is getting sacked, it doesn’t matter what the secondary is doing. They don’t even have to move hardly if the front 7 gets to the QB fast enough. I could go out and cover receivers if I only have to do it for 1-2 seconds. Upgrade the pass rush to create pressure on the QBs and you will see what seems like a magical turn over for the team. (see: Houston Texans)

  12. Mont Seventeen says:

    Romo’s stats don’t translate to wins over good teams… The biggest game of the season he puts up 14 points, that’s not elite. This is when ppl blame those around him but they are the same teammates that surround him when he is successful. Is it just coincidence Romo’s numbers suffer when his teammates falter in big games…

    Romo’s teammates have changed since the 06 playoff game… And except for a win over a brokedown McChoke what has he done in the playoffs offensively that would be considered elite?

    Call Romo elite all you want, but elite players make plays in big games. It can be argued Romo has never made a play in a big (playoffs or win and in) games… Romo lights up teams like Tampa this year or Houston last year but what is his record v. .500 or better teams since the Vikes playoff blowout? NOT GOOD!

    No one doubts his stats… At this point ppl want less numbers v. The phins and more numbers v. Eli on the road!

    But at this point in Romo’s career he is who he is… At age 32, its highly unlikely he will change, 1 playoff win is who he is and probably will never change. He is Tommy Maddox or Scott Mitchell

    He is Elite v. Weak teams and average in every “win or go home” game he has played.

    Does that make you an Elite QB, not with NFL fans that judge QBs by the playoffs and Super Bowl. But to Jerry’s Team fans that started following the team around the Campo years, yes, Romo is elite.

  13. Mont Seventeen says:

    Running Back stat is misleading… In a pass happy league where rules allow the passing game to flourish the emphasis on a viable run game has changed. Yes everyone wants to see the big play, its equivalent to the homerun in baseball, but a successful run game has to be rated on its ability to move the chains.

    I think teams are going to put emphasis on RBs that can get first downs on short yardage and touchdowns on the goalline. Marcus Allen would be a godsend to this team…bc Romo reeks at the QB sneak meanwhile…

    Tom Brady has patented the QB sneak for this very reason

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