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Running the Numbers: Improving Offensive Efficiency

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Jonathan Bales

My latest post at DallasCowboys.com details five ways the Cowboys can improve offensive efficiency in 2012:

1. Get the ball to Dez Bryant … deep.

By all accounts, Bryant had a tremendous offseason. He appears focused and ready to cash in on his world-class skill set. The Cowboys figure to make Bryant their true No. 1 receiver, as they should.

We all know Bryant excels at attacking the football, particularly on jump balls. He uses his big frame, outstanding body control, and incredible hands to win one-on-one battles. In 2012, I think you can count on seeing more deep passes from the Cowboys, especially to Bryant.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article on why the Cowboys succeed with deep passes. Last year, Tony Romo completed 55.2 percent of his passes that traveled 20-plus yards in the air, racking up a passer rating of 125.4 in the process.
Nonetheless, only 18.7 percent of Bryant’s career targets have been that deep, ranking him below the top 50 receivers in the league. With more deep looks, particularly to one of the league’s premiere deep-ball playmakers, you’ll see superior offensive efficiency from Dallas in 2012.

2. Use more playaction.

One of the best ways to get the ball to Bryant downfield is to utilize playaction passes. Garrett has just recently made a shift in his playaction pass repertoire, calling for more deep looks. In 2010, only 12.8 percent of the team’s playaction passes traveled 20-plus yards, and in 2009 it was only 4.8 percent.

Still, the Cowboys have called less than 20 combined playaction passes with between one and four yards to go for a first down since 2009, i.e. about five per season. Actually, less than one-quarter of the team’s playaction passes have come with less than 10 yards to go for a first down. In short-yardage situations (primarily on second down), playaction passes can be invaluable to an offense. I have a hunch you’ll see more deep playaction passes in situations like 2nd and 1 this season.

Plus, the presence of DeMarco Murray and a formidable rushing attack means playaction passes should be effective for Dallas in 2012. With Murray drawing in the defense and Bryant and Miles Austin outside, there’s no reason playaction passes shouldn’t be a significant source of yardage for the offense this season.

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