The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Running the Numbers: 5 Myths About Cowboys

My latest at DallasCowboys.com takes a look at five myths surrounding the Dallas Cowboys. One of them is something you guys know I love to talk about. . .

Myth No. 2: The Cowboys win games by running the football.

Running the ball is strongly correlated with winning, so teams obviously need a powerful rushing attack to win games, right? Not really. Teams that are already winning rush the football to close out games, creating the illusion that running often is the impetus for team success. In reality, teams generally acquire the lead by throwing the football with great efficiency.

The Cowboys are no exception to the rule. Since 2008, they’ve won just 27.6 percent of their games when they pass on greater than 57 percent of their offensive plays. Wow, better keep it on the ground, right?

Before jumping to conclusions, soak this one in: That win rate miraculously jumps to 63.6 percent when the ’Boys pass on at least 57 percent of plays through the first three quarters, compared to only 41.9 percent when they pass on fewer than 57 percent of plays.

The Cowboys are a passing team, built to win on the back of Romo and his arsenal of pass-catching weapons.

Read the other four myths at the team site.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys-Dolphins Game Notes

I had some time to review the game film. A few notes on some of the bubble players (and a few guys who have already been cut). . .

RB Lance Dunbar

Dunbar tore it up last night, rushing for 105 yards on 15 carries, including a 58-yard touchdown. Yeah, Dunbar is only 5’8’’, but he’s a rock-solid 195 pounds and is hard to bring to the ground. Could the ‘Boys potentially keep both Tanner and Dunbar? It seems like a longshot with the team’s holes around the roster, but I don’t think the Cowboys can sneak Dunbar onto the practice squad after last night’s effort.

Jamize Olawale had another solid night, averaging 7.6 yards-per-carry on the ground, but I have a feeling the ‘Boys will keep either Dunbar or Tanner over him.

Check out all of my notes at NBC. Stay tuned…my 53-man roster projection should be posted shortly.

By Jonathan Bales

5 Cowboys Who Could Just Miss Cowboys’ Final Roster

At DMN, I just posted a list of five Cowboys who could be “surprise” cuts. None of them are really enormous shockers, simply because I don’t anticipate the Cowboys doing anything too wild in the coming days. Nonetheless, I think most people have Marcus Spears, Danny Coale, and Matt Johnson making the roster.

4. WR Danny Coale

I really don’t think the Cowboys can retain seven receivers, which means that Coale and Andre Holmes are probably battling for a roster spot. I broke down Holmes after the Cowboys’ preseason opener, and his potential (and size) is something I don’t think the Cowboys will pass up.

5. S Matt Johnson

Letting go of a fourth-round pick is always a surprise, but Johnson simply hasn’t been on the field enough to keep around. Instead of trying to get Johnson onto the practice squad, though, you might see the Cowboys place him on IR. That would end his season, but if the team is confident in Barry Church (as they should be), placing Johnson on IR would allow the Cowboys to keep him for 2013 without burning a roster spot on him.

Head over to DMN to check out the others.

By Jonathan Bales

Grantland Fantasy Island Contestants Announced

Last week, I saw a link to a contest over at Grantland called “Fantasy Island.” The contest involves going head-to-head against nine other writers, drafting a fantasy football team and writing content throughout the season. The best owner/writer will be chosen at season’s end to be Grantland’s new fantasy writer. I didn’t post the link here because I fully believe I have perhaps the most intelligent audience of any site around, and I didn’t want to lose out to any of you fools.

I figured Grantland would receive a few hundred entries, so I’d have a decent shot to get chosen. They ended up getting almost 4,000 entries, and I was one of the 10 lucky contestants chosen to compete. You can check out the full list and the rules here.

Of the other nine finalists, I know only Frank DuPont. I link to his stuff at FantasyDouche.com all the time–he’s an incredible writer and amazing mind in the fantasy football world. If the other contestants are anything like him, I’ll have my hands full.

I’ll provide more information on the contest as details unfold. Other than that, you can check out my latest article at RotoWire which examines the value of each draft spot.

So what are we left with here? Which draft slot is the “best”? Although I think every season is different, and the value of each draft pick is inherently fluid, there’s definitely some value in choosing at either the top or bottom of the draft.

With either of the first two picks, you get consistency. You’re almost guaranteed a top-level player, and that sort of “sure thing” isn’t there after the first couple of picks.

By Jonathan Bales

5 Players to Watch For Cowboys vs. Dolphins

 

A little preview of tonight’s Cowboys game over at NBC:

Josh Brent
When the Cowboys spent a supplemental draft pick on nose tackle Josh Brent in 2010, I loved the move. Brent justified my excitement in his rookie season, producing at a level that was actually near that of starter Jay Ratliff, at least in terms of efficiency. Brent received 256 snaps that season, 60.1 percent of which were against the run. He made a tackle on 5.5 percent of his plays—greater than Ratliff’s 3.0 percent mark.

Check out the other four players at NBC. It will be fun to watch a lot of the players on the roster bubble tonight, like Adrian Hamilton, Mana Silva, Danny Coale, and so on. Morris Claiborne is expected to get a little action as well.

By Jonathan Bales

Can the Cowboys effectively replace Jay Ratliff?

A few weeks ago, I published an article detailing why Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff is in for a steep decline this year. In that article, I posted this graph. . .

Ratliff turned 31 today. Happy Birthday Jay! Your present is that you’ll experience a precipitous drop in effectiveness this year.

So what do the ‘Boys have behind Ratliff? That’s what I examined today at Dallas Morning News.

Last season, Lissemore recorded a sack, hit, pressure, or tackle on 13.1 percent of his snaps, compared to 7.5 percent for Ratliff and 5.8 percent for Brent. Lissemore was really the Cowboys’ most efficient defensive player in 2011—yes, that includes you know who.

Read more on Lissemore and Brent here.

By Jonathan Bales

How much of an upgrade are Carr/Claiborne over Newman/Jenkins?

At NBC, I tried to break down the Brandon Carr signing and Morris Claiborne selection in terms of how much of an upgrade they’ll be over Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins.

Of course, we shouldn’t expect Claiborne’s efficiency to match that of the Cowboys’ top cornerback. Based on historical production from first-round cornerbacks and the ‘Boys current defense, Claiborne will probably be targeted at least 110 times this year. By allowing a completion rate of 58.0 percent and 8.00 yards-per-attempt, Claiborne would be sitting at 64 receptions for 512 yards.

Read more about Carr and Claiborne at NBC. No matter how you slice it, the Cowboys have a vastly improved secondary in 2012.

By Jonathan Bales

Will DeMarcus Ware break the sack record during his career?

Over at DMN, I just posted an article comparing DeMarcus Ware’s career production to other pass rushers over the past two decades. In particular, I wanted to see how much longer we can expect Ware to play at an elite level.

According to my metric, Ware’s best season was actually in 2009 when he recorded only 11 sacks—the second-fewest of his career. Ware actually pressured the quarterback at a higher rate than ever that season, but simply got unlucky with sacks. On the flip side, Ware racked up 20 sacks in 2011 despite reaching the quarterback 19 fewer times than in 2009, by my count. That small dip is represented in the graph.

Ware, who turned 30 in July, certainly still has a few more years of domination left in him. If his career output resembles that of past pass rushers, though, 2012 may be his final legitimate shot at taking down the sack record.

Read it all here.

By Jonathan Bales

Will Jason Witten’s Production Decline in 2012?

At NBC, I just posted an article detailing Jason Witten’s career outlook. I charted his past production against the historic production of all tight ends, and the news isn’t great:

Historically, tight end production tends to peak around age 30. Unfortunately, the decline for tight ends after they hit the big 3-0 is a steep one. On average, tight ends see a 27 percent dip in production in the two seasons following their 30th birthday. Witten already turned 30 in May.

You can catch the whole post at NBC.

By Jonathan Bales

A Breakdown of Tony Romo’s 2012 Preseason

My latest Running the Numbers post is a breakdown of Tony Romo’s preseason.

Through three preseason games, Romo has passed the ball on 64.7 percent of the first-team’s snaps. That’s a high rate, but a good one, and one I’d love to see continue into the regular season.

Romo was again excellent against the blitz on Saturday night. I tracked the Rams as sending five or more rushers after Romo on five occasions. The Cowboys passed each time, and while Romo completed only two of those throws, a pair of them were dropped (one by Kevin Ogletree on third down, and the other by John Phillips, although I’ll never admit he really dropped the pass that was reviewed and overturned).

Read more at DallasCowboys.com.