Playing the slot is difficult. Really difficult. Orlando Scandrick was playing it at a very high level in 2012. I took a look at Scandrick’s success.
Whereas Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne can utilize the sideline to their benefit, Scandrick doesn’t have that advantage in the slot. That’s one reason the completion percentage against slot cornerbacks is typically higher than that for those playing on the outside; cornerbacks with at least 100 snaps in the slot have yielded a 65.8 percent completion rate, compared to a league-wide overall completion percentage of 61.7 percent.
Although Scandrick has had his past struggles, he managed to allow just a 68.6 passer rating on passes thrown his way this year. Opposing quarterbacks completed only 51.3 percent of their passes against Scandrick, totaling 5.72 YPA and not a single touchdown.
Read the rest at Dallas Morning News.
At NBC, I broke down the offensive and defensive strategies for the ‘Boys moving forward. The first is a mini-game plan for the Cowboys in Week 13 and beyond.
Keep airing it out deep to you-know-who.
The Cowboys aren’t throwing deep at a very high rate this season, but recently made a switch in the passing game to find Dez Bryant downfield. The change came in Week 8 against the Giants, and it was an obvious one. Think about this: Bryant’s deep ball rate—the percentage of targets that came at least 20 yards downfield—was only 5.9 percent in the Cowboys’ first six games. Since Week 8, the rate has skyrocketed to 34.1 percent. The average distance of his targets has also increased from 10.2 yards over the first six games to 14.7 yards over the most recent five. It’s really no wonder that Bryant has averaged 100 yards and nearly a touchdown per game since the transition.
Read it all at NBC.
The second involves key matchups for the Cowboys against the Eagles this week.
LB Dan Connor versus RB Bryce Brown
On Monday night, Brown made his first start in a football game since high school. The 223-pound running back who ran a 4.48 40-yard dash absolutely tore up the Panthers, totaling 189 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a legitimate threat to the Cowboys on Sunday, especially with DeSean Jackson out of the game. Brown is currently averaging 6.3 YPC on 51 rushes; if that mark stands, it will be the fifth-highest since 1980 for any rookie with as many touches as Brown.
Check it out.
Last week, I went 11-5 straight up, 7-6-3 against the spread, and 10-6 on totals. My overall record on the year is now 115-60-1 straight up, 83-88-5 against the spread, and 94-80-2 on totals.
@Atlanta 30 (-3.5) New Orleans 24 (UNDER 55)
@Chicago 24 Seattle 23 (+3.5) (OVER 37.5)
@Green Bay 28 (-8) Minnesota 17 (UNDER 46.5)
San Fran 28 (-7) @St. Louis 17 (OVER 40)
@NY Jets 23 Arizona 20 (+4.5) (OVER 36.5)
Carolina 28 (-3) @Kansas City 14 (OVER 40.5)
@Detroit 27 (-4.5) Indy 20 (UNDER 51)
@Buffalo 24 (-6) Jacksonville 17 (UNDER 45)
New England 27 @Miami 20 (+7.5) (UNDER 51.5)
Houston 28 (-6) @Tennessee 21 (OVER 47)
@Denver 30 (-7) @Tampa Bay 20 (UNDER 50.5)
@Baltimore 20 Pittsburgh 13 (+8) (UNDER 39.5)
@Oakland 24 (PK) Cleveland 23 (OVER 45)
@San Diego 23 (+1.5) Cincy 20 (UNDER 46)
@Dallas 28 Philadelphia 21 (+10) (OVER 43)
@Washington 28 (+3) NY Giants 27 (OVER 51)
At RotoWire, I took a look at the emergence of rookie quarterbacks in fantasy football.
In terms of any sort of trend, the improvement in rookie quarterback production has been dramatic, not a gradual increase.
You can see that, from 2004 to 2010, there was no consistent trend among rookie quarterback fantasy production. The top rookie quarterback over that period was Vince Young with a ninth-place finish in 2006. On average, though, the best rookie quarterback each season averaged just a 25th-place finish, meaning first-year quarterbacks weren’t even really worthy of a selection in re-draft leagues.
With three rookie quarterbacks in the last two seasons – Newton, Griffin, and Luck – figuring to finish in the top 10 at the position in their first years, though, it sure seems like things have changed. Could such a dramatic jump really be the result of chance?
Read the rest at RotoWire.
At DMN, I just published an article on why the Cowboys need to adopt a different strategy in all three phases of their team. Sitting at 5-6, the ‘Boys are basically in a “must-win” situation from here on out. It starts this week against a downtrodden Philadelphia Eagles team in a game that Dallas really has no business losing. Sportsbetting.ag currently has the Cowboys as 10-point favorites.
In Week 10, the Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-23, riding their defense and special teams to victory. The win probability graph from the game tells the story.
Above, I marked three critical plays that took place in a three-minute span from the end of the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth.
1: Dez Bryant 30-yard Touchdown Reception
Down 17-10 late in the third quarter, the ‘Boys faced a 3rd and 4 at the Eagles’ 30-yard line. Tony Romo found Bryant on a ‘go’ route for the score, tying the game and increasing the Cowboys’ chances of winning from 30 percent to 54 percent.
2: Dwayne Harris 78-Yard Punt Return Touchdown
After forcing a three-and-out, the Cowboys sent Harris back to receive the punt. Catching the ball at the 22-yard line, Harris took the ball 78 yards for the score, giving the Cowboys a seven-point lead. The Cowboys’ win probability increased from an even coin flip to 80 percent—the biggest jump of the day.
3: Brandon Carr Pick-Six
On a 2nd and 7 at their own 37-yard line, the Eagles dropped back to pass. Nick Foles threw behind DeSean Jackson on a slant and the pass was deflected. Carr snagged the ball and took it 47 yards for the score, providing the Cowboys’ with a 14-point lead and 96 percent chance of winning.
The reason that coaches preach the importance of doing the “little things” is that they lead to big plays. A single blown coverage, one great block on a punt return, and a batted pass were the differences between a Cowboys blowout win and a nail-biter. The incredible increases in win probability following such big plays exemplify perfectly why the Cowboys have struggled in 2012; they’ve been forced to continually beat teams again and again because they haven’t secured many of the 20 and 30 percent jumps in win probability that characterize winning teams.
Check out the rest of the analysis at Dallas Morning News.
At DMN, I posted a breakdown of the Cowboys’ 2012 motions.
This season, the ‘Boys have motioned 135 times, dropping back to pass on 61 of those plays (45.2 percent). One dropback resulted in a sack and two in quarterback runs; on the passes, Tony Romo is 37-for-58 (63.8 percent) for 432 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions—good for a passer rating of only 70.5.
Check it out at DMN.
At NBC, I broke down the Cowboys’ probability of reaching the playoffs. Spoiler alert: it isn’t good.
First, take a look at the remaining schedules for the Cowboys (5-6), Redskins (5-6), and Giants (7-4):
Cowboys: Philadelphia, @Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, @Washington
Redskins: New York Giants, Baltimore, @Cleveland, @Philadelphia, Dallas
Giants: @Washington, New Orleans, @Atlanta, @Baltimore, Philadelphia
The question for Dallas really boils down to “Will 9-7 win the division?” Nine wins is the magic number for the ‘Boys, even though it almost certainly won’t land a Wild Card spot. Remember, there are six teams with records as good or better than Dallas that aren’t leading their divisions. The Packers, Vikings, Bucs, and Seahawks all have at least six wins, and you’d think at least two of those squads will be able to reach the 10-win mark or beat Dallas in a tiebreaker (Seattle owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas, while the ‘Boys have it over Tampa Bay). Ultimately, though, 10 wins will almost certainly guarantee a playoff berth, while nine wins probably won’t grab a Wild Card spot. The Cowboys’ playoff hopes ride on winning the division.
Read the rest at NBC.
At DallasCowboys.com, I took a statistical look at the Eagles’ 2012 rookie draft class.
1: Number of starts Bryce Brown has made since high school.
Prior to Monday night’s game against the Panthers, Brown’s last start came as a member of the Wichita East High School football team. He attended the University of Tennessee, where he backed up Montario Hardesty, before transferring to Kansas State. He played in only 14 collegiate games.
31.1: Brown’s Body Mass Index.
Many of you are familiar with Body Mass Index (BMI), but did you know that there’s a pretty strongcorrelation between BMI and running back success in the NFL? Historically, great running backs have tended to be somewhat short and very stocky, packing a ton of muscle onto frames with a low center of gravity. Emmitt Smith (31.7 BMI), LaDainian Tomlinson (31.7 BMI), Barry Sanders (30.9 BMI), and Marshall Faulk (30.3 BMI) all had body types similar to Brown’s.
4.48: Brown’s 40-yard dash time.
Brown’s body type alone can’t predict his future NFL success, but his combination of size and speed sure suggests he should be an effective running back. In terms of his measurables alone, he’s very similar to Tomlinson.
6.3: Brown’s current yards per carry (YPC).
Brown has been highly efficient as a rookie, averaging 6.3 YPC on 51 attempts. That number was still respectable at 4.4 YPC prior to Monday night. That’s important because rookie rushing efficiency is highly predictive of future NFL success. Of rookies with as many carries as Brown, only four since 1980 have posted greater efficiency.
Read the rest at the team site.
If there’s one way to improve the efficiency of the Cowboys’ running game immediately, it might be changing the nature of the play types.
There are a variety of ways in which the Cowboys might be able to improve their ground attack, the easiest and most immediate of which is to change the nature of the rushes. The Cowboys have been unbelievably “vanilla” in all aspects of their 2012 offense, and the running game is no exception. Whereas we saw hundreds of counters and draws from the ‘Boys over the past three seasons, the majority of the running plays this season have been dive plays. Here’s the full breakdown:
- Bootleg: 0.5%
- Counter: 2.5%
- Dive: 57.2% (3.27 YPC)
- Draw: 14.8% (4.36 YPC)
- End-Around: 1.5%
- Power: 18.2% (2.95 YPC)
- Sneak: 0.5%
- Toss: 4.3%
- Trap: 0.5%
Read the rest at DMN.
At NBC, I took a look at the Cowboys’ run blocking thus far in 2012, handing out grades for each offensive lineman.
The results aren’t pretty. Below, I’ve listed the YPC for Cowboys running backs with each lineman at the point.
- LT Tyron Smith: 4.20 YPC
- LG Nate Livings: 3.68 YPC
- C Ryan Cook: 2.81 YPC
- RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: 3.49 YPC
- RT Doug Free: 3.58 YPC
Check out the grades at NBC.