The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Links: 2012 Disappointments and a Grade for DeMarco Murray

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My latest ‘Running the Numbers’ entry is a look at what went wrong in 2012.

They say a football team is only as good as its weakest link, but it doesn’t take much effort to dispel that notion. All other things being equal, you’d certainly rather have your weakest player at, say, offensive guard than at quarterback. In this way, certain positions are more vital to team success and, yes, some players are simply more important than others. There’s a reason you hear “The Cowboys will go as far as Tony Romo takes them” and not “The Cowboys will go as far as Mackenzy Bernadeau takes them.”

Prior to the 2012 season, I published a list of the Cowboys’ top five most crucial players, excluding Romo (who’s clearly the most essential piece to the puzzle each season). If you want to understand what went wrong for Dallas this year, look no further than the play of these five players.

5. Miles Austin

Preseason Analysis

Bryant will be the Cowboys’ top receiver this year, but Austin could be a tad bit more important. In my article on the team’s slot receiver position, I noted that Austin has played 15.5, 32.4, and 44.0 percent of his pass snaps in the slot over the past three seasons, respectively. Almost two-thirds of his 2011 targets came when he lined up inside. Austin’s versatility makes him more valuable than your average wide receiver.

2012 Review

This year, Austin actually played 69.4 percent of his pass snaps in the slot, but unlike past years, he simply wasn’t that effective. Despite all the time in the slot, fewer than half of Austin’s targets came there; he was actually targeted at nearly twice the rate when he lined up outside. That’s perhaps one reason the receiver posted only 4.6 yards after the catch per reception, the lowest of his career.

Check out the other critical players who underachieved this season.

At NBC, I posted a list of the Cowboys’ biggest potential disappointments next season.

3. Jason Hatcher

Hatcher had a breakout 2012 season, sacking the quarterback four times but pressuring him at a rate that would typically lead to seven sacks. Hatcher actually totaled more pressures than Anthony Spencer. The problem is that Hatcher will be 31 when the season begins, and interior defensive linemen tend to break down faster than any other position. Plus, Hatcher’s fit in Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense is a question.

See the rest of the list.

And at Dallas News, I posted my 2012 grade for DeMarco Murray.

Previously Graded: Miles Austin, Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne, Mackenzy BernadeauTyron Smith,Doug FreeJermey Parnell

In the preseason, I published a few articles suggesting running back DeMarco Murray might not live up to the expectations of many Cowboys fans in 2012. That had more to do with Murray’s expected workload and efficiency than anything else—two aspects of his play that we saw decrease from his rookie year. Throw in Murray’s injury issues and you have the makings of a sub-par season for the second-year back.

The Numbers

Let’s start with the basics: Murray ran for 663 yards on 161 attempts (4.12 YPC), caught 35 passes for 251 yards, and scored two total touchdowns. In terms of pure bulk stats, Murray underachieved in a major way in 2012.

Of course, Murray played only 482 total snaps in 10 games due to injury. And when Murray was on the field, he wasn’t the same “workhorse” we saw as a rookie. Due primarily to game situations, Murray touched the ball on only 40.7 percent of his snaps—a rate that was way down from his 51.0 percent touch rate as a rookie. Thus, much of Murray’s poor bulk stats can be explained by simply not getting the ball—something that’s obviously out of his control.

See the analysis and grade at DMN.

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