What to expect with the Cowboys’ two-tight end looks in 2013
At Dallas News, I published some analysis on “12” personnel, how the package has been used, and why it might falter in 2013:
Was “12” successful in 2012?
The Cowboys used “12” personnel on 176 plays in 2012. Note that I’ve included only “12” personnel and not those packages with three tight ends or with two tight ends and two backs (“22 personnel). The latter two packages typically come in short-yardage situations, while the Cowboys use “12” personnel in situations when they can run or pass.
To give you an idea of the different things the Cowboys can do with “12” personnel, consider that they used a Shotgun formation with it on 34 plays and some sort of spread formation on 87 snaps. That means they lined up in a pass-oriented formation just about half of the time. On the other snaps, they utilized many other run-oriented formations; 84 of the plays came with both tight ends lined up in-line in a three-point stance, for example, so there’s lots of flexibility with “12.”
While two-tight end packages always seem run-oriented, the ‘Boys actually dropped back to pass the ball on 113 of their 176 plays with “12” personnel—64.2 percent. Tony Romo ran the ball on one of those dropbacks, and seven others resulted in sacks. For the record, that’s a 6.2 percent sack rate—just slightly higher than the 5.2 percent overall sack rate.
On the 105 dropbacks that resulted in actual passes, Romo threw for 811 yards—7.72 yards-per-attempt. That’s a decent number, but not significantly higher than Romo’s YPA on the season and below his career mark.
However, there’s reason to believe that Romo’s efficiency with “12” personnel isn’t as solid as it seems; the Cowboys typically use the package on first or second down. Actually, only seven of Romo’s 105 passes with “12” personnel came on third down. That means the offense was usually using it in low-risk, high-upside situations, so we’d expect greater efficiency.
The ‘Boys ran the ball with “12” personnel on 63 plays, totaling 251 yards for an average of 3.98 yards-per-carry. That’s better than their overall average, but again, most of the plays came in high-upside situations. Over half of the plays came on first-and-10, for example, and only one of the 63 rushes was on third down.