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Improving the Cowboys’ Offense: More Dez, More DeMarco, Less Witten

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At NBC, I’ve posted two articles on ways in which I’d improve the Cowboys’ offense. The first is how I’d distribute targets (ideally) in 2013:

Looking back at 2012, here’s how the Cowboys’ targets were distributed:

Jason Witten: 146
Other Tight Ends: 21
Dez Bryant: 137
Miles Austin: 115
Kevin Ogletree: 55
Other Receivers: 53
DeMarco Murray: 41
Felix Jones: 34
Other Running Backs: 31

That adds up to 633 aimed passes (excluding spikes and passes thrown away). Assuming that number remains steady in 2013, how should the Cowboys distribute the looks? Well, let’s take a look at the completion percentage and YPA to each player.

Witten: 75.3 percent, 7.1 YPA
Other Tight Ends: 76.2 percent, 6.7 YPA
Bryant: 67.2 percent, 10.1 YPA
Austin: 57.4 percent, 8.0 YPA
Ogletree: 58.2 percent, 7.9 YPA
Other Receivers: 64.2 percent, 6.8 YPA
Murray: 85.4 percent, 6.1 YPA
Jones: 73.5 percent, 7.7 YPA
Other Running Backs: 74.2 percent, 5.7 YPA

When we break it down like this, it’s pretty easy to see why it’s so vital to get the ball to Bryant. He totaled 2.1 YPA more than Austin while still catching nearly 70 percent of his targets. Using these numbers, let’s take a look at how the Cowboys’ target distribution should look in 2013. We’ll have to do a little guesswork for the rookies.

Witten: 110 (down 36)
Gavin Escobar/James Hanna: 60 (up 39)
Bryant: 163 (up 26)
Austin: 110 (down 5)
Terrance Williams/Other Receivers: 60 for Williams, 40 for others (down 8)
Murray: 50 (up 9)
Randle/Other Running Backs: 30 for Randle, 10 for other backs (down 25)

And why the Cowboys should lean heavily on DeMarco Murray:

Perhaps more important, I don’t think Murray’s potential injury proneness should affect his usage. It’s fine if the Cowboys want to limit his carries so he doesn’t wear down at the end of games, but that’s something they should do for any back.

On top of that, Murray is a far more talented player than Randle. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Murray: 6-0, 215 pounds, 4.41 40-yard dash
Randle: 6-0, 204 pounds, 4.63 40-yard dash

Randle is a much leaner, slower back. That’s not good. Both have an upright running style, so if we’re going to label that as the cause of Murray’s injury woes, what does that say about the lighter Randle?

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