The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Plays Cowboys Should Avoid in 2013

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At DallasCowboys.com, I broke down some of my least favorite plays.

Every year, I break down every Cowboys play into right around 50 different categories. I track things like motions, pass length, routes, checks, formations, blitzes and so on. Here’s a small screenshot of last year’s data:

To give you an idea of how large these files can grow, consider that the image above represents under three percent of the data I tracked in 2012. This database is why I’m able to say things like “The Cowboys need to run more play-action passes and counters” and have some numbers to back me up.

Last week, I published an article that used the data I’ve collected to argue for specific types of plays the ’Boys should call more often. Those included the aforementioned play-action passes and counters, along with runs from spread formations, passes from tight and running back screens. Today, I’m going to look at just the opposite – plays the Cowboys run that haven’t necessarily worked that well.

Quick Screens to Wide Receivers

I’m a big proponent of many types of screens, primarily because they can hold back pass-rushers. The Cowboys ran 24 screens in 2012, only eight of which went to running backs. That’s one running back screen every two games. I’d love to see the number of running back screens skyrocket, and it looks like that might happen under Bill Callahan.

Quick wide receiver screens, on the other hand, are a different animal. In certain situations, they can be useful as extended handoffs. But the Cowboys don’t use bubble and tunnel screens in the same way as many spread offenses. Romo has typically determined pre-snap if he’ll be throwing a quick screen to a wide receiver, and most of them have appeared to be designed runs on which Romo pulled up to hit the receiver on a “look.” In 2012, 15 of the Cowboys’ 24 screens were quick to receivers. They went for 86 total yards or 5.73 yards per attempt (YPA), with all but three of the passes totaling nine or fewer yards.

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