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Cowboys Analysis: Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick & Week 8 Primer

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At DallasCowboys.com, I broke down why I like Orlando Scandrick:

Through Week 7, Scandrick has been targeted 41 times, a pretty high number for a cornerback playing so well. He’s yielded 26 receptions (63.4 percent) for 217 yards (5.29 yards per attempt or YPA). That efficiency is outstanding for any cornerback.

Actually, anything around 7.5 YPA or lower is great, and Scandrick has checked in below that in all but two games.

He turned in a decent performance against the Broncos (although you might say it was above average given the competition) and a slightly below-average game against the Redskins, but otherwise, Scandrick has been unbelievable. Even considering his work solely in the slot, Scandrick has allowed only 5.35 YPA.

One of the other cool ways to judge cornerbacks is by how many yards they allow on a per-route basis. That way, they’re actually rewarded for having good coverage and not getting targeted. Whereas a cornerback who gave up one completion of 15 yards in 100 snaps would be penalized in terms of YPA, he’d rank highly in yards per route (YPR).

Looking at how Scandrick compares to the Cowboys’ other cornerbacks and the NFL as a whole, we can start to visualize his dominance.

The top cornerback in the NFL in YPR is unsurprisingly Tampa Bay’s Darrelle Revis, according to Pro Football Focus. But not far behind him, ranking well within the top 10, is Scandrick. Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr, who ranks in the top 20 in the NFL in YPR at 1.01, is performing better than he did in 2012. Still, at 0.73 YPR, Scandrick is over a quarter-yard better than the Cowboys’ “best” cornerback. He’s allowing well below half of Morris Claiborne’s 1.63 YPR.

At Dallas Morning News, I explained why I think Dez Bryant might eventually be better than Calvin Johnson:

A Different Look

One of the rebuttals I heard regarding the original Bryant vs. Johnson debate is that Bryant had a superior quarterback during his first three years in the NFL. That’s certainly true. And while you might think there’s no way to quantify that, we can look at market share—the percentage of their teams’ total passing yards and touchdowns that each receiver generated.

When we look at it through that lens, Johnson comes out on top.

Although the numbers are relatively close, Johnson had a higher percentage of his team’s yards (30.7 percent) and touchdowns (39.7 percent) through his first three seasons.

While this is certainly a positive for Johnson, there are a couple reasons I think it doesn’t matter as much as the original numbers. First, Johnson had way more targets in his first three years (382 versus 313 for Bryant). If we account for those numbers, the market share stats look very comparable.

Second, the total market share numbers reward Johnson for playing on a poor team. For example, he had 21 touchdowns in his first three seasons, while Bryant totaled 27. But Johnson’s market share of touchdowns was higher because the Lions as a team threw only 53 total touchdowns during that time, compared to 91 for the Cowboys.

Finally, there’s value in having the same market share with higher bulk stats. What’s more difficult: posting 10 touchdowns on a team that throws for 20, or 20 touchdowns on a team that has 40? The latter, for sure, but market sure doesn’t capture that.

We definitely need to examine quarterback quality when determining if Bryant’s first three seasons were indeed superior to Johnson’s, and market share is part of that. It certainly gives us a glimpse into just how poor Johnson’s team was, at least. But when you consider Bryant’s efficiency and bulk stats in combination with the market share numbers, there’s at least a semi-convincing argument to be made that he’s on the path to Johnson-esque greatness.

And at Bleacher Report, I posted a Week 8 primer:

Key Matchup to Watch: RT Doug Free vs. DE Willie Young

The Lions are loaded across the defensive line, with defensive ends Ezekiel Ansah and Willie Young out wide and defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley inside. Suh is the big name and the Lions’ top pass-rusher, but Young has been pretty effective as well.

Young checks in just below Suh in pressure rate, and he leads the Lions in quarterback hits. Pro Football Focus has tracked Young as lining up on the left side of Detroit’s defense on 70.8 percent of his pass snaps, so he’ll face off primarily against right tackle Doug Free.

Free has improved significantly over last year, allowing pressure on just 3.6 percent of his snaps (compared to 6.1 percent in 2012). If Free can contain Young on his own, the Cowboys will be in a better position to help their interior linemen face off against one of the league’s premiere defensive tackle duos.

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