In the preseason, I placed a point of emphasis on running more counters this season. In many of my game plan articles, I suggested (over and over) that Dallas run more counters.
The reason was the success with which the Cowboys ran counters in 2009. As you can see below, the ‘Boys averaged a ridiculous 7.9 yards-per-carry on their 36 counters last year. Felix Jones alone tallied 220 yards on 22 counters.
While the rate of negative runs was a bit higher (as is to be expected with a slower-developing play), the percentage of 10, 20 and 40+ yard runs was all significantly higher on counters as compared to non-counter runs.
This season, the disparity between counters and non-counters is even greater. The ‘Boys are averaging 8.71 yards-per-rush on their counter attempts in 2010. That number is even more impressive when you consider the overall failures of the team’s running game this season. While the Cowboys averaged 5.0 yards-per-carry on non-counters last season, that number has dropped to 3.2 in 2010.
What’s most incredible to me is the similarities in the counter stats from last year to this one. Compare the chart above with the one below. The counter average, negative play rate, and big play percentages are all remarkably similar from one year to the next.
Despite the continued success and overall consistency on counters, however, Jason Garrett is not calling them as frequently as he should. While the team averaged 2.25 counters-per-game in ’09, that number has dropped to just 1.55 this season.
The struggles of the offensive line are certainly a factor in Garrett’s decision. Counters are generally more “dangerous” than other run plays that take less time to develop and necessitate fewer moving parts. With the inconsistencies the offensive line has displayed this year, Garrett might be scared to risk a negative run and put the offense in long-yardage situations.
With a negative run rate that is only three percent higher on counters, though, that potential fear appears unjustified. Certainly the slightly higher risk of a negative run is offset by the gigantic increase in big play probability. Take this stat for example: of the Cowboys’ four 20+ yard runs this season, three have come on counters, despite only 7.4 percent of all runs being counters. 75 percent of big runs from 7.4 percent of run plays? Something isn’t right there.
And with Doug Free replacing Flozell Adams at left tackle, the athleticism of the offensive line is even greater than in 2009–a trait that is suited for counter runs. At least Garrett recognizes that the left side of the offensive line is the place to run, as 13 of the 17 counters in 2010 have been on the left side behind Free. The ‘Boys are averaging 9.85 yards-per-rush on those 13 runs.
So Coach Garrett. . .please, please call more counters moving forward. They will surely increase the offense’s rushing efficiency, which will make it easier to do the thing you love most–throw the football.