Cowboys by the Numbers: 2013 Stats Dallas Must Improve in 2014
The Dallas Cowboys have plenty of work to do before the 2014 NFL season begins. With free agency kicking off Tuesday, ESPN.com's Todd Archer reports that Dallas has already made some noise by releasing seven-time Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware.
Whether it’s adding a few names with their newly acquired cap space or selecting prospects in May’s draft, the Cowboys have to adjust their roster.
The defense needs dire help along the entire line, the secondary is questionable and there are categories in which the offense can improve immensely.
With the start of the new season officially underway, let’s take a look at where Dallas can improve statistically this year.
One of the few things Dallas’ offense didn’t do well in 2013 was run the ball consistently. Too often, the offense was overly pass-heavy and neglected the run.
The reason this stat must change is because Dallas is successful when it runs. With a great year from running back DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys were in the top 10 in yards per attempt at 4.5 yards.
A balanced offensive attack is the best route in the NFL. Being able to score points while allowing your defense to rest is critical. Perhaps if Dallas increases its rushing attempts, it will join the majority of the league in averaging 100 yards per game on the ground.
Total Yards Allowed
The Cowboys defense as a whole was pathetic last year. It was so dreadful against both the pass and run that I will discuss both in the category of total yards allowed.
Dallas ranked dead last in total defense in 2013. In fact, it was the only team to give up more than 400 yards per game. The saddest part might be that its average was more than 17 yards worse than 31st-ranked Minnesota.
If the Cowboys plan on even considering the playoffs, this stat has to change drastically.
Despite many of its key contributors potentially leaving in free agency (Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher, Ware), Dallas could actually be much-improved in 2014.
New defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will make adjustments to last year’s schemes and have some new faces to work with. In the end, keeping starters like Sean Lee healthy will determine how much Dallas improves on defense.
Yards Per Reception
Another area on offense where Dallas can get better is in its yards per reception. Even though quarterback Tony Romo and the offense did extremely well through the air, it’s evident they can improve.
The Cowboys averaged only 11.3 yards per reception last season, putting them at 24th in the league. For a team that relies so much on the pass, Dallas needs to get more out of every catch.
With playmakers like Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, Romo and the offense should be attacking secondaries vertically down the field.
Dallas finished in the top half of the league in passing attempts with 586. If more of these passes are further down the field, the passing game will be more effective and defenses will have to back off the line of scrimmage.
As stated, the Cowboys defense had few bright spots during last year’s campaign. An area it really struggled in was getting off the field on third down.
Opponents converted 91 of 210 (43.3 percent) third-down attempts in 2013. This was bad enough to rank 29th in this category.
If it wasn’t obvious enough, stopping teams on third down is crucial to winning football games.
For Dallas to do better here, it will need players to step up on big downs. Pass-rushers and shutdown corners make their money on third downs.
Speaking of pass-rushers, a category Dallas desperately needs to see progress in is sack production. The team had only 34 sacks last season, which was tied for 25th.
Although it will be quite difficult to replace former All-Pro Ware, there is optimism for the Cowboys to get better. Ware is clearly in the decline of his career, producing just six sacks last year. A new purebred defensive end could work better for Marinelli in Dallas’ 4-3 scheme.
We're unaware of who Dallas will acquire to fill the holes along the defensive line, but it should have sacks on its mind when doing so. Manufacturing just three more sacks than the league worst will not get it done.