I didn’t post initial reactions after the Cowboys Week 8 loss to Jacksonville because there simply wasn’t much to be said. I did spend all morning and early afternoon breaking down the film, though, and here are my findings. . .
- Jon Kitna played well in the first half. I know it’s difficult to support a quarterback who threw four interceptions, but the first two were not on Kitna. I’ve heard others argue that the third one wasn’t Kitna’s fault either since Roy Williams got a hand on it, but that ball was thrown way too far behind Williams. There aren’t many receivers in the league who will make that grab.
- The play-calling was incredibly basic. I heard the Monday night crew last week claim that Jason Garrett uses his history as a backup quarterback to aid him in calling plays for Kitna. He said that he focuses more on Kitna’s strengths than trying to execute the same type of game plan the team would use if Tony Romo was healthy.
- Part of that basic play-calling has involved the return of “Double Tight Strong.” You’ll remember the Cowboys ran this formation 116 times last season, calling the same strong side dive play 83 of those plays. Unfortunately, Garrett thought the two plays on the Jaguars one-yard line just before halftime were a good place and time to run the strong side dive from “Double Tight Strong.” He was wrong, and the Cowboys got stopped twice in a row.
- The Cowboys ran eight red zone plays against Jacksonville: three runs for one yard and a touchdown, and five passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. Here is a breakdown of the Cowboys red zone play-calling thus far in 2010:
You can see the Cowboys have found a lot more success through the air in the red zone than on the ground. Of their five passes inside the five-yard line, four have gone for touchdowns.
They’re also averaging nearly six-yards-per-pass and have scored three touchdowns when passing between the opponent’s 10 and 20-yard line. Those numbers aren’t extraordinary, but remember the upside of all plays is severely limited in the red zone.
Courtesy of AdvancedNFLStats.com
Meanwhile, Dallas is averaging just over two yards-per-carry on red zone runs. They’ve punched it into the end zone just twice on runs, both from the one-yard line.
I’ve actually liked Garrett’s red zone play-calling in 2010 (for the most part). He’s obviously (probably unknowingly) trying to complete a lot of the goals I laid out for the offense in mypreseason analysis of red zone success.
One of those goals was to run more inside the 10-yard line and pass more outside of it (particularly on 1st down), and that’s just what Garrett is doing. You can see the Cowboys run/pass ratio inside the opponent’s 10-yard line is 8:5, but just around 2:3 between the 10 and 20-yard lines.
I think this is evidence that Garrett is using statistical analysis much more in 2010 than any previous season as an offensive coordinator.
- The Cowboys lined up in the same personnel package (one tight end, three receivers, and a running back) on the last 29 plays (minus the final kneel down).
- Despite evidence that Jon Kitna is more productive under center than in shotgun, the Cowboys lined up in shotgun on 51 of their 72 offensive plays. A lot of that had to do with game situation, of course.
- 11 of the Cowboys first 22 plays used motion, but only two of the final 50 did the same. The Cowboys gained 56 yards on their 13 total plays which used pre-snap motion.
- The Cowboys ran six draws for 20 yards and a touchdown, and just one counter for nine yards. I realize the chances of a negative play increase on counters, but Dallas is running them at a lower rate than in 2009—a year when Felix Jones gained 220 yards on 22 counters.
- Dallas ran a play-action pass only three times all game, and they went for a total of 27 yards. One was picked off.
- I counted seven passes as being ‘off-target’ for Kitna. Considering he threw 49 times, that really isn’t too bad. The problem was his poor throws were really poor. He’ll make better decision going forward as he becomes more comfortable in the offense.
- I credited Phil Costa and Leonard Davis as yielding the two sacks. Costa had an average day at best, which is to be expected from the undrafted rookie. He got fooled with rare Jacksonville twists, which was what the Jags ran on the play Costa gave up a sack. Still, he played no worse than Davis, who has really gone downhill in the last 14 months.
- The Jaguars blitzed an incredibly low three times all game. They obviously thought Kitna couldn’t continually beat them underneath, or else they wanted to force the Cowboys to prove they can run the ball (or both). Kitna also beat the Jags on two blitzes early in the game (for 45 total yards), which may have cause Jacksonville to simply sit back in safe coverages. Overall, it was almost like watching a preseason game for the last three quarters.
- The players have a sense of entitlement and find it to be enough to “do their jobs” instead of going beyond the call of duty. When I watch the film, there aren’t usually a ton of plays on which you can point out a guy and say, “Yeah, that one was his fault.” The Cowboys are simply playing horribly as a team, and someone needs to step up and make a play.
- That sense of entitlement stems from the head coach. The fact that Marion Barber is still starting shows that the coaching staff isn’t concerned about putting the best players on the football field. The justification that Barber “provides something special” as a starter is ludicrous. His presence at the start of football games means nothing to the Cowboys, aside from the fact that the worst tailback on their roster is in the game. How can the players reasonably be expected to buy into the coaches’ schemes when they see the coaches giving starting spots to players simply because they’ve started in the past? Where is the motivation to progress both as individual players and as a team?
- Alan Ball led the Cowboys in tackles with seven. When your free safety leads the team in tackles, particularly in the sort of defense Dallas runs, it is a big problem.
- Below, I have created a list of players the Cowboys need to at least take a look at replacing in the offseason. Now obviously not all of these players will be gone, but all of them have significantly underperformed. The number behind their name is a rating of the urgency with which a change must be made (out of 10). I also disregarded the obvious choices, such as Alex Barron.
Players who could (perhaps should) be out in 2011
FS Alan Ball (7): Zero play-making ability or instincts. I know he’s limited in this scheme, but he’s been sub-par.
RB Marion Barber (10): He will probably get cut, which is the right move.
DE Stephen Bowen (5): Bowen is going to be a free agent, and it will be interesting to see how Dallas proceeds.
LB Keith Brooking (10): His leadership and on-field play last year were a big boost to the ‘Boys, but now it’s clear he regressed way too much to justify keeping him on the roster.
K David Buehler (7): Who knows how he will progress in the offseason, but the most important aspect of his game is kickoffs.
RT Marc Colombo (9): I have an eery feeling that Colombo will begin 2011 as a starter for the Cowboys, but he’s one of the worst starters in the league at this point.
RG Leonard Davis (8): Colombo has been worse in my opinion, but Davis’ big salary and poor play could have him on the outs.
C Andre Gurode (6): I think he still has one more year left in him as a decent center, but the Cowboys have to look for his replacement ASAP.
DE Jason Hatcher (5): I thought he’d have a breakout season, but there just hasn’t been any progress.
DE Igor Olshansky (9): He’s been awful in 2010, and after last week’s celebration fiasco, I don’t think he deserves to be a Cowboy.
CB Orlando Scandrick (4): I only give Scandrick a ’4′ because I think he still deserves a roster spot, but the Cowboys should look at making him the dime cornerback.
S Gerald Sensabaugh (7): Will Sensabaugh be in Dallas next season? I don’t think so, but who will replace him? The Cowboys need to see what they have in Danny McCray and Barry Church.
WR Roy Williams (8): I know he’s been solid this season, but he’s really just a progress-stopper with Dez Bryant behind him.
TE Jason Witten (1): Let me be clear... in NO way do I think the Cowboys should get rid of Witten. But I do think he’s on the field a little too much (particularly in obvious passing situations–unless he’s used in pass protection). Martellus Bennett needs a few more opportunities.
Players who need more playing time in 2010
TE Martellus Bennett
DT Josh Brent
WR Dez Bryant
OLB Victor Butler
RB Tashard Choice
S Barry Church
C/G Phil Costa
LB Sean Lee
S Danny McCray
FS Akwasi Owusu-Ansah
LB Jason Williams
RT Sam Young