Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Decoding Garrett: Game 7 vs Jacksonville - Data


Another week where a coaching staff will look at data and wonder what they can really use to apply to future game plans and future ideas. And by the way, that also goes for future Cowboys opponents. When Green Bay looks at the last two games and the almost 7 Quarters that Jon Kitna was the QB, they will have to remember that the Cowboys were behind for the majority of that time. They will also have to remember that the Cowboys did not appear to be totally focused on the task at hand. I am not sure the Cowboys coaches nor their opponents' coaches will be able to look at this data and see too much that will be used in future coaching clinics about how an offense is supposed to look.

The good news is that Jon Kitna showed the ability to hit receivers in stride and find some big plays along the way. Even on 3rd Down, it is clear that Kitna has the arm on a given play to make many of the throws needed to be a threat in this league. In particular, his sideline throws to Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are a testament to that.

The bad news is that over the course of a game, if the Cowboys do not start to run the ball at least a little bit, the opposition is going to have defensive backs sitting on routes continuously (see: Mathis, Rashean on Sunday) because on plays where the defense brings pressure and there is no threat of a ground attack, there are only a few routes that Kitna can throw on the quick release and that is where DBs find their landmarks and jump slants, hooks, and predictable pass patterns in the Cowboys offense.

So, will he always throw 4 interceptions with this recipe? There will be that danger. He will also have big yardage numbers and the Cowboys may be able to stay in some games. But, with a ground game that ran the ball 13 times from under center for just 24 yards, the Cowboys become easier and easier for a defense to decode. Decoding is becoming an ironic term for this study, because the Cowboys are evolving into a "what did you think they were going to do there?" offense. Predicability leads to schemes that roll coverage to the high predictability zones, and coverage in those zones leads to interceptions.

In other words, the Cowboys are playing with fire.

Which leads us back to the same place we end up every week in these studies: Why can't the Cowboys run the football? Why could they be so powerful in 2009 and so lousy in 2010? That has nothing to do with Tony Romo (at least it didn't in the first 5 games. I concede that now, if a defense wants to load up to destroy your run that it is easier to gamble in the back against Kitna) and again, they tried 13 run plays from under center and had no success.

I want to be clear here because some weeks I must not say it clear enough: This is not on Jason Garrett! He has called 47 run plays from under center (I keep saying under center because that is your basic offense on 1st and 2nd down where the defense is not thinking pass. They are thinking 50/50 run/pass and this is the best test of your run offense) in the last 3 weeks. And the sum total of those 47 run plays? 126 yards. 2.6 yards per carry! Brutal.

If you are getting 2.6 yards per carry in a sample size that is nearly 50, you can start to see why he is scared to trust his offensive line. And when we look at the videos, you will see why - this OL has lost the ability to block. I don't know what changed. I hesitate to say it is Flozell Adams leaving, but it should be noted that he is now a key contributor to the Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Line.

For the season, I think you would have to give Right Tackle and Right Guard both failing grades. I would be a bit more generous to Left Tackle and Center, with Left Guard being such a revolving door that it is difficult to say, but with Phil Costa out there, it is another guy who is getting beat more than he is winning his block. So, I can't count on LG, RG, or RT and I am supposed to run the ball? And if I have nothing to replace them with on the sideline other than a journeyman cast off from the Rams and two rookies who were largely unthought of on draft day...

Good luck with all of that.

Let's look at the Data from the loss to the Jaguars:

You will see again how things snowball. Can't run, so we pass on early downs. Pass on early downs, which leads to 2nd and long and 3rd and long. And 2nd and 3rd and long leads to what? Even more passes. This would not be a major issue if the defense didn't know all of this. But they do, so they sit on your tendencies and try to make you bad at what you used to do well when the defense didn't know it was coming.

1st Down Run-Pass9-23
2nd Down Avg Distance to Go8.9
2nd Down Run-Pass8-16
3rd Down Avg Distance to Go7.92
3rd Down Run-Pass2-11
3rd Down Conversions6-13, 46%

HTML Tables

How about Drive Starting plays? I list these because many offensive NFL minds will tell you that you can see a lot from what the intent is of the OC by listing his first play of each drive. What will set the tone here?

Wk 1-At Washington: 10 Drives - 6 Run/4Pass
Wk 2-Chicago: 10 Drives - 3 Run/7 Pass
Wk 3-At Houston: 8 Drives - 8 Run/0 Pass
Wk 4-Tennessee: 12 Drives - 5 Run/7 Pass
Wk 5-At Minnesota: 11 Drives - 7 Run/4 Pass
Wk 6-New York: 14 Drives - 3 Run/11 Pass
Wk 7-Jacksonville: 11 Drives - 3 Run/8 Pass
35 Run/41 Pass

Here is the breakdown by groupings:

Totals by Personnel Groups:
PackagePlays RunYardsRunPass

Table Tutorial

Just look at all of the running plays from non "Shotgun" personnel groups. No production whatsoever.

Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:

Table Tutorial

Nothing can change until the guys up front start winning blocks. And since they are getting worse each week, rather than better, I am having a hard time telling you this is going to get better this year. This team needs young OL help, and they appear to have a rather bare cupboard.

For a more expanded definition of the Personnel Groups, click here.

Make sure you check use these numbers when you look at the video breakdowns that will be posted later today.

Bob Sturm is host of BaD Radio on The Ticket 1310 AM Mondays through Fridays at 12-3 p.m. He also hosts The Ticket's Cowboys pregame show. Follow Bob on Twitter at
Bob offers his exclusive analysis after games on SportsDayDFW.com

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