Over the next several weeks, I want to do what I attempt to do every summer, which is to take a good look back at the previous season. There are enough people on the interweb speculating about what could happen in 2013 and what they learned from OTA's. That is great sometimes, and I enjoy their work. But, I usually have enough time for that at Training Camp and with the preseason games - especially this year with an elongated camp and an additional preseason game.
So, the bridge from OTA's until Oxnard is best filled by examining the previous season both from a macro view and a micro view.
First, the macro view. The NFL keeps a few hundred different team statistics which are sorted from top to bottom for all 32 teams. They are separated and averaged both by "All 32" and then by "playoff teams". The second ranking is a good way to compare yourself to the 12 teams that made the NFL postseason.
So, today, I thought we could examine the offensive statistics from these files and pick out the best and worst stats from the Cowboys offense - relative to the rest of the league and to the playoff field. Then, next time, we will give the same treatment to the Cowboys defense.
Here we go:
5 Great Stats from the Cowboys Offense in 2012
1st Down Efficiency: Rated 2nd in NFL with 53.6% Success Rate. NFL Average was 47.3% and Playoff Teams averaged 48.6%
3 and Out Drives: 3rd best in NFL with 17.2%. NFL Average = 22.7%, Playoff Average = 20.6%
3rd Down Conversions: 43.9% was 5th in NFL. NFL Average = 38.2%, Playoff Average = 40.2%
Net Passing Yards Per Game: 295.6 per game, ranked 3rd. NFL Average = 231.3, Playoff Average = 237.1
1st Down Passing (4 yards or more): 2nd in NFL, 59.8%. NFL = 50.9%, Playoffs = 53.2%
This group is certainly propped up with the fantastic accumulation of numbers that were the Cowboys calling card in the latter part of the season where they abandoned all hopes of balance and power and simply let their weapons do their work. This is where Dez Bryant emerged as a dominant player and where Tony Romo unleashed his stable of weapons that will only improve this season. Net passing yards are way above where they need to be (and are certainly not indicative of winning football), and 1st down efficiency combined with 3rd down conversions are all where you want to be.
3rd Down conversions don't say everything, but when the top teams are all playoff teams: New England, Atlanta, Denver and the bottom 3 teams are Jacksonville, Arizona, and Cleveland - you can at least see that there is some indicator of who has elite QBs and who doesn't by how 3rd Down goes. So, it is nice to sit at #5 in that stat.
5 Good/Average Stats from the Cowboys Offense in 2012
Yards Per Play: 5.71, 11th in NFL. NFL Average = 5.41, Playoff Teams Average = 5.62
Times Sacked: 36, 15th in the NFL. NFL Average = 37, Playoff Teams = 35
Explosive Plays (Plays of 20 yards or more): 61, 16th in NFL. NFL = 60, Playoffs = 64
Offensive Points Scored: 348, 15th in the NFL. NFL Average = 333, Playoff Teams = 385
Time of Possession: 30:33 for 13th in NFL. NFL Average = 30:00, Playoff Teams 30:37
The one that jumps out at you here is the issue we always discuss - 15th in points scored for all those big yardage stats above. That is one characteristic of the Jason Garrett offense that seems to be consistent most years. This team under performs on the scoreboard for all of the stats they put up. This is why hearing that they have high yardage rankings doesn't mean much to people that suggest they can move the ball between the 20s all day long. It is also interesting to see that they are only league average in explosive plays. You would think that with Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, this number should be way higher. The Saints led the league with 77 and that is the neighborhood that you want to reside in soon with all of the weapons.
5 Poor Stats from the Cowboys Offense in 2012
10 Play Drives: Cowboys had 21, 32nd best in NFL. NFL Average = 27, Playoff Teams 29
Giveaways: 29, which ranked 25th. NFL Average = 25, Playoffs = 19
Penalties Called: 117, ranked 30th. NFL Average = 100, Playoff Teams Average = 100
Rush Plays Called: 33.8%, 31st. NFL Average = 42.3%, Playoff teams = 45.2%
Yards Per Play in Red Zone: 2.43, 28th. NFL Average = 2.86, Playoff Teams = 2.92
Ah, the killers. The stats that must be focused on. And you can argue that they have all been addressed with personnel changes and coaching initiatives in this offseason. Their drives were too short, too penalized, too many turnovers, no runs, and inefficient in the red zone.
How many of these stats are connected? You have to pass to move the ball, you can't hold linebackers or safeties with play action, therefore you are throwing into more coverage - more giveaways.
Also, when the field gets shorter, the gaps in the secondary get smaller, and it gets harder to move the ball. And, of course, you cannot commit 17 more penalties a season than the field. That is simply a self-inflicted wound that must be cleaned up.
Next time, we look at these same numbers from the defensive point of view.