Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Special Teams - Roll Call in the Bye Week

http://beta.sportsdaydfw.com/dallas-cowboys/cowboys/2015/10/21/sturm-special-teams-roll-call

Yesterday, I wrote a long piece breaking down Matt Cassel that seemed to be of interest to a large percentage of our audience.  QB talk always interests a very large group of football fans so I enjoyed writing that and getting all of your feedback.

Today, though, I am going to try something completely different.

You see, I am a great lover of the NFL game.  I love the game day discussions that go all the way to the last man on the bench.  46 man rosters on Sunday.  7 inactive players.  Who are those players and what is the team trying to tell us?

Injuries.  Signees.  Every Sunday, the pieces are moving to try to figure out who is doing what.

Surely, you know that the Average NFL team has about 65 snaps a game on offense and defense to account for.  But, you might not realize there are 30 more plays a game where the team has to perform at a top level.  Special teams.

30 plays a game!  It is true.  I have written about this several other times if you would like to catch up.

But, today, in this bye week, I wanted to give you an update on how Rich Bisaccia is using his special teams pieces.  During this time, I like to take roll call to see who is where.

If you look at this, perhaps when you are watching a game, you will know who is making the big play  on special teams.

First, Kickoff cover.

According to the NFL stats, the Cowboys rank 24th in the league on covering kicks, allowing 26 yards a return.  What they don't tell you is that the Cowboys have only faced 3 kick returns this year because of all of the touchbacks.  That means only 1 team has allowed fewer total yards on kick returns than the Cowboys 78.  They don't get tested much, but here is a chart for who plays where on the kick coverage.

Special Teams - Kickoff Cover



Wk R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 K L5 L4 L3 L2 L1
NY 27 25 52 38 52 5 51 23 40 26 42
PH 42 31 52 27 25 5 51 38 40 23 26
AT 27 25 57 38 23 5 52 31 40 26 42
NO 27 25 57 38 52 5 51 23 40 26 42
NE 42 26 40 23 52 5 51 38 57 31 27

You are likely going to want this roster if you don't have everyone's jersey numbers memorized.

Now, punt coverage.  The Cowboys are right at league average on both total yards and average yards per punt return.  Here is that group that has pretty much stayed the same all year.

Special Teams - Punt Cover


Wk P PP RW LW RE LE RT RG C LG LT
NY 6 38 89 40 25 23 56 51 91 57 52
PH 6 38 89 40 25 23 56 51 91 57 52
AT 6 38 89 40 23 31 56 51 91 57 52
NO 6 38 89 40 23 31 56 51 91 57 52
NE 6 38 89 40 31 23 59 51 91 57 52


Now, this is where the Cowboys need to be better.  The kick return unit has not been good, and I assume losing Lance Dunbar won't help.  That said, they weren't getting much done with him out there and his injury did occur on an ill-advised kick return.

The Cowboys have very poor starting field position, and kick returns help determine that to some extent.  23.4 is the league average and you get 20 yards by not even trying.  So, the fact that the Cowboys are 21.6 is splitting the difference between average and not trying.  This group could stand for some improvement.

Special Teams - Kickoff Return


Wk RE RT RG LG LT LE RW LW S KR2 KR
NY 40 56 52 89 57 38 51 97 44 26 25
PH 40 56 52 89 57 38 51 97 44 26 25
AT 40 56 52 89 57 38 51 93 44 26 25
NO 40 56 52 89 57 38 51 93 44 26 25
NE 40 59 52 89 57 38 51 87 44 26 13

And finally, punt returns.  This is where Dwayne Harris has been good over the years and now he is gone so the Cowboys were going to teach Cole Beasley how to do it.  He looked quite able to do so in training camp, but in the first 5 weeks of the regular season, we have not been very impressed with the punt returns.

In fact, they rank 31st in the league with 3.5 yards a return - this in a league where the average punt return is 9.5 yards.  So 31st in average and 31st in total return yards from this group.

However, they did block a punt in Philadelphia (and ran it in for a TD) that might have won the game, so all is not lost from this group.

Special Teams - Punt Return


Wk LDE LDT RB LB RDT RDE S S LCB RCB PR
NY 51 57 89 31 52 27 38 42 26 40 11
PH 51 40 57 58 52 27 38 42 26 23 11
AT 51 57 31 40 52 27 38 42 26 23 11
NO 51 40 31 58 52 27 38 42 26 23 11
NE 51 57 89 40 52 27 38 42 31 23 11

Often, at the end of a piece I write, people want a nice conclusion.  This one is more of a reference piece that you might want to bookmark for when you are enjoying games.

For me, I use it to see who is being used heavily without being all over the boxscore.  These are vital moments in every game.  Ask the Colts or Michigan or the Longhorns about whether special teams can make or break a game or a season for you.

Also, if a team uses 15 or so players on offense and 15 or so on defense, you can see how the team chooses the rest of the game day roster.  A kicker, a backup QB, a punter, and a long snapper grab 4 spots.  So, the other 12 go to these numbers listed above.  These are your special teams guys: 

Jeff Heath, Danny McCray, Damien Wilson, Tyler Patmon, Corey White, Andrew Gachkar, Kyle Wilber, and then the guys who never get to rest - the safeties Barry Church and JJ Wilcox.  

Anyway, I normally put all of this in a notebook, but I thought somebody might enjoy knowing all of this football game-day minutia.  

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