Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Football 301: Week 3 - Decoding Garrett

DISCLAIMER: This is not for everyone. It may not be for you. This is a statistical study of the Cowboys offense with lots of numbers that may make your head tired if you are not up to it. Read it only if it is something that is of interest to you.

The win versus Carolina resulted in many people who follow this team to suggest it was a disappointing night for the offense. After all, they had 0 points at halftime, and really only accounted for 1 TD and 2 FGs against a defense that does not stun you with its talent.

But, was the offense bad? And if so, how do we define that?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Morning After: Cowboys 21, Panthers 7

newmanNot every single NFL game turns on one play, but quite a few of them do. And without question, Dallas' first Monday Night win in their new stadium absolutely turned on one play and one play only.

2nd Down, 10 yards to go for the Panthers at their own 22 yard line with 5:15 left to go in the 4th Quarter. They have been badly outplayed in the 2nd half, but now own the football and only trail the Cowboys by 6 points. This is the ultimate opportunity to steal a game with a touchdown, and get that win that Carolina needs so badly.

ESPN, after Jake Delhomme takes a deep shot to Steve Smith on 1st down, shows a montage of Terrence Newman up in tight and aggressive coverage on Smith in the 2nd half, frustrating Smith to a point of a temper tantrum on the sideline.

The Panthers are flooding the right side of the line on this 2nd and 10, with Muhsin Muhammad, Jeff King, Donte Rosario, and DeAngelo Williams all running routes to the offensive right. Steve Smith is split to the left, and the Cowboys counter with Newman tight, and Hamlin over the top. The Panthers have to be thinking that since they took a deep shot to Smith on 1st down, chances are that Newman would be leaning back on a deeper route and conceding the slant.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Game Plan Friday: Carolina Panthers

Monday_Night_FootballAfter a long week of the sky falling, another chance arises to knock out that first home victory in the new stadium along with a chance for another broadcast crew to run the new stadium's fun facts right into the ground.

Welcome to Week 3: Cowboys and Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football. Both teams desperately need wins, as the Panthers certainly don't want to join the Tennessee Titans as another playoff team from 2008 that starts 0-3 and is left for dead (although they have already been left for dead by most) and the Cowboys face a 2 week roadtrip to two difficult stadiums (albeit not the toughest teams in the league) before their bye week. You could only imagine the mass hysteria if this Cowboys team has to wait until October 25th for another chance at getting its first win in Arlington. They don't want that hanging over them.

We looked closely at the Panthers on Thursday, so if you would like to review that, Click Here and read until your heart is content .

So, how do we get to 2-1? If you do get to 2-1, the sun rises tomorrow with renewed optimism for the 2009 season, and the idea that if you can beat Denver and Kansas City going into the bye week that this team will be right where it needs to be the next time they play a home game. If they don't get a win tonight, the usual implosion warnings will be sounded.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Analyze The Enemy - Carolina Panthers

panthershelmetTHURSDAYS: We catch you up on this week’s opponent with an overall portrait of their team. This is not breaking down this week’s match-up, because that happens on Friday. This is just to set the table in preparation for laying out the gameplan.

In Week 3, The Cowboys welcome another playoff team from 2008, those Carolina Panthers for a little Monday Night Football. The Panthers are certainly another team that has its share of critics across the league, and as usual - the targets on that team are two familiar positions for football criticism, Head Coach and Quarterback.

John Fox, entering his 8th year as head coach of the Panthers, took the job over after serving 5 years with the New York Giants under Jim Fassel, where the Giants went all the way to Super Bowl 35. Led by their defense, Fox was the hot name for a few offseasons, and in 2002 he took over the Panthers who were coming of a 1-15 2001 under their previous coach, George Seifert. In fact, as hard as it is to believe, Fox has been the coach of the Panthers longer than Seifert and Dom Capers combined. Capers only coached in Carolina for 4 years (going to the '96 NFC Championship game), Seifert for 3 (going 16-32). Fox, 63-49 in his 7+ seasons, took the Panthers to the brink of a Super Bowl 38 victory in his 2nd year, and to the NFC Title game in his 4th year, before losing to the Seahawks. His 3rd trip to the playoffs was last season where the Panthers equaled a franchise-high 12-4 record, but then were demolished in Charlotte by the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Football Muse You Can Use

For our Wednesday NFL Reset column this week, I wanted to get something for you to examine that I have been meaning to publish for a few weeks. It is a trend that I love to follow because September is always the month everyone projects their own personal playoff predictions.

I am no different, and this year I predicted (before the season started) that the Eagles, Cowboys, Packers, Saints, Seahawks, and Falcons would make the NFC Playoffs, and the Patriots, Colts, Bengals, Steelers, Chargers, and Titans would make the AFC Playoffs. I had the Saints-Chargers in the Super Bowl, with the Saints winning it all.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to print it here (rather than just say it on the radio) was to show you a very interesting trend that one should consider before guessing who is going to be in the 2009 playoffs. And, I should have shown you this 3 weeks ago so you could have known this before you made your own predictions. Sorry. I have been really busy with all of this Football 301 stuff.

The Trend is this - Since 1991, when the NFL Expanded its playoffs to 12 teams, each year has averaged 5.8 new teams each year. To say it slightly differently, only 6 teams make it back to the playoffs the next year - and the other 6 teams are brand new.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Football 301: Decoding Garrett - Week 2

mathDISCLAIMER: This is not for everyone. It may not be for you. This is a statistical study of the Cowboys offense with lots of numbers that may make your head tired if you are not up to it. Read it only if it is something that is of interest to you.

Well, I know the hurt is still there for many fans of the Cowboys, but just know as you read this that the Cowboys coaching staff has already digested the Giants film and today will put the finishing touches on the Panthers' game plan.

The Giants game will be remembered by many of us as a failure, but success versus failure in the National Football League sometimes comes down to a simple field goal attempt with no time left on the clock after 3 hours of two teams killing each-other. The basic truth is this: In every game, there is good to consider and bad to avoid. And Sunday night, the Cowboys did some wonderful things. But, it only takes one untimely lapse in judgement from either your QB or your Offensive Coordinator to get you beat. That is the point of this Tuesday Series here at Inside Corner. To examine where they got it right, and where they got it wrong during each Cowboys game.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Morning After: Giants 33, Cowboys 31

Giants Cowboys FootballThe new stadium opens like the old stadium closed - with a gut punch.

This game was a game of so many ups and downs. On one hand, the Cowboys did so much to beat themselves that they really were lucky to have a lead and a chance at the end. And on the other hand, they had so many "bad breaks" that you wondered who they angered, because if one of those bounces doesn't go the Giants' way, then the Cowboys surely get the win.

Welcome back, NFL Season. Welcome back, 200 emails when Romo has a bad night. And welcome back, Monday after a gutting defeat where knee jerk reactions are flying in every direction. We missed you all. 16 hurdles in the meat grinder, and the Cowboys get nailed in their first home game, because they took an inexcusable -4 in the turnover rating.

On Wednesdays, we demonstrate the importance of turnovers around the league . There is no other stat so important as turnovers. If you are even a "-1" in a game, you lose 3 out of every 4 games. Worse than -1, and the number grows quite a bit. By the time you get to -4, it is almost 99% loss rate. In fact, since the start of last season, 24 teams have been a -4, and 24 teams have lost. Simply put, you don't take care of the football, you don't win.

And the Cowboys did not take care of the football. Namely, Tony Romo did not take care of the football. There are days when you can get away with that, and when you run for 251 yards, I thought for a bit that this might be one of those days. But, the combination that couldn't be overcome is this: The Cowboys offense gave the ball away 3 times; The special teams gave the ball away once; and the Cowboys defense did not create a turnover. Again.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Game Plan Friday: New York Giants

new-cowboys-stadium-outside-video Sometimes, a preview/game plan story can write itself. I feel like these first few paragraphs are insanely obvious, but let's do it anyway. The facts are easy to see:

1) This is the opening of the new stadium. And not just any stadium. Many are suggesting by their actions (The Today Show is here!) that this is not merely another stadium opening. This is the Death Star. This is Jerry World. This is $1.2 billion dollars of excess when there is not much excess in our economy. This is "bigger in Texas". This is the Dallas Cowboys.

2) And, this is the New York Giants. The bile and venom from both sides is never in short supply. I cannot speak for past generations, but in the here and now, the current 45 men on each side of the field are enemies. They don't like eachother. And they wish to do eachother harm and humiliation at every opportunity. And imagine how much joy it would bring the Giants to ruin the party on Sunday night.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Analyze The Enemy - New York Giants

giantshatTHURSDAYS: We catch you up on this week's opponent with an overall portrait of their team. This is not breaking down this week's match-up, because that happens on Friday. This is just to set the table in preparation for laying out the gameplan.

This week's foe needs no introduction. I remember when I first arrived in Dallas in 1998, I was always interested in the discussion of who is the Cowboys biggest rival (according to Cowboys fans). They are very similar to the University of Texas in the rivals department as everyone counts them as their biggest game, but what did you feel?

I can't remember what the results were in my survey, because the important thing I learned is "it depends who you ask". Well, if you ask me, the Giants are the biggest current rivalry in my mind. These two teams do not like eachother. At all. In fact, they go out of their way to say it. And it is pretty clear that bulletin board material is not a very big worry for either side.

This is an amazing division, as their are traditional powers in every direction. Off the top of my head, I believe it is the only division in football with all 4 teams owning NFL Titles (yes, in 1960, the Eagles last won the NFL Title; and no, I will not count AFL Titles for the purpose of my point).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

UFC 103 - Dallas, Are You Ready?

200px-UFC103Poster Saturday Night is quickly approaching, and that means UFC 103 at the American Airlines Center is ready to go down.

I have been waiting a very long time to finally see my first UFC show in person, but I must tell you there are a few things that trouble me:

1) - The card appears to be rather weak. Now, as a UFC hardcore loyalist, I will readily admit that some of the strong cards turn out to be weak, and some of the weak cards turn out to be awesome. But, at first glance, I wish Columbus, Ohio, might have been given this one. I think a city that has never enjoyed your product before might need a headliner that gets the marginal fan interested if the goal is to fill a 20,000 seat arena at the prices that are listed. CroCop may be that guy, but do enough people know his work in the sports world? Which brings me to...

2) - Can the arena be filled? With the poor card, the economy, Texas-Texas Tech up against it, the somewhat minimal promotion locally, and the prices, will the arena fill? And if it does not, will the UFC vow to never return? I want to make sure the UFC is impressed and a regular traveller to these parts, but you never get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression. And 9/19 will say plenty about the DFW market to the UFC suits (Dana White).

3) - How bad will the competitions hurt? Texas vs Texas Tech is a real troublesome match-up, and on PPV, we have Floyd Mayweather vs Juan Manuel Marquez. And HBO has really been pushing that with the great 24/7 series, so much so that if this card wasn't in Dallas - I would be torn.

Wednesday NFL Stuff...And Baylor?

Wednesdays are a bit of a reset day on the NFL beat, so let me show you something we did over at the old blog and update those numbers.

There are some standards that NFL broadcasters are always saying that I always like to challenge just to see if they are telling the truth. One in particular started back in the 1990s when the talking heads used to tell us that if Emmitt Smith had 20 carries then the Cowboys always won. I could never appreciate that stat (even if it was true) because I thought there was no correlation between that and winning. If you want to say when Emmitt gets 100 yards, I would believe it. Getting 100 yards has all sorts of winning attributes, but merely calling running plays would not lead to winning unless they were effective. The number of carries is obviously not as important as what he does with them. Otherwise, couldn't they hand him the ball on the first 20 plays, he takes a knee, loses 40 yards in the process, and the Cowboys win? It just didn't compute to me.

Am I crazy?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Football 301: Week 1 - Decoding Garrett

mathDISCLAIMER: This is not for everyone. It may not be for you. This is a statistical study of the Cowboys offense with lots of numbers that may make your head tired if you are not up to it. Read it only if it is something that is of interest to you. If not, see you tomorrow.

Sunday in Tampa, the Cowboys offense put up a rare display. 462 yards is amazing. 52 plays is rare. 462 yards in 52 plays so off the charts silly that we might be wasting our time to read any meaning into it.

How crazy is 52 plays for 462 yards? 8.9 yards per play. You may never see that again, so save the tape.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Morning After: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21

88971911JM011_DALLAS_COWBOY"And 2009 is underway!"

As is the case in 100% of NFL games, there was certainly some good, some bad, and some ugly in the 2009 season opener, but the Dallas Cowboys slowly and surely overwhelmed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, and start the season off in the only acceptable way. They beat a team that will struggle this year to win 6 games. And they beat them in a fashion where one never felt the game was in doubt after halftime.

I believe the early theme of the season has been whether or not the Cowboys would be capable of assembling a dangerous offense this year. Would the exit of Terrell Owens diminish the lethal qualities of this offense to a point where they struggle to get to 20? Depends who you believe. But, I have always believed that this current crew of playmakers would be fine. And, I believe we saw enough big plays yesterday - and several more that merely teased (Martellus Bennett, Wildcat) - that we can all prepare for the team to accumulate plenty of points. And they may need to. Because...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Game Plan Friday: Tampa Bay

gameplanOn Fridays, we will try to look at the key match-ups and the overall objectives for each Cowboys game.

When you start a season on the road against a team like Tampa Bay, you feel a fair amount of pressure to bring home a win by any means necessary. And you should. Simply put, if you closely examine the 2009 Dallas Cowboys schedule, there will not likely be a more favorable road match-up all season than this week 1 matchup against the Bucs. Kansas City is the other candidate for "easiest road matchup", but with a decent QB in Matt Cassel, a loud stadium, and 5 weeks to learn their new offensive coordinator, I think the Chiefs should present a more difficult match-up than Sunday.

Things working against Tampa Bay on Sunday:

1) New Coach who has never run a football game as a head coach at any level.
2) QB who is only starting by default until the "next one" (Josh Freeman) is ready.
3) QB has not practiced with either starting WRs since winning the job due to health issues.
4) New OC, named last week, who has had less than 10 days to install his offense - without healthy WRs.
5) New DC and new scheme with 6 new starters on defense.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Analyze The Enemy - Tampa Bay Bucs

TampaBayBuccaneersOn Thursdays, one of the in-season features we are having for Cowboys Season will be to simply checking all corners of the net to know our opponent as well as we possibly can. This will generally involve plenty of links for you to read as much as you want. Since I read it all to prepare for our radio show and the pregame show on Sunday, I thought you might like to read the same stuff. Then, on Friday, I will attempt to provide some guesses on what the game plan will be and what the key match-ups that will decide the game will also be.

So, basically, 2 posts at the end of each week to prepare you for what lies ahead. Today, I will also attempt to provide 2 more posts - one with my full league predictions, and another is a chat I recently had with the great Albert Breer from the Sporting News as we break down the Cowboys and NFC East for you. So, on this Texas Rangers off day, you should get plenty of NFL Opening Day content from Inside Corner.

Now, on to the Buccaneers breakdown:

Chatting NFL with Albert Breer

Albert Breer spent a couple of years at the Dallas Morning News recently writing a number of Dallas Cowboys items I found interesting and fresh. A lot of it was based on tracking closely various elements of Cowboys performance - and I don't mind telling you that I patterned some of what I do today off of his ideas from the 2007 season. I think it was needed, and to the best of my knowledge, he broke the barrier for stat heads here in Dallas to that extent.

Now, he has left and has joined the Sporting News and writes for them on a regular basis. Access his archive here ...

I wanted to chat with him about not only the Cowboys, but the NFC East in general, and here is how it went:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Garrett '08 vs Garrett '09

p1_garrett2There is more than plenty of talk about what Jason Garrett should do with the offense this season. I happen to agree that the number #1 factor for the Cowboys is health this season; but #2 is how well Jason Garrett coordinates his offense.

Honestly, I thought he was poor last season. I thought his play calls were often to appease some; for instance Terrell Owens gets 18 targets (Washington, Week 4) which led to Felix Jones not getting a touch. I also thought he relied on the shotgun and the pass too much when a game began to develop. When you are down 14, sling the ball without regard for caution or care, but when you are down 3 in the 3rd Quarter, there is no reason to abandon your game plan. But, the facts indicate that the Cowboys were too willing to throw the ball early and often and that gets everyone in trouble.

It gets your QB hit too often, it puts too much pressure on your OL, it allows the defense to "pin their ears back" and disregard the running game. And if you review the games in December, you will see the disregard grew.

The Cowboys threw the ball 59.1% of the time in 2008 (579 passes/400 runs) - only 4 teams in football threw more often. Playoff teams in 2008 threw the ball 52.7% of the time. The difference? 64 run plays. 4 a week. The Cowboys averaged 61.1 offensive snaps in 2008, and the average split was 36 passes and 25 runs.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Chatting Hockey with Mike Heika

stars-logoWith the passing of Labor Day, I feel it is time to unleash the first hockey writing from my finger-tips in months. It has been an incredibly slow summer since the changing of the Head Coach and General Manager back in early June. That is a radical change to the team, and perhaps that will be enough to raise this team from its disappointing and scarring year.

Once I got my hockey brain working yesterday, I thought I would contact my long-time hockey media colleague, Mike Heika, of the Dallas Morning News, to see what he thinks about the items on my mind with the first hockey chat of the season.

There are plenty of items to visit about, so here you go:

Monday, September 07, 2009

Random Cowboys Thoughts

Well, one week from today, I will be writing my first post-game summary of the season, and we will be making huge generalizations about the 2009 season based on what we saw on Sunday in Tampa. But, with 6 days until "go time", we can still wonder what will be in that present we haven't opened yet. Will the Cowboys be good enough in 2009? Will they have enough to compete with their division rivals, who many claim is the toughest division in football (don't tell the AFC South and NFC North)? The truth will be told in very short order. Soon, I will look at the division rivals, but today, let's scattershoot about this thing with a week to go:

Thursday, September 03, 2009

How Do You Get to 53?

With almost no drama left for 80% of your roster heading into the final preseason game, I wanted to look at the last two years as a template for how Jerry Jones, Wade Phillips, and the Dallas Cowboys Personnel Department looks at its 53 man board.

As you know, by the weekend, teams across the league must trim to 53. This generally is followed by teams changing out the last few spots with other teams' discards, but, obviously, we can only analyze those who are currently owned by the Cowboys.


Table Tutorial

As you can see, it is fairly consistent from year to year with just a few slight variations. However, there are 2 big deviations this year that will cause much consternation in the war room.

1) - The Cowboys are going with 3 QBs this year barring a shock with Stephen McGee.
2) - The Cowboys are going with 4 Special Team-only players with a kickoff specialist added to the punter, kicker, and deep snapper.

So, when you add a number to each of those categories, you must short two others.

With that in mind, let's see if we can get to 53 before the final Minnesota Game:

QB - 3
Romo, Kitna, McGee

RB - 4
Barber, Jones, Choice, Anderson

TE - 3
Witten, Bennett, Phillips

WR - 5
Williams, Hurd, Austin, Crayton, Ogletree

OL - 8
Adams, Kosier, Gurode, Davis, Colombo, Free, Holland, Preston,

DL - 6
Ratliff, Spears, Hatcher, Olshansky, Bowen, Siavii

LB - 8
James, Brooking, Carpenter, Williams, Ware, Spencer, Butler, Johnson

DB - 9
Newman, Scandrick, Jenkins, Ball, Mickens, Hamlin, Sensabaugh, Hamlin, Smith,

ST - 4
McBriar, Folk, Buehler, Ladouceur

So there is 50, and in my opinion, all have pretty much made the squad. The most curious selection may be Curtis Johnson at LB, but I thought Wade pretty much told us he was on the team the other day in his press conference. 3 more spots are left. Who is left to compete for the final 3 spots?

Isaiah Stanback, Cory Proctor, Patrick Watkins, Steve Octavien, Terrius George, Travis Bright, Pat McQuistan, Matt Stewart, and perhaps one of the DB's they brought in this week (Deangelo Willingham or Jeremy Haynes) will be battling for the final 3 spots.

The final spots at LB, OL, DB, and WR will all have special teams implications. So, consider that as you watch the final game; the best player at his given position will not necessarily be the guy - if a slightly lesser LB can do more on special teams, he will likely get the nod.

Anyway, just a light exercise this morning, before the Cowboys starters go through the motions tomorrow night. Just know that to many on the bottom of the roster, this is their last chance to play professional football. It is not meaningless to everyone.

Sources for 2007 and 2008 numbers: Archer 2008 and Archer 2007

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Pitching Profile - August Edition

Just like we did at the end of May, and at the end of June (sorry about the end of July) - Here is the latest extensive look at the Rangers starting rotation. The point of this exercise is to dig a bit deeper than the basic stats for each starting pitcher to see what they are good at - or what they are not good at.

In the 129 games that were played before the calendar turned to September, 9 pitchers have started games for the Rangers. Kevin Millwood (26), Scott Feldman (24), Derek Holland (16), Tommy Hunter (12), Matt Harrison (11), Brandon McCarthy (11), Dustin Nippert (7), Kris Benson (2), and Doug Mathis (2). This study will focus on the six pitchers who have made at least 10 starts. The other 3 run into sample size issues that might render verdicts a bit meaningless.

Proceed at your own risk - for stat nerds only:

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Who is Kevin Ogletree?

maryland_ogletree002bGiven that there is a story every training camp about a player who everyone is buzzing about (Beau Morgan, Danny Amendola, Richmond Flowers, Lynn Scott - I guess usually the guy is white) I usually wait before I spend too much time getting to know the guy. The fact is, every year there is a guy - and usually he is gone as soon as he arrives. It is just too tough to emerge from nowhere to the roster in the NFL. For every time it is done, there are 50 times it is not done.

But, I think it is time we get to know Kevin Ogletree. Ogletree was a name that was no bigger than Jesse Holley on August 1, but here on September 1 it would seem he is a very strong finalist for the Cowboys roster. In fact, some have already said he is on the final 53.

So, how does a guy come out of nowhere and make his way on to the team?