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Stats I’ll be watching this year: net pass YPA, the Dallas Cowboys and the Darko Cowboys.


For reasons I’ve explained before (here for a prior explanation) I watch efficiency stats. That won’t change. I will continue to watch offensive and defensive pass YPA adjusted for sacks: (passing yards – sack yards) / (pass attempts +sacks). Going forward I will refer to this as net pass YPA. For the defense, time permitting, I’ll track success rate as well.

The table below summarizes Dallas’s net pass YPA for the period from 2007-2010.

 

Offensive net pass YPA

Offensive net pass YPA Rank

Defensive net pass YPA

Defensive net pass YPA Rank

2007

7.1

2nd

4.9

5th

2008

6.2

11th

4.6

3rd

2009

7.0

6th

5.4

10th

2010

6.7

7th

6.8

28th

 

Short digression. I’m frequently accused of manipulating the stats to fit my agenda or that ‘stats can say anything’. I want to point out that the opposite is true. I don’t twist the stats to fit my agenda; I twist my agenda to follow the stats. I have a very transparent approach to assessing performance. I simply look at whether the team is above or below the average for the prior year. If the team is below average that’s bad, if the team is above average that’s good (with some subjective color to account for the strength of the opponent. For example, holding the best offense in the NFL to average efficiency is better than allowing the worst offense in the NFL average efficiency). It’s that simple, totally transparent, easy to follow. For example, this week against the Jet’s I’ll be looking to see if the Dallas defense holds the NYJ below 6.2 net pass YPA and if the offense gains more than 6.2 net pass YPA.

Summarized in the table below are the maximum, median, average, and minimum net pass YPA for 2010

 

Offense

Defense

Maximum

 7.8

7.5

Median

 6.1

6.1

Average

 6.2

6.2

Minimum

 4.3

5.3

 

This year I won’t be watching just the Dallas Cowboys. I’ll also be watching the Darko Cowboys (aka the Houston Texans … named for Donnie Darko, which is a movie about alternate universes .. i.e. with the Texans we get a glimpse into the alternate universe where Dallas chose to use its resources on defense instead of offense)

 

Statistically, the Dallas Cowboys and the Darko Cowboys were very similar in 2010.

 

 

Offensive net pass YPA

Offensive net pass YPA Rank

Defensive net pass YPA

Defensive net pass YPA Rank

Dallas

6.7

7th

6.8

28th

Darkos

6.8

6th

7.4

31st

 

However, the Cowboys and the Darkos chose diametrically opposed approaches to the off season. The Cowboys used the off season to build the offense (Tyron Smith, Murray, Doug Free).  The Darkos used the off season to shore up their defense (Wade Phillips, JJ Watt, Brooks Reed, Brandon Harris, Jonathan Joseph, Daniel Manning). The Darkos followed the blueprint that I would have liked the Dallas Cowboys to follow. Oh well, at least I get a consolation prize. I don’t get to see what would have happened if Dallas added defensive talent but I do get to see what happens with a very similar team that added defensive talent. It’s a nice test case (actually that’s not quite true … it’s a better than nice case … I thought the best Dallas could do was get JJ Watt, the Darko’s were able to add A LOT more to their D than just Watt). Anyway, the Darkos provide a test of some of the key assumptions Cowboys fans hold:

-That the talent level on the Dallas defense is satisfactory,

-That Wade Phillips was a bad coach and that’s why the defense struggled, and

-The highest return could be achieved by investing draft picks on offensive players (specifically OL).

For the record, I think the Darko’s make the playoffs this year.

What I’ll be looking for against the Jets.

As I mentioned above, against the Jet’s I’ll be looking to see if the Dallas defense holds the NYJ below 6.2 net pass YPA and if the offense gains more than 6.2 net pass YPA. Last year the Jet’s net pass YPA on offense was 5.9 (22nd) and 5.6 (4th) on defense.

As a basis for comparison, last year the NEP played the NYJ three times. For the year the NEP were 2nd on offense with a net pass YPA at 7.2 yards/a and 23rd on defense at 6.3 yards/a. Here are the net pass YPA stats from those three games.

Team

Net pass YPA

NYJ

 6.1

NEP

 6.5

 

 

NYJ

 4.4

NEP

 9.5

 

 

NYJ

 7.8

NEP

 5.2

 

In the first game, the NEP #2 O and the NYJ #4 D pretty much offset each other with the NEP producing right around average net pass YPA. Same thing with the NYJ #22 O and the NEP #23 D … they offset each other with the NJY producing right around average net pass YPA. The NEP had 3 TO (2 int, 1 fumble). With roughly equal efficiency the turnovers swung the game to the NYJ 28-14.

In the second game the NEP ripped the NYJ. The NEP O shredded the NYJ D to the tune of 9.5 yards/a through the air and only allowed the NYJ 4.4 yards/a through the air.  The NEP won in a blowout 45-3.

The playoffs were a surprise. I had always thought that the NYJ defensive performance against the NEP was overstated but reviewing the numbers the NYJ really did slow down the NEP air attack. NEP net pass YPA of 5.2 was poor. But what I always thought was the biggest story that went unremarked upon was that the NYJ lit up the NEP D, gaining 7.8 yards/a on their passes. The NEP also had 1 turnover. The NYJ won 28-21.

Last year Dallas was 7th in net pass YPA at 6.7 yards/a on offense and 28th in net pass YPA on defense at 6.8 yards/a. I don’t see the difference between the NYJ and Dallas as being large. The NYJ in some ways are the mirror image of Dallas. The Jets pass offense is about as weak the Dallas pass D and the NYJ pass D is about as good as the Dallas pass offense. Playing at home is big advantage for the NYJ though.   

That’s my take for week 1. Let the games begin.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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