Sigh. The first week in June. The fat middle of the offseason doldrums. With us stuck in a liminal space between the draft and training camp, the news cycle slows down considerably; what was once a mighty river becomes a dripping faucet. There's no football. At all. Most perturbing, we have to wait twice as long for what, during the season, is the weekly goodness that is the FPOTW awards. The fact that they are only every other week adds to our offseason malaise.
Still, when, on every other Wednesday, we dole out FanPost recognition, it's a cause for celebration. And this time around, there's much to celebrate. We have been gifted with substantial set of terrific FPs, covering a wide range of topics: offensive and defensive line play; in-depth looks at various defensive schemes; assessments of the Cowboys' front office; and ingenious takes on the correlation between winning and the effectiveness of the pass rush.
Want more specificity? Fair enough. Lets begin with a relative newcomer (he joined BTB in late February) who, in his few weeks on board the S.S.S. Cowboys, has been cranking out some top-notch stuff. I'm talking about zlegend, whose post, "Headed in the Right Direction...," has the rhetorical heft of a nineteenth century novel. In it, Z wonders aloud the question I ask every offseason: this year, why do I feel "less 'hoping' and more 'believing'"? In answering this question, he provides the usual arguments - recent decisions made by the Dallas braintrust, the competitive environment engineered by Jason Garrett; the improved coaching staff - before deciding that the only way to explain this feeling is to listen to what the players say. Great approach, with some nice conclusions, Z!
More honorees and this week's winner after the jump...
Next up, we have an old friend, Kegbearer. When we were lucky enough to have Keg as a regular front page contributor, one of his (many) specialties was meticulous analysis of line play. In the past fortnight, he has produced one such post for each side of the ball. In the first, another installment in his "battle in the trenches" series, Keg examines the various Dallas' defensive linemen's measurables, concluding that the Cowboys have collected some versatile athletes of late. Want a pleasant surprise? Both Sean Lissemore and Clifton Geathers compare athletically to the Lions' Ndamukong Suh. In the second, he takes a look at center Phil Costa's work during DeMarco Murray's highlight runs. Since these all represent good gains, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that Costa acquits himself well. That said, Keg provides some compelling, and necessary, evidence in opposition to the popular but uncritical "Costa can't play" narrative. As always, Keg's stuff is required reading.
In recent weeks, another relative newby, IckesJb, has provided BTB's readership with a proverbial chalkboard, in a superb "X"s and "O"s series in which he typically looks at a given defensive scheme and then, in a subsequent post, offers up a few plays designed to take advantage of that scheme's particular weaknesses. The latest iteration takes an in-depth look at the "Cover 3" coverage scheme, in which a safety and two corners share deep responsibility for a third of the field, and dishes up a spoonful of plays designed to take advantage of that coverage. The Ick Man isn't a coach (he claims), but the way he explains both scheme and the plays to defeat it, and in such clarity and in such detail, tells me that he should be. Great stuff, man, we're all a little bit smarter about football after each of your posts.
Moving on to our winning post isn't a particularly long journey, as this week's laurels are taken home by none other than the aforementioned Ickster. After the Giants two recent Super Bowl runs, both led by a fierce pass rush, the rest of the league has adopted a "pass rush at all costs" mentality, assuming that dumping the quarterback on his backside is the key to postseason success. Ickes' winning post takes a more objective look at this assumption, asking: what exactly is the correlation between quarterback pressure and winning?
And his findings are surprising. He concludes with what one of my favorite FP writers, Fan in Thick and Thin, has been suggesting for some time now: we can explain 78% of a teams win total by examining the respective quarterback passer ratings, with the opponents rating correlating to roughly 30% of a team's win total, with that team's own QB's passer rating offering a 60% contribution. To IckesJb, the larger takeaway from this is that:
it means the [Cowboys] made the perfect decision about where to upgrade their defense, and I believe it explains why they made the decisions they did. Incompletions and interceptions are big influences into the calculation of Passer Rating, and by going out and getting guys who can play man coverage, and make plays on the ball, will help increase takeaways, and lower their Passer Rating.
Hmmmm. Cowboys offseason additions intended to boost the statistics that most closely correlate to winning? Surely that can't be the organization we know, can it? Well, as zlegend suggests, its this kind of decision making that characterizes a franchise "headed in the right direction." I think it's more than a feelin', Z. Its becoming a certainty.
Congratulations to Ickes, this week's winner, and to all our honorees for their fine work. See you again in a couple of weeks.