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JJ vs. MB3, again

Football Outsiders has a breakdown of MB3 vs. JJ in a new article. They evaluated both players in the Atlanta game, here's a snippet of what they say.

Although I came away thinking Jones has better straight-line speed than Barber and is a better blocker, Barber is so superior at finding holes, breaking tackles, and getting open on pass plays that the Cowboys are making a big mistake by having Jones as their featured back.

Jones' first run came on first-and-10 on the Cowboys' first possession, and it showed his inability to find openings in the opposing defense. Jones had fullback Lousaka Polite in front of him in the backfield, and tight end Anthony Fasano went in motion from left to right before the snap. If Jones had cut to the outside, around Fasano's block, he appeared to have enough space to pick up at least a few yards. Instead he stayed to the inside, running directly into Atlanta defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. He was stopped for no gain.

Contrast that with Barber's first run, on first-and-10 from the Atlanta 21. It was typical Barber: He took the handoff, took a hard step toward the left tackle and then changed direction quickly behind the line of scrimmage when he saw a hole between the left guard and center. He exploded through that hole, and if a collision with the umpire hadn't slowed him down, he probably would have scored. Instead, he gained 13 yards.

I pretty much agree with a lot of their findings, except I'm not advocating that Dallas changes the way they use both backs; the Outsiders seemed to be behind MB3 getting most of the carries. I think Parcells is doing a good job of getting both of them touches in the right situations.

It's a good article, but it's nothing new. I told you the same things in my film review, especially in this paragraph.

Let's indulge in the JJ/MB3 debate for a moment. First, MB3. He takes the ball from Romo, immediately reads the defense, and picks a hole. He then accelerates through the hole as fast as anybody. He may not have the top-end speed of some backs, but his initial burst is lightning-fast. He can also squeeze through the tightest of spaces. And there's no need to talk about his tough running; it's self-evident. JJ, on the other hand, is much more patient and much more deliberate in his approach to the line; he'll follow the design of the play until the last moment. Here is where he makes his mistakes; he is running into piles of players when he could be making cuts for bigger gains. Like Parcells said today in his press conference, there were a couple of plays where he didn't trust his read and just ran straight ahead. I had two plays exactly like that marked down in my charts and a couple of others that might've had a chance had he made a cut. One in particular could've been a huge run if he cut to the outside, but he hit the pile right in front of him. It's these kinds of cuts he needs to make to be truly effective; they allow JJ to show off his open-field ability, which is immense. But he's just not getting into open space after the initial 3-4 yards.

We both came to the same conclusions: JJ has better top-end speed but is not being creative in his cuts and is running into the traffic instead of around it. MB3, on the other hand, is good at the initial read of the defense and finding the hole, then quickly accelerating through the hole, and capping off the runs with tough-running. JJ needs to show this week that he can be the elusive, open-field back that we know he can be, or MB3 is going to start taking more of his carries.

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