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Tashard Choice: Working the Late Shift

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When the Cowboys won their first post-bye  "season deciding" game in Washington, they did so with a blueprint carried over from their '07 13-3 run.  They passed early and hammered Marion Barber late. 

On the game-winning touchdown drive and on the clock-draining final drive, Barber carried 15 times for 74 yards.  He also caught a key ten-yard pass to convert a 3rd and long.  Two thirds of his total yards came in the second half. 

This late, knockout power is what so many fans feared the Cowboys would lose when Marion Barber dislocated his toe on Thanksgiving Day.  So far, however, Tashard Choice is demonstrating that he has Barber's finishing kick, if not Barber's raw power.  Look at his second-half production versus his first-half production in his three games as starter or co-RB:

 

vs. Seattle

All eleven of Choice's carries and all 57 of his yards came in the second half.  The Cowboys fed him the ball 10 times in the final quarter and he ground out 57 yards, a nice, neat 5.7 yard average.

vs. Pittsburgh

Choice's game was well balanced as a runner -- 11 carries for 44 yards in the first half and 12 carries for 44 in the second.  He made a huge contribution as a receiver, with two catches for 55 yards in the second.  His 50 yard romp down the sideline almost broke the game open late in the 3rd quarter.

vs. New York

A replay of his Seattle line.  Choice got one carry for six yards in the first half, as the Cowboys played Marion Barber on most of the early series.  Choice broke out for 86 second-half yards, 79 of them coming in the 4th quarter. 

In short, Jason Garrett is using Tashard Choice the same way he used Barber.  Note Choice's 1st vs. 2nd half splits:

  • 1st half:  10 carries, 49 yards - 4.9 yds./att.
  • 2nd half:  33 carries, 187 yards - 5.7 yds./att.
  • Overall: 43 carries, 236 yards - 5.5 yds./att.

Choice is not running the same play menu as Barber.  He's taking a lot more plays in space.  Which makes sense;  Choice is 208 pounds.  Barber lists at 225.  This means more draws from the shotgun and lots of short passes -- Choice has 130 receiving yards the last two games.

Regardless, Jason Garrett is sticking to the plan he established last year -- throw early, run late.  And no matter how Tashard Choice gets his yards, he's getting them. 

Don't fear, Cowboys fans.  That big, battering, security blanket who wears 24 may have to rest his toe, but his understudy is showing he can carry the short-term load.