WMQB: Enjoy the journey

What a bummer, getting thumped by PHI.

Let me first get the tone right. I’m enjoying this season. I like what the Cowboy’s are doing. One of the sweetest things in sports is watching a team grow up. I don’t think the Super Bowls in the 1990’s would have been nearly as enjoyable if I hadn’t followed Dallas through their 1-15 season (and the mediocrity of the 1980’s for that matter … the whole Pelluer/Hogeboom era). For example, I imagine that I enjoyed watching the 1990’s Cowboys grow up and win Super Bowls more than Miami Heat fans would have enjoyed watching a bunch of FA’s win this year.

For me there’s a lot to enjoy about this season. Here’s a few things

-the apparent hit on draft pick Demarco Murray

-Tyron Smith (except those sacks Sun, yikes!)

-an overall good draft for that matter: Smith, Murray, Nagy, Carter (TBD), Arkin (TBD)

-Getting cheaper, Murray ($700K) for Barber ($4.5M) and Costa ($400K) for Gurode ($5.1M)

-Getting younger on the OL

-The emergence of #50

I can’t be too mad about the Eagles game. The Eagles are a good team. For example, we know #51 and #56 are good guys and they’re giving their best, they just aren’t able. I can’t be angry or wish reality was different than it is. Maybe because I had modest expectations it’s easier for me to weather disappointments. I’m ok with the overall direction. I think Dallas is headed up. Yes there are holes and yes, I think Dallas is fixing them.

Ball Control

This week was a nice illustration of why I’m not a fan of the Parcell’s wannabe ball control approach. Garrett spent the first half establishing the run while Philly spent the first half establishing a huge lead. I think ball control is a marginal strategy and you need an absolutely dominant defense for it to work.

I’m not going to overreact. I’m sure that Garrett will be more aggressive at home against SEA. It’s hard to play on the road against a good team so Garrett’s conservatism wasn’t crazy. But at some point you have to be comfortable relying on your passing attack in tough games on the road. I would have liked to see a little more aggressiveness. Zero passes to Dez and Austin in the first half. One first down pass through the first three drives (BTW, this is why I’m modestly surprised that people complain that Garrett is pass happy).

Note: this was written Monday before I knew that the Eagles were able to get pressure only sending 4 rushers …. That explains a lot.

Net Pass YPA

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 7.4 2nd 5.4 6th
2008 6.6 11th 5.3 5th
2009 7.3 6th 5.9 11th
2010 6.7 7th 6.8 28th

As a basis for comparison, summarized in the table below are the maximum, median, average, and minimum net pass YPA for the NFL 2010 season

Net Pass YPA – NFL All Teams 2010 Season
Offense Defense
Maximum 7.8 7.5
Median 6.1 6.1
Average 6.2 6.2
Minimum 4.3 5.3

The Cowboys results through week 8 are summarized in the table below.

Dallas Cowboys
Week Offensive net pass YPA Offensive net pass YPA Rank Defensive net pass YPA Defensive net pass YPA Rank
1 8.2 6.2
2 9.7 4.4
3 6.8 5.8
4 6.7 5.6
5 7 6.1
6 5.8 5.7
7 4.7 8
Season 7.1 9th 6 14th

The Darkos results through week 8 are summarized in the table below.

Darko Cowboys
Week Offensive net pass YPA Offensive net pass YPA Rank Defensive net pass YPA Defensive net pass YPA Rank
1 8.7 5.1
2 6.5 4.8
3 8.9 7.7
4 6.6 5.1
5 7.5 5.6
6 4.9 8.3
7 12.9 2.9
8 6.3 2.7
Season 7.5 5th 5.3 4th

While I don’t like the loss, I’m more concerned about the fundamental performance. Last week regarding the Rams game I wrote:

This game is hard to judge. It’s impossible to tell whether we’re seeing some cracks in the foundation or the modest performance is a result of Dallas taking an ultra conservative approach.

This week it looks more like cracks in the foundation. I’m not going to overreact to one game. This is only the 2nd game where the defense has allowed an above average defensive net pass YPA (and it was an ugly 8.0 y/a). And it was against a good offense. However, the problems that hurt Dallas last year were apparent in this game: an inability to cover the middle of the field and no pass rush other than Ware. Big drop in the rank for the pass defense going from 8th to 14th.

On the other side of the ball, the offense produced an ugly net pass YPA of 4.7 y/a. That figure doesn’t reflect how awful the offense was as it was padded by some big plays once the game was over (e.g. #81’s 70 yard TD). This is the second week in a row where the passing offense was below average and yes, I’m concerned. If there was one facet of this team that I thought would be consistently good it was the passing offense.

My initial reaction was that Garrett had gotten timid. However after reflecting on it I’ve come to a different conclusion. I think that the Philly defense deserves credit.

As OCC noted, Philly was able to get pressure with their 4 DL.

The Eagles sent more than four people only four times the entire game. Not only were the Eagles' four defensive linemen pretty effective in getting pressure on Romo and forcing quick throws all night long, but it also left seven of their guys roaming around the secondary

Any defense that can consistently get pressure with their 4 defensive lineman is going to do well against the pass. They can drop seven … and in Philly’s case 3 of those 7 are CBs who have been to the pro-bowl. Confession: I thought that Philly made good off season moves. Everyone knows my view: passing the ball and stopping the pass are key. Philly went out and added an elite CB in Aso, an elite edge rusher in Babin, a very good pass rusher in Jenkins, and a good corner in DRC. You’re seeing the payoff. Philly is 6th in the league in sacks without blitzing a lot which allows them to drop 7 into coverage including 3 good corners.

Game notes

Last year the Eagle’s first play was a bomb to D-Jax. Rob Ryan was ready. The Eagles tried a deep pass on their first play but Ryan had called a blitz by #43 and forced an incompletion.

#80: Dallas can’t throw to him. Bill Simmons made a comment about WRs that there are certain things that can’t be taught. One of them was that WRs either have good hands or they don’t. As much as I like #80’s hustle and hard work #80 doesn’t have good hands. His bad hands caused an int against Tenn last year as well. I don’t think he can be trusted in the passing game.

And just a sidenote #80: not seeing the ball because of your visor isn’t a valid explanation. If you have a problem with glare DON"T WEAR A VISOR, that’s not mandatory equipment. It’s like wearing cement blocks for shoes to a track meet and then pointing at the blocks when you lose.

#43: speaking of taking shots, I knew I wasn’t crazy about the game plan when #43 got a free rush at Vick and he didn’t take his shot. I suspect he had been told to come under control. I get it, if you miss Vick it’s a big play, but I don’t like it. Vick is not superman. Sensabaugh ran a 3.98 short shuttle and a 4.44 forty. Come at full speed and keep your eyes peeled on Vick’s waist (it’s real hard to juke your midsection). I doubt even Vick could dodge Sensabaugh at full speed.

Here’s what I originally wrote: #50: All year I’ve been puzzled by how the defense improved so much. I think we have part of the answer. With #50 out, we saw just how big of a liability #51 and #56 are. Same players, different coach: same result.

Here’s where I’m reminded not to rely on my eyes: Philly rolled down the field with Lee in the game (hat tip to NY Horn)

before Lee was injured The Eagles Net YPA was 9.29. For the next quarter it was a horrible 11 Net YPA before the defense finally settled down to a Net 7.0 YPA in the second half.

So it isn’t all Lee then.

Rob Ryan: I’m not upset with Rob Ryan. Before the season I thought the defensive net pass YPA would be in the 17-23 range. With this game it jumped to #14. I’m not happy but I’m not surprised. This is what I was expecting all year. To me, the D’s performance during the first six games is what’s surprising not that they struggled defend the pass.

Never say die. The NFL changed the rules about hitting defenseless WR’s in reaction to Eric Smith breaking Anquan Boldin’s face. What the NFL forgot is that the reason that play happened. It happened because Ken Wisenhut was pulling the ‘never say die’ nonsense down 20 in the 4th quarter and throwing the ball. I think it’s negligent to be throwing deep when the game is out of handle. All it’s doing is setting up your WRs to take lethal shots.

Down by 21: runs = loss (this was in the 2nd quarter)

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