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Cowboys Snap Counts vs Redskins: Special Teams Losing "Hidden Yardage" Battle

Want to know which Cowboys players were on the field against the Redskins? Look no further.

Tom Pennington

Our previous reviews of the snap counts over the last few weeks had become a little predictable: by and large, the same players had the same share of the snaps in each game. And that was a good thing. But with injuries to Justin Durant, Ronald Leary, and Tony Romo yesterday, the snap counts saw some very unwelcome variation. Overall though, snap counts were largely in line with the previous weeks

Snap Count by Week
Titans Rams Saints Texans Seahawks Giants Redskins
Offense 69 80 56 66 76 75 62 65
Defense 58 49 76 61 59 49 63 67

The defense had eight snaps in overtime, which puts the number of snaps in regulation at 59, perfectly in line with where it's been over the previous games. The offense added four futile snaps in OT, which puts their regulation snaps at 61, the second-lowest total of the season.

On to this week's snap count review, starting with the defense.

Cowboys' Defensive Snap counts vs Redskins
Defensive Tackles Defensive Ends Linebackers Cornerbacks Safeties
Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps
T. Crawford 42 Mincey 53 R. McClain 63 Scandrick 67 Church
Hayden 42 Spencer 37 Durant
45 Carr 67 Wilcox 63
Melton 26 Selvie 32 Carter 34 Moore 50 Heath
T. McClain 23 Edwards 12 Wilber 5 Patmon 4

The Cowboys again spent most of their snaps in a nickel defense, but the big news is the season-ending injury to Justin Durant. With Durant out, Bruce Carter joined Rolando McClain in the nickel defense, and Kyle Wilber was brought in on rushing downs. Anthony Spencer got more than 30 snaps for the first time since his return, so that's good news, but the stat sheet only shows two tackles and a QB hit for Spencer.

On to the offense:

Cowboys' Offensive Snap counts vs Redskins
Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps
Romo 56
Smith 65 Murray 43 Witten 65 Bryant 60
Leary 61 Dunbar 12 Hanna 21 Williams 57

Frederick 65 Clutts 10 Escobar 6 Beasley 28

Martin 65 Randle 8
Street 8

Parnell 65

Harris 6

Bernadeau 4

Again, not many surprises here, especially for the key players. Murray was in for 66% of the snaps, the lowest percentage of the season. Ronald Leary missed the overtime snaps after suffering a groin injury. He'll undergo further tests today to determine his status.

And finally, on to special teams:

Special Teams Aces
Player Snaps Player Snaps
Heath 20 Lawrence 17
Harris 19 Hanna 14
Spillman 19 Church 13
Wilber 18 Carter 13

Barry Church walks away with this week's ironman award, having played a total of 77 snaps, 64 on defense and 13 on special teams.

Outside of the kicking game, it's been a while since there was a significant contribution from special teams. Last night, the Cowboys had a cumulative starting field position of 214 yards, 82 yards less than the Redskins, who had a cumulative starting field position of 296 yards.

Bill Parcells used to say that a 100-yard advantage in field position, or "hidden yardage," was worth seven points (others may use the same formula, he's just the one I associate this with). Here's a look at the hidden yardage differential so far this season:

Field Position Differential

Titans Rams Saints Texans Seahawks Giants Redskins
Opponent 317 226 221 259 308 387 297 296
Cowboys 180 307 233 339 268 286 306 214
Difference -137 +81 +12 +80 -40 -101 +9 -82

A lot of things go into winning games, and hidden yardage is just one of them. Nevertheless, winning the hidden yardage battle doesn't hurt, and the Cowboys have been struggling with that over the last four games. The Arizona game would be a good time to see that get back on track.

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