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Fun With Numbers: The Dallas Cowboys' Passing Game

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A look at the Cowboys passing game using advanced statistics

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

I was browsing through Pro Football Focus's signature stats, and came across some pretty interesting things. So, because I know my fellow BtB'ers are like me and can't get enough of the Dallas Cowboys, I thought I'd share some of the numbers that caught my eye, along with a little analysis of each. I thought it would be fun to do this as a weekly thing, and to kick things off I'd like to start with the wide receivers.

  • Wide Receiver Rating: When targeting Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris, Terrance Williams, and Dez Bryant, Tony Romo has a passer rating of over 100. When targeting Devin Street? A passer rating of zero. Here are the numbers when targeting Street: 7 attempts, 2 completions, 18 yards and an interception.
  • Dropped Passes: There is always talk about Dez Bryant dropping passes. On the season Dez Bryant has a drop rate of 6.4%. That's better than receivers such as Demaryius Thomas, (7.4%), Calvin Johnson, (10.9%), Julian Edelman, (10.5%), and Jordy Nelson, (9.1%).
  • Deep Pass Targets : I've written in the past that Terrance Williams is the teams only real deep threat, but that may not be true. Dez Bryant has been targeted on deep passes (passes that travel 20+ yards in the air) 22 times to Terrance Williams' 16. That is good for 9th in the league in targets. He's caught 40.3% of those passes compared to Williams' 37.5%, with no drops.
  • Deep Pass Percentage: While Dez gets more deep ball targets in total, a higher percentage of Williams' targets come on the deep ball. 30.8% of all passes to Terrance Williams travel more than 20 yards, the 7th highest percentage for players who have received 50% or more of their team's deep targets.
  • Dez in the slot: Dez Bryant has lined up in the slot on 15.7% of his routes. That's an increase from 2013, (11.5%), and a huge increase from 2012 (2%).
  • Slotting Beasley: Going back to 2007 Cole Beasley is the only Cowboys player to line up in the slot on more than 75% of his snaps (Patrick Crayton lined up in the slot on 71.6% back in 2008). In three years Beasley has never dipped below 92.4% of his snaps in the slot. And he's successful at it. Of players that played at least 50% of their snaps in the slot league-wide, Beasley is third in catch percentage at 75.9% and 5th (!!!) in touchdowns with three.
  • YPRR: PFF has an interesting stat that shows Yards per route ran, or YPRR, that divides a player's receiving yards by every snap that player went into a route, not just when he was targeted or actually caught the pass. The NFL leader is currently Damian Williams of Miami, who has played one passing snap and caught a 14 yard catch. Number two in the NFL is Dallas's very own Dwayne Harris, who has gone into a route 34 times. He is averaging 3.41 yards per route ran. Dez Bryant is currently 13th in YPRR, picking up 2.58 yards per route. However, only one player above him has run more routes, (Demaryius Thomas), and Bryant has run more than double the amount of routes of every player above him except three.

Well fellow BtBer's I hope you found some of these numbers as interesting as I did! Let me know what you think in the comments. Up next, a more in-depth look at some of Tony Romo's numbers!