Ferguson Still The Key On Defense

It is no secret that Dallas’s run defense struggled at times last year.  Nothing major, but you need an excellent run
defense to go deep into the play-offs.  The question is, whose fault was it?  I watched tape of all the games in which we struggled last year and it was pretty much a team effort.

The main problem was our linebackers inability to shed blocks consistently.  The main culprits for this were Scott
Shanle and Scott Fujita.  Luckily for Dallas, neither of these guys are going to be playing for Dallas this season.  The
return of Al Singleton, the additions of Akin Ayodele and Bobby Carpenter, and the maturation of Ware and James should insure that the linebacking corp will not be the weak link once again.

Not all of the blame fell on the linebackers however.  All the defensive ends had their fair share of trouble against quality offensive lineman.  Hopefully a year in the off-season program will make Spears and Canty a potent combo.

Lastly, some of the blame had to go towards Jason Ferguson.  Don’t get me wrong, he played well last season
especially after recovering fully from his ankle injury, but I don’t think his performance was enough.  I want to see him elevate his play to the level I have seen him play in years past.  The success of our defense could depend on it.

If Jason plays like he is just some run of the mill nose tackle, our run defense will be inconsistent once again
because we won’t be able to clog up the middle.  If he plays to the superior level he is capable of, then we could have one of the top run defenses in the league since we have a nice supporting cast around him.

C’mon Jason, we need you this year!

How Good Is Terrence Newman?

If you were to ask me who was the best player for the Dallas Cowboys last year, my answer would be a quick and emphatic Terrence Newman.

Why do I say this?  It is simple, he basically shutdown whatever receiver he was on each and every game.  While Anthony Henry got all the hype early in the year for the big plays he made, it was Newman who was patrolling the other side of the field.  Newman blanketed his man so well that teams were forced to throw Henry’s way, thus giving Henry many chances to display his superior ball skills and come down with picks.

I know you are wondering why he didn’t go to the Pro Bowl.  The answer is easy, exposure.  Terrence received little publicity for his play all season.  Most of this was due to the fact that his numbers weren’t huge due to the fact that the ball was rarely thrown his way and he missed a few opportunities.

One play in mind that cost him a trip to Hawaii occurred in the game against Denver.  Newman dropped an INT that was right in his chest.  He would have returned it for a touchdown, and given Dallas the big win on Thanksgiving Day.  A game winning play on national television would have virtually assured him a Pro Bowl spot.

Like all players, his game isn’t without flaws.  While he displays great man coverage skills, Terrence lacks great ball skills while the pass is coming his way.  This allows for completions even when he is all over his man.  In addition, it further decreases his interception totals.  If he can improve on this aspect of the game while continuing to be tough and aggressive in run support, he shouldn’t be far away from his first of many trips to Hawaii.

Redskins’ Propaganda Is Getting Old

Has anyone noticed the pro-Redskins bias in the media.  It is almost as bad as the ant-Cowboys bias.  The piece on Sportscenter ranking the pass offenses made me laugh out loud.

The Cowboys were ranked fifth.  I can stomach that, but having Washington at #3 is completely ridiculous.  They have a much improved pass offense, but I don’t see how they are better than Dallas.  This is similar to how every off-season they hail the Redskins as the king of the off-season, yet last season was their only good season in years .Here is the breakdown:

Owens=Moss

Moss could be a little better at this point in his career, but he has only had one really great season so I want to see
another one before I give him an edge.

Witten=Cooley

This is being generous towards Washington.  Both are among the best tight ends in football, although Witten has
done more at this point in his career.

Glenn>Lloyd

Glenn has a pretty good advantage on this one.  Lloyd is a solid #2 receiver, but he definitely isn’t as good as Glenn
right now.

Crayton=Randel El

Don’t give me wrong, Randel El is a great punt returner, but he doesn’t impress me at all as a receiver.  Crayton has
showed me more in a year than Randel El has ever shown me.

So you can see how those ESPN rankings were dumb.  I believed I was fair in my judgements.  Only time will tell who has the better receiving corp, I just don’t see how you can draw the conclusions they have drawn without actually seeing either unit play together.

Witten The Top TE In The League?

Scientific Football 2006 will be released next month.  The writer, “football scientist” K.C. Joyner has his own
unique ways of evaluating players performances.

Joyner ranks TE receiving in two categories, Total Yards Per Catchable Attempt (TYPCA) and Success Rate. Jason Witten had the lowest drop percentages of any tight end last year, so his success rate was very high.  However, Witten showed he was more than an underneath receiving  option.  He ranked second in TYPCA.

Joyner’s Summary:

The best receiving tight end in the NFL in 2005 was Jason Witten. The offensive line injuries in Dallas didn’t stop
him from ranking second in the total TYPCA category and fifth in success percentage. He also had the lowest overall
dropped pass percentage of any tight end.

Joyner also added that Chargers TE Antonio Gates was the runaway leader in the overall tight end productivity
11 games into the season.  K.C. expects him to assume that role this season if healthy.

While I’m happy that some people realize how good Jason Witten is, Joyner’s system isn’t without flaws.  I believe that Witten is the 3rd best tight end in the league, so being first in someone’s unique rankings isn’t a big surprise.  What was a surprise, is who was second.

Seattle Seahawks’s tight end ranked second in these rankings.  I watched many of Seattle’s games, and I just
don’t believe he should be in the same group as Witten, Gonzalez, Gates, Heap, Shockey, and Crumpler.

The reason he was ranked second was his big play ability.  Stevens is a very good deep threat for the Seahawks.  The problem is that he wasn’t a huge part of the Seattle offense.  For an offense that lacked a tremendous wide receiver corp, this should be a telling sign of Stevens’s worth.  You don’t think if Antonio Gates was playing for the Seahawks he wouldn’t have came close to doubling the 45 receptions tallied by Stevens?

Don’t give me wrong, Stevens is a good player and he could take his game to the next level this season.  However, I
definitely wouldn’t consider him a top 5 tight end.

Julius Jones Prediction

I had fun doing the Drew Bledsoe one and since I’ve done a lot of research on JJs stats lately for another thread I decided I may as well do one for him as well. This is all assuming he plays a full, injury free season. BIG assumption, I know.  Julius Jones has yet to play an entire season but he still has showed a great deal of promise, the following prediction will take into account his 2004 and 2005 stats.

In 2003 Dallas ran the ball 515 times. In 2004 the team rushed 449 times. In 2005 the total went back over 500 to 521. I believe the low rushing total in 2004 was mainly due to the lack of a competent RB when Jones was hurt and that the 2006 total should be closer to the 515 – 521 mark thanks to the Jones/Barber combo. For this prediction I’m going to place the total number of carries, for the team, at 515 (or about 32 per game).

Over the past two seasons Julius Jones has averaged about 22 carries per game played (24 per game in 2004, 19 per game in 2005). I would expect his average next year to be slightly lower than that because of Barbers effectivness as a backup/situational guy. In the second half of last season, when both Barber and Jones were healthy and playing Barber averaged 9.5 carries per game. In light of this, and the 32 carries per game I predict, I will place Jones’ carries to be about 21 per game. This leaves 1 or 2 carries per game for other backs/ WRs on reverses, something that sounds about right. This would give Jones 336 carries for the year.

When trying to predict Jones’ stats for the season it is more difficult than just projecting last years stats over a full 16 games, one must take into account how he performed in Lone Setback and 2 WR sets. I’m choosing to use the 2 WRs set stats as opposed to the 2 TE set stats as many times when a team puts in two TEs they only have 1 WR on the field as it is mainly a “large” formation that also includes a fullback. This will not be the case in the Cowboys offense next year so I belive looking at the 2 WR stats and the Lone Setback stats will be
more accurate.

Over the past two seasons Jones had carries in 2 WR sets 208 times for a total of 824 yards and 3.96 YPC. In this same time span Jones has carried the ball 135 times in situations where he was the only running back in the back field. In these 135 carries he has 718 yards for 5.3 YPC. When looking at these stats it becomes clear that the new offense is not simply tailored to be more effective in the area of passing but it also plays to Jones statistical strengths as a runner. Expecting Jones to average 5.3 yards per carry, however I do not think it would be unrealistic for him to maintain and perhaps slightly exceed the 3.96 YPC he has averaged in 2 WR sets. Because of the effectivness Jones has in the formation we will be predominately running next year I do not think it is unrealistic to place Jones’ YPC mark at 4.1 YPC, though in this post I will decrease it slightly for reasons I will point out later.

As a reciever Jones has caught the ball 29 times for 182 yards (6.3 YPC) and 0 TDs in the Lone Setback formation. In 2 WR sets Jones has caught the ball 17 times for 116 yards (6.8
YPC) and 0TDs. The total amount of balls Jones has caught over the past two years is 52 and he has never caught a TD pass. I’ll set Jones YPC this year at 6.5 and figure him on catching about 25 balls.

Because the way the splits are reported it is difficult to get an accurate report of how many TDs Jones scored in the formations mentioned, so to project his TD and Fumble stats I will simply take his statistical averages over the past two years and figure out what the equivelant would be over 336 carries. In his first two seasons Jones 2.6 % of the times Jones ran the ball he scored a TD.

With this in mind Jones’ stats over 16 games would project to be something like this. Note that the totals in yards are slightly less than what the raw numbers would predict, however since
Dallas will not run ever play out of their 2 TE 2 WR set I cannot assume that Jones stats will only reflect that formation:336 carries for 1285 yards (3.8 YPC) 9 TDs 5 Fumbles 25 catches for 162 yards (6.5 YPC) 0 TDs

I do not believe these are unrealistic stats at all if Jones stays healthy. I realize that it is a big question about whether or not Jones can stay healthy but I honestly don’t believe he is injury
prone, despite his recent history. I honestly hope these posts are not coming across as “homeristic” I try to be as unbiased as possible and do not doctor the numbers or try to find favorable ways to present the data, I post everything that I calculate.

This past season those stats would have put Jones at #10 on the rushing list, right ahead of Willis McGahee and right behind Thomas Jones.