A lot has been made of the upcoming matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional round of the playoffs, and it’s got me thinking about the tangibles for each defense.
I’m of the mind that numbers matter in any contest. To quote Winston Churchill, “The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.” While I doubt the intended significance toward such a triviality as football, it does have a very relevant meaning. And that’s why we keep stats—to look back and see what has been done.
I like statistics because I can look back and see what was done in order to better gauge what will be done.
I’m also of the mindset that a particular stat—the QB rating—is somewhat useless when it comes to gauging a quarterback’s play. It has become something we look at often to see how a QB did in a game, but it being high or low has never been correlated directly with winning football games.
For instance, look at week 13 between the Cowboys and Giants. The Giants won the game but Tony Romo had a QB rating of 112.1.
For those that do not know, the QB rating is calculated based on completions, attempts, yards, touchdowns, and interceptions. It’s essentially a measure of efficiency and nothing more.
But as I stated, I believe it to be rather useless for determining a quarterback’s level of play. It is, however, a viable stat when trying to figure out what a defense can do and has done.
Consider my logic—a few good ways of labeling a defense successful is to look at how many yards per game they allow, how many third down conversions, how many yards per play they give up, how many touchdowns they allow, and how many interceptions they take. Most of which is factored into a QB rating calculation.
So I like to look at a teams schedule and see what kind of QB ratings they’ve allowed opposing quarterbacks to have. The truth is that while an efficient QB is great, e.g., Brett Favre only throwing for seven interceptions this season, I’d much rather have an effective QB. And that’s what this method is based on.
In the 2009 season the Vikings defense has allowed an average opposing QB rating of 90.8. That’s six games of 16 allowing a QB rating of over 100.
The Cowboys, in contrast, have allowed an average opposing rating of 82.8. That’s only two games of 17, including the wild card round, in which they allowed a rating over 100.
Both defenses are highly ranked against the run (Vikings 2nd, Cowboys 4th ). Both offenses rank well running the ball (Vikings 13th, Cowboys 7th).
It basically shows me that the Vikings are going to be in a tough spot trying to run against Dallas more so than Dallas will be stuffed by Minnesota. It’s a fair conclusion even considering that Adrian Peterson is a future Hall of Fame running back.
Everyone likes to say how versatile he is and there’s been references made that the Cowboys have to have three backs to equal what Minnesota has in just one, but it’s overlooked what impact that really has on the players.
Sure, Peterson is allowed to find a rhythm and ride it out being the primary back and getting 20+ carries a game, but that kind of running takes its toll. By the end of a game he’s tired. Even if he’s in a rhythm, he’s worn down from either running up and down the field, or fighting a tough defense for every yard. He does lead the league in no gain and negative yard runs this year.
Meanwhile the Cowboys have a better ranked rushing attack. Perhaps lending credit to the fact they have three guys who stay fresher during the course of a game.
What does it mean? The Vikings are going to have to rely on Brett Favre long before the Cowboys will be relying on Tony Romo. And that is when Romo is at his best—as a game manager, as opposed to a game winner.
History has shown that Favre struggles against Dallas anyway. History has shown that the Vikings struggle in home playoff games against Dallas. History has shown that teams on a late season winning streak go farther than teams wrapping up regulation under .500. The Cowboys went 3-0 the final three games of the season while the Vikings only went 1-2.
And since I predict the game will come down to how the quarterbacks play I’ll let you know how each defense has done.
Minnesota allows a higher QB rating, completion percentage, and average yards per completion. The Cowboys’ defense has one less sack over an extra game, and one less interception over an extra game.
It’s a game of numbers that these men play, and the numbers show that the Vikings will have their work cut out for them.
And finally, consider this—the Vikings are 8-0 at home this year and definitely have an advantage at home. Obviously they play better at home, but the Cowboys, this year, have played better on the road.
Is 2019 Wide Receiver Group Best Dak Prescott Has Worked With?
Dak Prescott will be leading the Dallas Cowboys offense for the fourth consecutive year in what has been a very unlikely career. In three seasons, he's led the Cowboys to two NFC East titles and one playoff win. He's done so with quality offenses, starting by a strong offensive line and an elite running back in Ezekiel Elliott. During his career in Dallas he's had some solid receivers, but he hasn't played with a group as strong as the one he'll have in the upcoming 2019 season.
This year's starters will be headlined by Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb. Although there's many other intriguing players to watch at the position, those three are the presumed starting three.
Despite the big debate among fans and analysts, Prescott has been able to win games for this football team. Perhaps his worst came at the beginning of last season, when the team's plan of not having a WR1 backfired terribly.
In the first seven weeks of the 2018 season, Dak averaged only 202 yards per game. In that span he threw for less than 200 yards in four games. Once the team traded for Cooper, that average rose all the way up to 274 yards per game. He threw for less than 200 yards in only one occasion since then.
Michael Gallup is poised for a breakout season after a rookie season in which he improved every week. The Cowboys' 2018 third-round pick didn't get as much playing time at the beginning of the season as he fought for snaps with Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin among others. In the postseason, Gallup caught six passes for 119 yards. He still has a long way to go, but the talent is clearly there.
As for Randall Cobb, many fans have doubts. He's coming in to replace Cole Beasley, who was such an effective slot wide receiver. Cobb's style will likely be different, and although he might not be as good at shaking defenders off as ol' #11, he'll be more of a downfield threat than Beasley.
Comparing this starting group to the ones from prior years, it really seems like the best Dak Prescott has worked with. During his first couple of years in the league, Dak played with a Dez Bryant that (like it or not) wasn't anywhere close to his peak. 2016-2017 Dez wasn't on last year's Amari Cooper's level. Williams had his moments, but wasn't consistent and was well-known as a body-catcher.
This year's group has its question marks, that's for sure. Randall Cobb hasn't played a full season since 2015 due to injuries and Michael Gallup doesn't have a ton of experience and is yet to breakout. Even still, it seems like Prescott will have a great group of pass-catchers to help him lead the Cowboys to another NFC East title. It'll be an interesting fourth year for the young Cowboys quarterback. It's definitely good to see he'll have help.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Offensive Tackle
The Dallas Cowboys appear to be bringing back the same key trip of players at offensive tackle from last year. But with talk that 2019 could be La'el Collins' last season in Dallas, will we see signs that the Cowboys are preparing for future changes in how they handle the position in this year's training camp?
With Tyron Smith as an All-Pro fixture at left tackle, and Cameron Fleming re-signed this offseason to be the swing tackle, the intrigue swirls around Collins and his impending free agency in 2020. If the Cowboys have no intention of paying La'el what he can command on the open market, what might they do now to lay the groundwork for Collins' exit?
Here's a quick look at the projected OT depth chart for 2019 camp:
- Tyron Smith, La'el Collins
- Cam Fleming, Jake Campos
- Mitch Hyatt, Derrick Puni, Brandon Knight
As was just said, the returning top three are locked in to those spots. Campos is a carryover from last year's practice squad, so that experience gives him a potential edge over the three undrafted rookies.
Back to the top, though, and this situation with La'el Collins. If Dallas had Collins locked up for years to come, they would likely only keep the two starters and Fleming as a backup. A fourth OT is unlikely to be active on game days, and they have Guard Connor Williams' college experience as a tackle in case of an emergency.
If the Cowboys are truly thinking that La'el won't be back in 2020, perhaps they use a roster spot now to hang on to a player who they value for depth next year.
This is where undrafted rookie Mitch Hyatt becomes an intriguing figure in this 2019 camp. He comes from a championship college program at Clemson and was projected as a late-round pick this year. Dallas made him a priority free agent signing after the draft.
Of course, Campos, Knight, or Puni have the potential to make some noise as well. But Hyatt would seem to have the most upside of the group, and Dallas might be willing to consider him as a 2020 swing tackle option if he can hit the ground running in camp this year.
Cam Fleming is also going to need to have a strong camp to help the Cowboys' in their strategy. Letting Collins go would be predicated on their comfort level with Fleming as the right tackle next year. If he struggles now, then doesn't get much playing time in the regular season, that would likely shake their confidence.
The final result of all this talk could be that La'el Collins and Dallas actually do figure out a way to continue their relationship. But when the Cowboys drafted Connor McGovern in the third round of this last draft it felt like a future-pointed move, with Collins' projected departure the likely impetus for the investment.
What we may wind up seeing is McGovern taking over at left guard and allowing Connor Williams to replace Collins at tackle. But that's a discussion better saved for next offseason.
You can read more about La'el Collins impending free agency in this recent article by our own Kevin Brady. A few weeks back, I also discussed the idea that Dallas should trade Collins now rather than lose him as a free agent next year.
For now, the offensive tackles in 2019 should have continuity and stability. But if we really pay attention in this training camp and preseason, we may see signs of what the Cowboys are planning to do at the position in the coming years.
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OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS
Randall Cobb Will Be a Different Slot WR for Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys signing Randall Cobb might just be the most underrated move of their offseason. For less than five million dollars, they got an experienced wide receiver who is only 28 years old. The former Green Bay Packer has had a solid career wearing green and yellow and now gets the chance to play with the Cowboys' colors. But what can we expect from the veteran wideout?
There are some players who are absolute locks to make the 53-man roster and Cobb is one of them. That much is clear. On the depth chart, he probably sits behind Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, who will likely be the number one and number two receivers, respectively.
With Cole Beasley departing to the Buffalo Bills in free agency, Cobb is expected to take his place as the offense's starting slot receiver. Cowboys Nation knows very well just how good Beasley was at playing in the slot. His ability to shake defenders off was really impressive and his hands were reliable. However, we might see something different from Cobb.
Yes, it all points toward him playing the same position, but don't expect him to be a Beasley 2.0. This is of course, not a bad thing. Something fans consistently complained about Scott Linehan's offense were the short routes receivers had to run. In Cobb's short time with the Cowboys, we're seeing deeper routes even out of the slot position.
Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com wrote: "the ball to Cobb even playing out of the slot is further down the field. We hadn’t seen that from Cole Beasley and visually it looks different."
This should be exciting for Cowboys fans, specially considering all the positive reviews on new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. What we see from Randall Cobb in 2019 could be very different from what we had seen from Beasley in prior years.
It's also worth mentioning that word is Cobb has quickly developed an important chemistry with his new quarterback, Dak Prescott. Beasley was very important in Prescott's rookie season, when he averaged 52.1 yards per game and accounted for five touchdowns.
While Beasley was an important receiver for Cowboys, he wasn't really known as a team leader. Cowboys reporter Lindsay Cash Draper wrote about Cobb's leadership skills will carry on to the team whether he's doing it intentionally or not. It's always good to have such presences out there on the training field to spark the team.
Randall Cobb won't be this team's #1 guy or anything like that, but he will surely contribute every week. When we look back to this offseason, I believe this signing will look like a great move by the Cowboys' front office.
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