Go back to the year 2014 with me. Disney's Frozen opens the year as the number-one film in the United States (Thank God we let that go, just kidding the soundtrack is amazing), "Happy" by Pharrell is the number one song of the year (you can clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do), and DeMarco Murray is a good football player.
The Dallas Cowboys had one of the most dominant running games across the NFL in 2014, but that performance transcended far more than that specific season. It was one of the greatest team rushing performance of all time.
Last week I debuted my Price Per Yard methodology and applied it to the 2013 season. You can wet your palate with that appetizer, because today is the main course - 2014's Price Per Yard. Bon appetit.
Price Per Yard: The 2014 Season
I want to reiterate that when it comes to Price Per Yard there is no indisputable winner. This is all data. Numbers. Math. Excel! What it is not is an inconclusive answer. It is up to you, the well-educated and great-taste-having reader, to discern what you will. We're drawing conclusions based on 100% facts. Vamonos.
2014 NFC Price Per Yard
** Click the image to zoom in.
I know, St. Louis and Green Bay are absent. I had a difficult time gathering data for any year regarding the Rams (data was sourced from Spotrac.com), I'm assuming that it has to do with the move to Los Angeles. Similarly I failed to gather the 2014 Packers data, probably because they were scared of the Cowboys.
If you look at Price Per Yard simply as a number, even though you're not supposed to, it would appear that the Dallas Cowboys were kings of 2014 (real kings, not the ever-passing throne HBO shows us on Sundays in the spring); however, in this specific instance, you would be right!
Dallas paid by far the least per yard in the NFC in 2014 and gained the most yards by a significant margin. This means that they're flat out robbing the NFL when it comes to yards on the ground!
We'll circle back to the Cowboys in a bit, let's first look at the rest of the conference. Everyone here... is terrible.
It's fair to remember that the Vikings technically had Adrian Peterson on the books for 2014 and had his situation arise, but there's no excuse for teams like Chicago, Carolina, Tampa Bay, or San Francisco to be devoting so much to the "run game" when they're yielding such poor returns.
The Eagles look like they're really bad at this, but in reality they just have fine taste when it comes to the running game and are willing to pay for it. If you look at it closely while, yes, the Eagles are paying a premium they're also getting one back. Their return is typically matching their investment, at least compared to the rest of the conference, which ultimately is the primary point of Price Per Yard.
2014 AFC Price Per Yard
Shout out to the 2014 American Football Conference for having all of its data available to collect! Huzzah!
A big-time shout out needs to be sent from Baltimore Ravens fans to Justin Forsett, because he allowed them to flourish on the ground in 2014 and have the lowest numerical Price Per Yard in the NFL this season.
The Ravens were the Cowboys of the AFC in that they paid the least AND gained the most. This is, shocker I know, the most exceptional performance that can be achieved.
So much has been made about Joe Flacco's contract and how it's handicapped the Ravens' ability to do a lot financially. When teams are in situations like that it's critical to get insane production for a low-dollar elsewhere, like the Ravens are doing here. If you're Baltimore then you're investing where it matters (Flacco) and where you're investing minimally you're seeing the greatest return in the NFL. That's incredible.
The 2014 Tennessee Titans are among the worst teams that I've seen while gathering Price Per Yard data (I charted 2013-2015). They paid a significantly larger amount per yard and gained significantly less on the ground. So where the Titans think they're strong (at least that's what their money says) they're actually among the weakest in the field. Ouchie.
The Bengals are showing us here what success (from a PPY perspective) can be had with rookie running backs. Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill comprised a majority of their yards (which were a ton) and were both on rookie deals. This point circles back to last week's post in that if you hit on your rookie talent, you're going to get an insane bang for your buck.
The last point that I want to make in the AFC is that the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't as great as we necessarily think that they are. While Le'Veon Bell is still on his own rookie deal and is performing at a high rate, it's not high enough comparable to the NFL. The Steelers aren't investing a whole lot, but they're also not yielding an elite product. You get what you pay for, and the Steelers are paying for someone who is just good enough.
Price Per Yard: Applying The Base Value
Hey-o! We've got percentages now! We're really cooking!
I'll save you some time and give you the sparknotes version of where these come from. Obviously you know what each team's rushing total is, how much they spent on it, and their corresponding Price Per Yard. What you need to know is how good that is relative to something good - The Base Value.
I generated a base value based on the notion that being in the Top 10 is a good thing. Right? Right! I averaged the Top 10 rushing yardage totals and their corresponding Price Per Yards to determine a BV that we could compare everyone to.
Using this BV it's even more apparent that the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens were among the best teams at Price Per Yard that I've ever seen over my three seasons of study. They paid the lowest value PPY and gained the most yards on the ground. It's absurd when you really think about it.
Let's look at the 2014 Giants for example. They paid 48.55% more per yard and gained 43.50% less yards! That's horrible! The Giants literally paid more than twice per yard than the Cowboys and achieved less than half the rushing yards in return!
The Texans are almost the poster boys for average Price Per Yard in this season. They paid 5.42% more per yard, but they gained 6.23% more yards. In theory if you pay X more per yard you should have a return equal to X when it comes to yards. The 2014 Houston squad did just that.
Price Per Yard: The 2014 Dallas Cowboys
I'm going to be honest with you here. This is the greatest team that I have ever seen at Price Per Yard in my study.
Did the Dallas Cowboys have the lowest numerical Price Per Yard in 2014 ($10,542.90)? No.
Remember that the BV is an averaging of the Top 10 teams. Remember that the Cowboys are number one on that list. Remember that these Cowboys were the only team to crack 2,000 yards on the ground.
REMEMBER THAT THE DALLAS COWBOYS PAID THE SECOND LOWEST AMOUNT OF DOLLARS PER YARD AND GAINED THE MOST IN THE ENTIRE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE!
That. Is. Incredible.
This Cowboys unit paid 33.72% percent less per yard than the BV (again, these are the Top 10 teams not just some chumps). They also out-gained the yardage BV by 26.07%! What in the world!
The Ravens, who are admittedly very good at this, did pay 36.31% percent less per yard. They also out-gained the yardage BV by a measly 6.73%.
The second highest margin that a team out-gained the yardage BV by is in fact those Ravens. The Dallas Cowboys added 20% to that! That is unprecedented!
What the 2014 Dallas Cowboys accomplished when it comes to Price Per Yard is among the greatest financial return on investments that we have ever seen in NFL History.
The impetus for Price Per Yard was actually the 2014 Dallas Cowboys. It fascinated me to consider that in a year with such high production gained, so little was invested to achieve that result. Price Per Yard proves that through 100% irrefutable evidence.
The 2014 season is the second installment in my Price Per Yard series. You can see the first one from last week here, and look forward to my analysis of the 2015 season next Monday (July 18th). July 25th will be an analysis of all three seasons, and August 1st will be a projection into 2016.
If you have any comments or questions about Price Per Yard, the philosophy behind it, the formula that went into it, or just simply want to talk and/or debate it... you can comment below, email me at RJ@RJOchoaShow.com, or Tweet to me at @rjochoa.
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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