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Tony Romo’s Best Targets

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Passer rating measures attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, and interceptions.  It was developed by the NFL's statistical committee in the early 70s as a way to judge a passing performance beyond just total yards.  Since passers can pile up yardage easily against defenses that have a big lead late in a game, high passing yardage totals don't lead to wins.  Passer rating, then, was designed to reward the kind of passing that wins football games.

Since Tony Romo started his first game in 2006, he's finished the season ranked among the league's 10 highest-rated passers in every qualifying year.  Seven seasons.  In the entire history of professional football, only Joe Montana (13) and Tom Brady (11) had more consecutive top-10 seasons to start a career.  Brady will not catch Montana because his streak of top-10 seasons ended last year.  The Patriots just didn't have the targets for Brady's rating to get into the top 10.

That's why I think "passer" rating is a misnomer.  What's really being rated is not the passer or the receiver, but the pass itself.  And the pass depends, at the very least, on both.  The target does matter.  Remember when some suggested Romo was in decline when his pass rating fell 12 points from 102.5 in 2011 to its lowest in his career (90.5) in 2012?  That wasn't a QB in decline, it was all about the inability to replace Laurent Robinson.

2011
to Robinson:
47 of 72 for 787 yards 11 TD 2 INT 130.3 rating
to everyone else:
299 of 450 for 3,397 yards 20 TD 8 INT 96.3 rating

2012
to Ogletree/Beasley/Harris:
61 of 102 for 750 yards 5 TD 8 INT 66.2 rating
to everyone else:
364 of 544 for 4,153 yards 23 TD 11 INT 95.3 rating

Nobody was talking about this at the time, but when you factor out 3rd WR, Romo's rating dropped only 1 point from one season to the next.  Not bad for a QB who was playing with one legitimate target less than he had the year before.  The player on the receiving end of the pass does matter.  It's true for Brady, Romo, or any other quarterback.  Let's move on and look at Romo's best (and worst) targets in 2013.

All Romo's Passes in 2013

  • Bryant 85 of 142 1150 yd 8.1 ypa 12 td 3 int 105.1 rtg
  • Witten 61 of 93 716 yd 7.7 ypa 8 td 0 int 117.5 rtg
  • Williams 42 of 69 679 yd 9.8 ypa 5 td 2 int 105.9 rtg
  • Murray 48 of 55 311 yd 5.7 ypa 1 td 0 int 96.3 rtg
  • Beasley 38 of 49 361 yd 7.4 ypa 2 td 2 int 94.0 rtg
  • others 68 of 127 611 yd 4.8 ypa 3 td 3 int 64.8 rtg

Spikes and throw aways where there was no discernible target are not included.


Although he went as an alternate, Witten was absolutely deserving of his 9th Pro Bowl selection.  Among tight ends, only Graham and Olsen had such a high rating on at least that many targets.   Bryant continued his streak of 100+ seasons.  Of receivers with a minimum of 6 targets per game, only Dez and Wes Welker have finished in the top 10 each of the last four seasons.  Williams had a promising rookie year on his 69 targets, which was less than half of Dez's total, but there were situations in which Williams was a detriment to the team.

Red Zone Only

  • Bryant 13 of 21 68 yd 3.2 ypa 10 td 0 int 106.7 rtg
  • Witten 9 of 16 73 yd 4.6 ypa 6 td 0 int 107.6 rtg
  • Williams 4 of 10 42 yd 4.2 ypa 2 td 1 int 52.9 rtg
  • Beasley 6 of 7 35 yd 5.0 ypa 2 td 0 int 127.1 rtg
  • Murray 5 of 7 33 yd 4.7 ypa 1 td 0 int 120.8 rtg
  • others 3 of 8 27 yd 3.4 ypa 1 td 0 int 87.0 rtg

Romo-to-Bryant has been unstoppable in the red zone, with 19 TD and 0 INT since 2010.  Witten had one of his best red zone years.  Beasley's potential to help his team inside the 20 is immense.  Of the five top targets, the obvious weak link was Williams, and these numbers don't even show his red zone fumble in San Diego.

3rd Down Only

  • Bryant 16 of 31 207 yd 6.7 ypa 5 td 0 int 112.5 rtg 14 fd (45.2%)
  • Witten 14 of 27 155 yd 5.7 ypa 2 td 0 int 93.9 rtg 12 fd (40.7%)
  • Williams 11 of 22 157 yd 7.1 ypa 0 td 2 int 35.6 rtg 8 fd (31.8%)
  • Beasley 14 of 18 146 yd 8.1 ypa 1 td 0 int 119.0 rtg 11 fd (61.1%)
  • Austin 3 of 13 27 yd 2.1 ypa 0 td 0 int 23.1 rtg 3 fd (23.1%)
  • others 5 of 14 43 yd 3.1 ypa 0 td 2 int 5.1 rtg 1 fd (7.1%)

The last number is the percentage of that player's targets that resulted in a first down.

Dallas ranked 26th in the NFL in 3rd down conversion percentage, and Romo had a 76.7 rating on 3rd down.  That's a full 20 points lower than his season rating.  What made Romo so horrible on 3rd down?  That rating was all about the receivers who were the targets of those passes.  The passes to Beasley, Bryant, and Witten resulted in 8 TD, 0 INT, a 113.3 pass rating, and a 49% conversion rate.  The passes to everybody else resulted in 0 TD, 4 INT, a 19.7 rating, and a 24% conversion rate.

The target does matter.


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Dallas Cowboys

Don’t Forget Special Teams Value in Cowboys Roster Decisions

Jess Haynie

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C.J. Goodwin

Building a 53-man roster in the NFL is a complex formula, requiring balance between numerous positions on each side of the ball. But what often gets overlooked in our analysis as outsiders is special teams, and that's a huge factor for many of the Dallas Cowboys players hoping to make it past final cuts.

Some players have survived in the league by being just good enough at their listed positions but excelling in special teams roles. You may think of former Dallas safety Bill Bates, who was personally responsible for a special teams player being made part of the annual Pro Bowl roster. A more recent example would be Keith Davis, who was an adequate safety but a special teams ace for several seasons.

To be sure, someone is going to be on this 2019 Cowboys more for their special teams value than their actual offensive or defensive ability. Who might he, or they, be?

One candidate is veteran Cornerback C.J. Goodwin. He is considered an exceptional talent in coverage on punts, which is probably the only reason he's still in the NFL today. At age 29, Goodwin has never really emerged as a consistent contributor on defense.

Young players like Donovan Olumba or rookie Michael Jackson, if not already superior cornerbacks to Goodwin, have far more upside to keep on the roster. But

considering how little they may get on the field anyway as the fifth or sixth corners, you can see why special teams value becomes so important. It may be the only time you actually see them in the game.

If the Cowboys don't want to lose a young prospect but can't let go of Goodwin's special teams ability, it may prompt them to go long at the CB position. But that means taking a roster spot from some other position, and thus the balancing act continues.


Don't Forget About RB Jordan Chunn in the Cowboys Backfield

Dallas Cowboys RB Jordan Chunn

Another player to watch in this discussion is second-year an Running Back Jordan Chunn. He doesn't have Alfred Morris' experience or maybe Mike Weber or Darius Jackson's rushing talent, but he has been showing up on the special teams units.

Yesterday, Cowboys insider Bryan Broaddus called Chunn "a better Rod Smith" in analyzing his chances of making the roster. If you don't recall, Jaylon's older brother was a solid RB but a standout special teams player in his few years with Dallas.

As we just mentioned with the 5th/6th CB slots, the third running back is not a guy you expect to see much on offense. That will be especially true this year as Dallas will be struggling just to give rookie Tony Pollard the touches he deserves as the number-two RB.

Given that, special teams play becomes vital for the value of whoever is behind Zeke and Pollard on the depth chart. If Jordan Chunn is superior to his competition in that regard, it could negate whatever he lacks as an actual running back.

This same conversation can be had throughout the roster. It's why Noah Brown might make the team over more traditionally gifted receivers, or why a certain linebacker or safety might be more valued than others.

We make the common mistake of referring to "both sides of the ball" when we talk about football teams. There are three sides; special teams can't be underestimated. It will certainly play a part in how the Dallas Cowboys finalize their 53-man roster this season and in years to come.


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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Preseason: Wide Receivers Power Rankings

Mauricio Rodriguez

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#DALvsWAS: Michael Gallup Will Play, Value Extends Beyond Passing Game 1

When cut-down day arrives for the Dallas Cowboys, the team's decision making ability will really be put to the test once they get to the wide receiver position. The Cowboys have plenty of young talent there and choosing the players that will make the 53-man roster won't be easy. Unfortunately, you can't keep them all.

With the Cowboys offense set to take the next step in 2019 under Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore, the team has to get WR right. Since the offseason, we've seen many things from the team's wide receivers that make us wonder who's better than who and who should wear the Star once September comes around.

Today, I share with you my power rankings for the Dallas Cowboys' wide receivers.

Amari Cooper has Final Say on Trade Compensation in Cowboys Win 3

Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper

1.-3. The Absolute Locks

It's really not necessary to discuss the Cowboys' top three wide receivers. We know there is absolutely no way they fail to make the roster. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb are expected to be the team's starters. Cooper proved he can be a big-time threat as the Cowboys WR1 after many questioned his future following his struggles as an Oakland Raider.

Gallup has had an impressive offseason and preseason, building on his very solid playoff work from last January. This guy is poised for a breakout season and has even shown flashes of having WR1 talent. For now, though, he should be a great number two for Dak Prescott.

As far as Randall Cobb is concerned, he should be more than a decent slot receiver for Dallas replacing Cole Beasley.

Don't worry about the three starting wide receivers. They should be a very good unit.

4. Cedrick Wilson

I might be high on Cedrick Wilson, but I really believe he can be special for the Cowboys. I put him at number four because I believe he's the most balanced player among the other wide receivers. Before going down injured versus the San Francisco 49ers in preseason, he was having himself quite a performance, shadowing undrafted rookie Jon'Vea Johnson, who was supposed to steal the show at WR.

I liked him as a prospect coming out of Boise State last year and I still do. I believe he'll make the roster. He's also shown he could have a role as a returner on special teams.


Who Will be Cowboys' Main Punt Returner in 2019, Tavon Austin?

5. Tavon Austin

Austin didn't have a chance to prove his worth in 2018 after being out most of the season due to injury. With him returning and being in the thick of the WR battles, he'll likely have a spot on the roster. He has potential to play in the slot and steal a few snaps from Cobb while also being a threat for opposing defenses in the deep game thanks to his speed. Not to mention, he's expected to be a contributor on special teams.

6. Noah Brown

Often, I'm surprised by how many in Cowboys Nation feel about Noah Brown. However you may feel about the team's 23-year old receiver, don't expect him to be cut from the team.

We know the coaching staff values his blocking skills very much. Plus, he has upside as a receiver and could develop into a more serious weapon on offense. With the Cowboys set to carry only three tight ends, Brown is an important player for this football team.

7. Devin Smith

I expect the Cowboys to carry six receivers on their roster, so this would be where I expect the front office to start making cuts. Devin Smith has shined lately, specially against the Los Angeles Rams last Saturday when he hauled in a TD pass from Cooper Rush.

He has a chance to make the roster if he keeps turning heads, but right now, I have him in the outside looking in.

Cowboys WR Jon'Vea Johnson's Stock Drops After Preseason Opener

Dallas Cowboys WR Jon'Vea Johnson (Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News)

8. Jon'Vea Johnson

The undrafted rookie from Toledo was having a very strong offseason but his stock has been falling since preseason began. Unfortunately, Johnson's route running and ability to create separation aren't enough if his drop issues continue.

Hopefully, the Cowboys can keep him for the practice squad and continue to develop him because he really seems to be a special player. Right now, though, there are other guys the team should get on the team.

9. Jalen Guyton

Another undrafted rookie that made plenty of noise in the offseason. Sadly, we didn't see much from Guyton in preseason. This is another guy who could make the practice squad, but his chances of making the 53-man roster seem almost nonexistent right now.

10. Reggie Davis

Davis' chances of making the team took a huge hit when he muffed fumbled a punt versus the Rams last week. When you're fighting for those final spots, you can't make those mistakes on special teams.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Preseason: Wide Receivers Power Rankings" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Cowboys S Donovan Wilson’s Stock Continues to Rise

Matthew Lenix

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Cowboys S Donovan Wilson's Stock Continues to Rise

It's been no secret that the safety position for the Dallas Cowboys has been one of frustration in recent years. They've locked down the free safety spot with rising star Xavier Woods, however, the strong safety role hasn't found it's true ruler as of yet. Jeff Heath has started 31 of 32 games the last two seasons at strong safety but continues to be a liability in coverage and making tackles in the open field. Veteran George Iloka was brought in during free agency but still hasn't surpassed Heath as the number one. But the best attempt to shore up this particular position was made when the Cowboys took rookie Donovan Wilson in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

In the Cowboys first preseason game against the 49ers, Wilson got his first interception on the pro level. If you watch the video below, he does a fantastic job of reading the eyes of the quarterback and doesn't allow himself to be fooled when he tries to look him off. He sits on the route perfectly and creates the turnover. This is the kind of discipline you want to see from a rookie defensive back.

Tom Downey on Twitter

Rookie Donovan Wilson with the INT for the #Cowboys! Makes it a lot easier when the QB (C.J. Beathard) throws it right to you https://t.co/EIcACB6TSR

According to Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, Heath missed last weeks game against the Rams due to a neck stinger. This made his participation in practice limited for a few days and allowed Wilson to get some work with the first-team defense this week. He also split reps with Xavier Woods as the down safety in the box. A box safety's responsibility is to give support in the run game as well as jamming receivers/tight ends off the line, blitzing the quarterback and providing coverage in the flat.


Another added dimension for Wilson is that he had two years of nickel corner experience at Texas A&M. Anthony Brown is the starter at the position currently but having another guy with this skill set provides the Cowboys with the all-important position flex.

Wilson had 8 interceptions in college so he has some ball skills. His 21.5 tackles for loss at proves how effective he was in run support in the box safety role. With the help of Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, who developed top talents like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, Wilson could see himself with a huge role on this defense fairly quickly. So much so that I wouldn't be surprised if by seasons end he's the permanent starter at strong safety.


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