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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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5 Dallas Cowboys Make 2019 Pro Bowl Roster

Jess Haynie

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Byron Jones

The Dallas Cowboys will be well represented in the 2019 Pro Bowl. Last night, five players were named to the NFC roster: RB Ezekiel Elliott, OT Tyron Smith, G Zack Martin, DE DeMarcus Lawrence, and CB Byron Jones.

Dallas tied the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints for the most players to the NFC team. However, the Los Angeles Chargers led all teams with seven players making the AFC squad. The Chiefs and Steelers had six players each.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

Congratulations to #DallasCowboys @Byron31Jump, Tyron Smith, @TankLawrence, @thegob70 and @EzekielElliott who are #ProBowl Bound!

Byron Jones is the only first-time Pro Bowler among the Cowboys. He's been one of the best cornerbacks in football this year, switching back to the position after a few years playing safety.

This will be the second-straight Pro Bowl for DeMarcus Lawrence, who remains among the league's most feared pass rushers. It's also the second trip for Ezekiel Elliott, who went as a rookie but missed last year's game with his suspension issues.

Pro Bowl fixtures Tyron Smith and Zack Martin return for the sixth and fifth-straight years, respectively. For Martin, it preserves his streak of making the team every year since he came into the NFL.

Even with these five players being named, you could argue that Dallas deserved a couple more. Rookie LB Leighton Vander Esch has been one of the top defensive players in the league this year. And WR Amari Cooper, once he got to Dallas, has been as productive as any receiver in football.

That aside, congratulations to Zeke, Tyron, Zack, Tank, and Byron for making this year's team!



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Should Cowboys Claim WR Pharoh Cooper Off Waivers?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys put in a Waiver Claim for Pharoh Cooper?

In a somewhat surprising move the Los Angeles Rams have decided to part ways with Pharoh Cooper, who not only made the Pro Bowl last year in 2017, but was also a First-Team All-Pro as a return specialist.

Field Yates on Twitter

The Rams have waived kick returner Pharoh Cooper. He was named a first team All Pro in 2017 after ranking second in the league in kickoff return and punt return average.

Pharoh Cooper is now subject to the waiver wire, meaning anyone of the other 31 teams around the league can put in a claim to acquire his services. If he goes unclaimed however, he will become a free agent and is free to sign with any team of his choosing.

As one of those 31 teams, the Dallas Cowboys could be one of the interested parties in acquiring Cooper's services. After all, adding Amari Cooper worked out pretty well, so why not kick the tires on another Cooper.

With just two regular-season games remaining in 2018, many teams would view bringing aboard Pharoh Cooper as a move with the future in mind. But, with the Cowboys he could literally hit the ground running and contribute right away in one of their weakest areas, as a return specialist.

Pharoh Cooper

Former LA Rams WR Pharoh Cooper

The Dallas Cowboys are currently deploying Cornerback Jourdan Lewis as their kick returner and Wide Receiver Cole Beasley as their punt returner. Neither is making any kind of impact in the return game, meaning the Cowboys could definitely use an upgrade at both spots and Cooper could be just the man to provide that service.

Like I mentioned earlier, Pharoh Cooper was a Pro Bowl/First-Team All-Pro return man just a season ago. He did most of his damage as a kick returner, averaging 27.4 yards per return. The Cowboys just so happen to fall victim to one of his returns for 66 yards last year. So, they know all too well what he is capable of.

I personally like the idea of the Cowboys bringing in Pharoh Cooper, and not only as a return specialist. After this season their WR depth could be depleted quite a bit. Cooper would provide insurance for depth purposes, even though he hasn't made much of an impact in the passing game yet in his young career.

Now, I have no idea whether or not the Cowboys will show any interest or put in a waiver claim for the former Pro Bowl return man, but it sounds like a good idea to me. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if another Cooper somehow makes his way to Dallas.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should put in a waiver claim for Pharoh Cooper?



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Takeaway Tuesday: Scott Linehan’s Job Shouldn’t Be Safe

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Revamped Offense Relies on Scott Linehan to Succeed 3

The Dallas Cowboys didn't look like they did during their five game winning streak when they entered Lucas Oil Stadium to face a hot Indianapolis Colts team. In fact, they had one of their poorest showings of all season, failing to score a single point all game. Heading home after being shutout 23-0, there isn't much to be said about the Cowboys' performance.

Here's this week's Takeaway Tuesday. This time, instead of talking about many takeaways, I needed to get one big takeaway off my chest. I hope you enjoy. Make sure to let me know how you feel about this topic in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL.

Scott Linehan's Job Shouldn't Be Guaranteed Going into the Playoffs

As tough as it is to fire one of your three main coaches when your team is headed into the postseason, the Dallas Cowboys should not rule out moving on from Scott Linehan. One win away from clinching the NFC East, it's not something you easily pull off but Linehan's play calling has been terrible all year long.

The truth is, despite Dak Prescott's struggles and a disastrous offensive line, the offense shouldn't be as inefficient as it is.

Watching a unit that counts with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott run a screen pass to Allen Hurns on fourth down and 14 was truly a microcosm of what this year has been for the offense.

Despite having a playoff berth practically clinched, the Cowboys should consider a change at offensive coordinator. Even if they don't fire Linehan, it's clear his play-calling is not good and could cost this team a real opportunity at a legit shot in the postseason. It would be an aggressive measure, without a doubt. The Minnesota Vikings did something similar by firing John DeFillippo a week ago. Based on their 41-17 win over the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, being aggressive sometimes pays.

3 Quick Fixes to Jumpstart Cowboys Anemic Offense 3

The Cowboys have arguably the best running back in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott and yet they continue to misuse him. Whether it's turning their backs on their star tailback or over-using him, this offense has a hard time reaching balance. Dak Prescott's strengths could be exploited even more, but this OC refuses to do so.

As hard as it is to make a drastic change in coaching two weeks before the regular season ends, it truly could end up being a great move by the front office. Sure, Amari Cooper has had monster games since joining the Cowboys, but he could be even more dangerous under another coach.

Cowboys versus Colts was a coaching battle between Scott Linehan and former Dallas Cowboys LB coach, Matt Eberflus. It was the matchup of the week, and one we expected to be fun. Instead, we saw one side completely dominate the other. In the NFL, coaching matters. Probably even more than talent on a roster.

The biggest problem would be, who'd take over play-calling?

Since there isn't a promising candidate within the team, the team's only option would probably be letting HC Jason Garrett take over. It may not be ideal, but it could end up being an improvement over Linehan. Of course, it could also let the front office see what Garrett has to offer as a play caller and consider that when deciding how this coaching staff will look like in 2019.

It's unlikely that we see such a thing occur for the Cowboys, but if the offense has another letdown game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I don't see how the front office doesn't at least consider this. They should.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Scott Linehan’s Job Shouldn’t Be Safe" 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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