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20 Dec 2006

Every Play Counts: Julius Jones vs. Marion Barber

By Michael David Smith

The Dallas Cowboys' two running backs, Marion Barber and Julius Jones, couldn't have been more different in Saturday night's 38-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Barber carried the ball 11 times for 69 yards and two touchdowns; Jones carried 13 times for 26 yards and no scores. Barber picked up a first down rushing six times; Jones did it once. Barber's median run went eight yards; Jones' median run went two yards.

It's been like that all year. They play in the same offense behind the same line, but Barber consistently gives his team more production than Jones. Barber has 122 carries for 636 yards, a 5.2 yards per carry average; Jones has 247 carries for 1019 yards, a 4.1 average. Barber has 43 first downs, meaning he gets one on 35.2 percent of his carries; Jones has 41 first downs, meaning he gets one on 16.6 percent of his carries. Barber has 13 rushing touchdowns; Jones has five.

What can Barber do that Jones can't that makes Barber such a superior runner? And why does Bill Parcells continue to make Jones his starter? To find out, I watched and then re-watched every play of the Cowboys' victory over the Falcons. Although I came away thinking Jones has better straight-line speed than Barber and is a better blocker, Barber is so superior at finding holes, breaking tackles, and getting open on pass plays that the Cowboys are making a big mistake by having Jones as their featured back.

Jones' first run came on first-and-10 on the Cowboys' first possession, and it showed his inability to find openings in the opposing defense. Jones had fullback Lousaka Polite in front of him in the backfield, and tight end Anthony Fasano went in motion from left to right before the snap. If Jones had cut to the outside, around Fasano's block, he appeared to have enough space to pick up at least a few yards. Instead he stayed to the inside, running directly into Atlanta defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. He was stopped for no gain.

Contrast that with Barber's first run, on first-and-10 from the Atlanta 21. It was typical Barber: He took the handoff, took a hard step toward the left tackle and then changed direction quickly behind the line of scrimmage when he saw a hole between the left guard and center. He exploded through that hole, and if a collision with the umpire hadn't slowed him down, he probably would have scored. Instead, he gained 13 yards.

Jones does have a good burst of speed. On his second run, a toss sweep to the left side, his blockers didn't do much to clear space for him, but Jones accelerated and picked up a quick six yards before Michael Boley made the stop. Barber, on the other hand, tried on one run to cut to the outside and showed that he doesn't have as much speed as Jones. As he got to the left tackle, he wasn't quick enough to get around Boley, and Boley slowed him down before Atlanta cornerback Allen Rossum tackled him for a gain of just one yard.

Jones' superior speed is nice, but Jones doesn't maneuver enough in traffic to be an effective short-yardage back. After a penalty in the second quarter, the Cowboys had first-and-5 and figured they could pick up the first down with a couple handoffs to Jones. On first down, Jones was alone in the backfield until Jason Witten motioned in to play fullback in an offset I formation. Jones ran into the middle of the line and was tackled immediately by defensive tackles Grady Jackson and Rod Coleman. On the next play, second-and-5, Jones again ran directly into the heart of the Falcons' defense. This time his offensive linemen got a better push, so he gained three yards, but it was a lackluster run that showed no vision or cutting ability, just a straight-ahead run into a hole that wasn't there.

Barber is great in short yardage. On a second-and-1 in the third quarter, Barber was behind Polite in an offset I formation. Two Falcons linebackers, Boley and Edgerton Hartwell, had a shot at Barber before he got to the line of scrimmage. If Jones had had the ball, it's a near certainty that one of them would have tackled him, but Barber bounced off both of them and picked up eight yards. Barber ran through and around tackles all night. On first-and-10 late in the first quarter, Hartwell met Barber two yards beyond the line of scrimmage, but Barber made a great spin move to get past Hartwell and pick up six more yards.

Barber's first touchdown came on first-and-goal from the 9-yard line. It was a stretch handoff to the right side, and in the same situation Jones almost certainly would have tried to break to the outside and run out of real estate. But Barber saw a small gap in the line and cut back to the inside, and as soon as he did he made a beeline for the end zone. Atlanta linebacker Keith Brooking got a clean shot at him at the 3-yard line, but Barber simply lowered his shoulder, knocked Brooking to the ground and went into the end zone.

My favorite Barber run of the night came on third-and-1 with just under four minutes left in the game. Dallas had a three-point lead, and Atlanta desperately needed a stop. Everyone in the building knew the ball was going to Barber, and the Falcons put nine in the box to try to stop him. The play was designed to go off tackle, but Barber read Atlanta's defense and bounced it to the outside to pick up the first down. But he wasn't done; Atlanta safety Lawyer Milloy came to try to push Barber out of bounds to stop the clock, but Barber stiff-armed him and dove forward to stay in bounds. Two plays later Barber scored on second-and-goal from the 3-yard line, and the game was over.

Barber's superior running ability is undermined by his failures in blitz pickup. On a few pass plays Barber made only halfhearted efforts to block, and on one he allowed his quarterback to get drilled: That one was on a third-and-10, with Barber lined up as a lone setback responsible for picking up whoever got through the line first. Barber turned his head back and forth twice, never seeming to know where the rush would come from, and he stepped to his right just as Falcons linebacker Demorrio Williams got into the Cowboys' backfield to his left. If Barber had read the Falcons' blitz properly, he only would have had to step in front of Romo to give his quarterback enough time to get rid of the ball. But he didn't, and the sack was Barber's fault. Jones isn't a spectacular blocker – he didn't pancake anyone – but he was better than Barber because he managed to get in front of blitzing linebackers and safeties any time they try to pressure Romo.

Although Parcells was no doubt unhappy with Barber's blocking against Atlanta, he seems to realize that his strategy of giving Jones so many more carries than Barber was flawed. In the Cowboys' first eight games this year, Jones had 164 carries and Barber had 59. In the last six games, Jones has had 83 carries and Barber has had 63. By January I expect Barber to get the ball more than Jones does. That's the game plan that gives the Cowboys the best shot at the Super Bowl.

Each week, Michael David Smith looks at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game. Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 20 Dec 2006

69 comments, Last at 24 Dec 2006, 1:06pm by BlueStarDude

Comments

1
by goathead (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 10:26am

Nice problem for Parcells to have though, isn't it?

2
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 10:31am

As a Julius Jones owner, the way this season has played out has troubled me greatly. The only thing I can add is that, goaline aside, Jones seems to get carries on first and second downs, where the defense is typically loaded up for the run. Then Barber comes in on third down against the nickel. (Am I wrong in this?)

Which is odd, because you would figure that Jones' superior speed and blocking ability would make him a very good third down back, whether running draws or picking up blitzers, and MB3 seems to be better equipped to find the crease, square up, and keep the feet moving on 1st and 2nd downs.

3
by Nev (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 10:50am

Whilst I have no argument with the basic claim that Barber is simply the better back at this stage in their careers is not fair to say that at times this season Barber's stats have been helped by not being the feature back. As he has been getting a large number of his carries in the second halves of games, he is coming in fresh against a D that has already played 30 mins of football which is not an insignificant advantage. I think Parcell's has been keeping Barber as fresh as possible this season so come the playoffs the cowboys will have a starting back with about half the carries compared with the other 9 starting RB's

4
by Lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 11:02am

RE#3
I'm not sure Parcells had plans for Barber for the play-offs.
NFL stands for "Not For Long".
Basically, they're just trying to win as many games as they can...
By the way, as long as the two rbs are happy, the Cowboys have to platoon. It keeps everybody fresher and let the opposing coach work twice more...

5
by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 11:15am

#3 Given MB3's physical running style, wouldn't it make more sense to start him over Jones, pound the D, and then bring in Jones to use his speed against that tired D.

Given the questions about Jones' ability to stay healthy for a full season as the no.1 back, using MB3 early in the games, and then subbing in Jones when the D is tired makes even more sense.

I think that another reason, apart from overall play throughout the season, that would explain Jones getting more carries early in the season would be having Bledisloe at QB (slightly superior blitz pickup). I'd be interested to see a breakdown of carries between Jones and MB3 since Romo took over.

6
by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 11:34am

#5 - Great point. I never liked the way everybody seems to enjoy ripping on Blesoe around here, but it's pretty clear how much of a liability he was to that offense. Bledsoe goes out, suddenly Witten can run routes instead of blocking. Teams can no longer lock in on Terry Glenn. They can run with Barber, because they don't need him for blocking. Bledsoe wasn't just taking sacks or making bad throws under pressure - he was holding back the entire offense.

7
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 11:50am

MDS:

Barber’s superior running ability is undermined by his failures in blitz pickup. On a few pass plays Barber made only halfhearted efforts to block, and on one he allowed his quarterback to get drilled: That one was on a third-and-10, with Barber lined up as a lone setback responsible for picking up whoever got through the line first. Barber turned his head back and forth twice, never seeming to know where the rush would come from

There in a nutshell is why Barber will never get to start.

A running back who can't block, no matter how good his running, cannot be put on the field on anything but obvious running downs. Enough blindside hits because the running back decided to block air, and soon your QB is on IR. That is far worse for a team than limiting the touches of a superior runner.

The obvious conclusion is that Marion Barber is either stupid, and cannot pick up the playbook for blitz read and defense, or is lazy, and just doesn't feel like picking up the playbook.

Every down backs must be able to run (especially pick up short yards on obvious running downs), catch, chip on rushes, and block on blitzes. Unfortunately for NFL teams, there isn't a long list of these guys (Edge, Addai, Westbrook, Tomlinson, Tiki Barber, Johnson, and the other usual suspects).

8
by Nev (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:06pm

Re #5 Don't see how it would make sense to pound Barber in the first half of the season and then have an inury plagued/prone back as your fresh option going into the playoffs

9
by Nev (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:11pm

Re #7 If Barber only comes in on obvious running plays how would they be able to ascertain he's not only better on the ground but also at "getting open on pass plays"

10
by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:13pm

The obvious conclusion is that Marion Barber is either stupid, and cannot pick up the playbook for blitz read and defense, or is lazy, and just doesn’t feel like picking up the playbook.

Or, he's a young back working with his second offensive coordinator in two years, and is working hard on his blocking but just isn't there yet.

That may or may not be true - the point is, I don't have any better idea about why he isn't a better blocker than you do. And while having a blocking back is nice, I don't think it's the game-killer you think it is. Fasano lines up at FB often enough that he can block while Barber goes out on routes (where he's second among RBs with a 37.3% receiving DVOA). The only disadvantage comes in a singleback formation where you're trying to disguise whether it's a run or a pass; even then, Jones' speed probably makes him a better choice out of that formation anyway.

11
by Mr.X (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:17pm

Link to "Football: Parcells likes Barber serving as Cowboys' closer"

"Said Jones of the one-two punch he forms with Barber: "It's working for us. I kind of do the grunt work and he gets in there on third down and gets the job done."

Although he's reluctant to give the bulk of the carries to Barber, Parcells admits he's concerned about Jones.

"I'm hoping Julius can get back on track," Parcells said. "He missed a couple of reads the other night that on film looked like they would have been good gains."

Parcells has been careful to regulate Jones' carries the past month, hoping to keep the 5-10, 221-pound back fresh for the playoffs.

"He does have almost 250 carries and that's quite a few," Parcells said of Jones. "But he hasn't even had 60 carries in the last month. I'm hopeful he can find some reserve here."

http://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/stories/MYSA122006.01C.FBNcowboys.bar...

12
by sonofbrocklanders (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:23pm

re: Barber and blitz pick up

This can be taught. You can't teach vision, instinct for flow of blockers or running power. Ask Michael Bennett. Jones has great straight line speed, but that can be found in most drafts at the RB spot. This comparison makes me go back to an article FO wrote about natural athletic ability and how Michael Bennett might have been blessed witht he gift of speed but not other natural things that are important for RBs.

Long term, Barber is two years younger (Jones is 25), has been more durable and cheaper since he was a 4th round pick. I think they keep him.

13
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:28pm

This was Barber's worst blocking performance of the season. He's not typically a poor blocker, and with the exception of this one and maybe the first Giants game, IIRC, he has been pretty good.

Because Jones mostly goes where the play is supposed to go, he benefited quite a bit from the switch of Oliver Hoyte from LB to FB (week six, I think, was the first time he saw action there). Hoyte has showed some promise at becoming a dominant blocking FB (much better than Polite), but he was sidelined with a knee injury for this Atlanta game.

Anyway, I just don't understand what happened to the vision and creativity Jones displayed his rookie season; it went missing last year and hasn't come back.

14
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:33pm

I wholeheartedly agree that one cannot have a rb on the field a majority of the time if he doesn't block competently, especially if the qb is a statue like Bledsoe. That is precisely why Mewelde Moore doesn't get more touches in Minnesota. If Tavaris Jackson sticks as qb, I'd wager that Moore will see the field more, since blitzing the Vikings will no longer be such a risk-free proposition.

Calling Barber stupid or lazy, however, because he doesn't read blitz pickups well yet, makes as little sense as calling Jones stupid or lazy because he doesn't read his running holes as well as Barber. They are both skill sets which don't always come instinctually, and can take a few years to develop. I don't think Tiki Barber was stupid or lazy because it took him several years to learn how to hold avoid fumbles.

This just in.....playing competently in the NFL, in all phases of the game, is really, really, really, really, really, hard. Really.

15
by Tally (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:39pm

#5: Check out PFP 2006. An article in there (I think in the Pittsburgh chapter) shows that "pounding" the defense with a smaller back or a larger back makes little difference in tiring it out. The article was asking if having a bruising back like Bettis pound the D was more effective than trying to pound it with a finesse back like Parker.

There was correlation shown between RB carries in the 1st half and average gain in the 2nd half, but not between carries by a large back or a small back and average gain in the second half. Essentially, it's more important that the RB have more carries in the first half, regardless of who gets the carries.

16
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:41pm

I also thinks Parcells would be very pleased if both guys improved in the areas in which they are deficient, in order to continue to use them both a lot for at least a few more years. Unless one has a Tomlinson-quality back, having two good backs which share the duties, with neither completely dominating playing time, makes a lot of sense, if one can manage the cap consumption.

17
by Tim L (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:46pm

This debate has been raging amongst Cowboy fans for weeks. A couple of things should be kept in mind by those who haven't followed the Cowboys, and are being drawn into making quick conclusions on small amounts of data.

First, I would not agree Jones is a better pass blocker than Barber, the few odd plays notwithstanding. In his two years with Dallas, Barber has consistently been the better third down back, as he blocks and catches out of the backfield better than Jones. Andrew's comments suggesting Barber is either stupid or lazy are uninformed and silly; that fact he made those comments, and is an Eagles homer, is probably just coincidence.

Second, Jones' inability to view the field, and more specifically, opportunistic holes as they develop, is something that has developed relatively recently. Jones showed excellent vision and patience his rookie and during stretches of his second year, behind a much more leaky offensive line. The coaching staff is sticking with him through this stretch, hoping he'll stop trying so hard and return to his former style. The reason is clear: He has true breakaway speed, as he showed on his first carry against New Orleans.

It's a fair question to ask who should start and receive the most carries between the two backs. But the answer isn't quite as obvious as many casual observers would think, especially if one has a broader understanding of the histories of the two players.

18
by MRH (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:54pm

It would be interesting to see the offensive DVOA for Dallas with Barber in the game vs. Jones in. This would require a game charter mind meld that may not be feasible now but perhaps for PFP? If MDS' one game observations are true for the season as a whole, having Jones in opens more options for the offense in the passing game that should be reflected in overall team performance. I know that isn't the only personnel variable involved, but it would be interesting.

19
by hector (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:58pm

13 sayeth: This was Barber’s worst blocking performance of the season. He’s not typically a poor blocker, and with the exception of this one and maybe the first Giants game, IIRC, he has been pretty good.

I completely agree. EPC just caught Barber's blocking on the wrong night. I remember thinking last year when Barber was starting to get into the mix - beginnng with the OT against the Giants - "hmm, he's reliable as a pass-blocker, too." I'm not saying Barber is a flawless blocker or someone who doesn't have room to improve, but he's been capable - and I also think he's better in this role than Jones is.

20
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:00pm

Nev #9:

Re #7 If Barber only comes in on obvious running plays how would they be able to ascertain he’s not only better on the ground but also at “getting open on pass plays�

I didn't say Barber only comes in on obvious running downs. I said backs who cannot pick up blitzes cannot come in then, because they get the QB killed. Parcells, however, does bring Barber in on some passing downs, with disastrous results when there is a blitz.

Also just because it is an obvious running down doesn't mean that you always run in that situation. You have to shake up your tendencies and occasionally go against the grain, which is why coaches sometimes pass on 3rd or 4th and short. Just because it is a running down doesn't mean there won't be a pass 1 in 3 times.

21
by Matt Raymond (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:01pm

I've just discovered this site and am blown away by the value of the content not to mention how valuable the comments are from the readers! I will admit that this is my first 'posting' so please forgive me if I bring up a few questions or ideas that have already been discussed.

- My idea is as follows: There seems to be a huge amount of interest in breaking down film, studying trends and tendencies, etc. With that interest why don't we form a fantasy camp before the beginning of the 2007 NFL Season where die-hard NFL fans come together to do what is taking place on this website. The added value could be the participants actually watching video and maybe we could even get some guest speakers like Jaws or Tom Jackson? Again, just a thought.

- My one question is this? How do most readers evaluate the play of a teams secondary?? Unless I see something on NFL MatchUp, it's hard to watch a game on the tv and really get a true sense of how the coverage got blown, etc. I think it would be beneficial if the NFL Network would give the fans a way to view the film that is taken from the press box. I'd even be wiling to pay to watch film where all 22 players could be evaluated. Any suggestions as to how I could get any additional insight is appreciated.

Thanks and keep up the excellent writing!

22
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:01pm

Having seen nearly every college game that Barber played in, I'm really enjoying watching him continue his style of running in the NFL. The guy has always had a knack for maximizing what potential is given him by his blockers. Minnesota employs a zone blocking scheme as well as anyone at the college level, and perhaps backs who play in such a scheme at the college level become superior readers of blocking by the time they get to the NFL. Maroney, Barber, and Tapeh (who is a fullback, of course) are all enjoying NFL success, and it will be interesting to see if current and future University of Minnesota running backs continue the trend.

23
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:03pm

Independent George:

Fasano lines up at FB often enough that he can block while Barber goes out on routes (where he’s second among RBs with a 37.3% receiving DVOA). The only disadvantage comes in a singleback formation where you’re trying to disguise whether it’s a run or a pass; even then, Jones’ speed probably makes him a better choice out of that formation anyway.

This is called telegraphing your plays. The Ravens did it last year, by limiting their passing to running backs to plays with Chester Taylor, and using Jamal Lewis almost exclusively for running.

If Jones is an inferior back, its a liability to have to use him on the single back plays, because it limits their potential.

24
by hector (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:04pm

Keep in mind that if we went on Week 15 only, LaDainian Tomlinson can't pass block either. It's easy to label someone in this way after a snap or two, but it's not fair to the player.

25
by SoulardX (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:06pm

Is this two years in a row the PFP has been wrong about Jones? I don't have it in front of me, but how is Jones' 2006 production matching the KUBIAC projections.

Good thing I took Jones and Lamont Jordan with my first two picks......

26
by hector (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:06pm

Great comments, Will.

Curious, what did you think of Barber as a pass blocker in college, from what you recall?

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:09pm

Matt, that has been a consistent lament in this forum. Trying to fully evaluate the passing game via normal t.v coverage is almost impossible. The day will probably come when the NFL Sunday Ticket or the NFL Network will provide the full field shots throughout the game, but who knows how long that will be? Until then, we fans will be left to guess as to what is really happening when quarterbacks drop back to pass.

28
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:12pm

Will Allen #14:

Calling Barber stupid or lazy, however, because he doesn’t read blitz pickups well yet, makes as little sense as calling Jones stupid or lazy because he doesn’t read his running holes as well as Barber. They are both skill sets which don’t always come instinctually, and can take a few years to develop.

Others here are claiming this is more instinctual from simply having a feel for the game and how people play it. It certainly can't be both.

The Eagles have been attempting to teach Ryan Moats blocking skills, but it has yet to stick after two years. He's a good runner, but because he has a fresh brain every week when it comes to blocking, he doesn't see the field, and Reno Mahe gets to dress.

Look, anyone with good legs can run with the ball fast straight forward. The issue is finding the holes and picking up the blockers, which is all about smarts, instinct, and reaction time to the information process. If something is wrong with any of those three (not smart, not instinctual, slow to think about what you are seeing), the person won't be a success, no matter what their god-given talents and athleticism.

29
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:20pm

hector, the Gophers, unsurprisingly, were so dominant in the running game in the Barber/Maroney era that the pass blocking by the backs was really never an issue. They just destroyed defenses on the ground, even highly rated run defenses. That's why there was also a question mark regarding Barber's receiving skills coming out of college, which of course has changed.

If the Gophers in the Barber/Maroney era had just played mediocre defense, they would have been a consistent top ten team, perhaps even a national title contender. Hell, they rushed for about 450 yards (no exaggerration) versus Michigan once, and managed to lose!

30
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:27pm

Andrew, nothing you just wrote has anything to do with the wisdom, or lack thereof, entailed in calling a player stupid or lazy because he doesn't pass block well by his second year in the league.

31
by azibuck (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:46pm

"Anyway, I just don’t understand what happened to the vision and creativity Jones displayed his rookie season; it went missing last year and hasn’t come back."

Completely agree. I have a theory that Parcells coached it out of him, but it would take too long to explain that. Basically, I think they made him so concious of "dancing", even though he was never a "dancer" or "tip-toer", that he's taken the opposite extreme. Instead of waiting or looking for holes, he plows straight ahead.

But it really boils down to the "vision thing." I've been a Jones apologist for a while, but the Falcon game tore it for me. Over and over I'd run a play back and see the hole, or at least where a run has obviously been designed to go, and Julius is just lowering his head and plowing into a defender or 4.

This article was OK, but didn't emphasize enough why Jones is getting less yardage on so many carries. This comment:

"It was a stretch handoff to the right side, and in the same situation Jones almost certainly would have tried to break to the outside and run out of real estate."

... is incorrect, and part of Jones' problem. He'd NEVER go outside. Quite the opposite. He'd take a stretch handoff and *immediately* cut it back into the pile, nevermind going wide looking for a lane to cut back into.

But BlueStarDude nailed it. I'd love to see a game from Jones' rookie year, say, the Monday nighter against Seattle, and show it side-by-side with a game from this year. Where is the vision and niftiness he showed (repeatedly) in his rookie year?

32
by azibuck (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 1:53pm

That might make an interesting (to Cowboys fans, at least) Every Play Counts column -- compare Jones now to Jones then. For me, the issue isn't Barber v. Jones, it's Jones 2006 v. Jones 2004 -- What happened? It's like he's two different backs.

33
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 2:03pm

Tim L:

In his two years with Dallas, Barber has consistently been the better third down back, as he blocks and catches out of the backfield better than Jones. Andrew’s comments suggesting Barber is either stupid or lazy are uninformed and silly;

Interestingly, the splits for Barber show him being used as the ball carrier the most on first down - 65 plays to 39 plays on 3rd down (and 32 on 2nd down). If he is a good 3rd down back (and he certainly is a good receiver this year in his limited number of plays), he needs to be used there more.

I think the fact that Barber is not used very often in passing plays (although Jones is used even less) says something both about their skill and the offense. Both player's relatively high DVOA receiving is an artifact of their very small number of plays (both under 30). Give them 100 plays (like Westbrook, Jackson, and Bush), and neither would look as good.

In fact, Barber has only been the receiver on 10 of 89 completions Dallas has on 3rd down this year, or less than 1 per game. The main targets are Owens 22, Glenn 20, and Witten 17, thus accounting for 59 of the 89 catches (Crayton accounts for another 16). Given that passes to running backs are usually completed at a much higher percentage than passes to receivers, the disparity in play calling is even greater.

By way of contrast, look at the splits on the Eagles. As with Dallas, there were 30 running back rushes on 3rd down, with 25 of them by Westbrook. Of 67 3rd down pass completions, Westbrook accounts for the highest number - 14. Tapeh has 6 catches, Brown 7, Smith 8, Buckhalter 8, Lewis 9, Stallworth 11 - essentially equal opportunities given to everyone. The running backs account for close to 1/2 of the 3rd down passing plays instead of 1/8 as on Dallas. Additionally, the Eagles QB's scramble twice as often as Romo and Bledsoe do on 3rd down - 16 vs. 8 (the rest of the differential between Dallas the Philadelphia in number of passing plays is the larger number of dropped 3rd down passes the Eagles suffered when McNabb was running the show).

In football, winning teams play to their strengths. In Dallas, that is throwing the ball to the wideouts on 3rd down, not the great receiving game of Marion Barber. In Philadelphia, it is getting the ball to the running backs on screens or letting them try to make plays in space.

Last comment, 3rd down passes are usually in obvious passing situations. All this talk about Romo not taking sacks and now Barber being good at picking up blitzes ignores that Bledsoe only took 4 sacks vs. 57 3rd down pass attempts while Romo has taken 7 vs. 70 3rd down pass attempts. The big difference between Romo and Bledsoe is on 1st and 2nd down, where Bledsoe took 12 sacks vs 109 attempts while Romo has taken just 7 vs. 200 attempts. If Barber is helping out on 3rd down in blocking and is actually being effective, its not showing up in Romo being better there than Bledsoe. Romo is better on 1st and 2nd down when Barber is generally off the field.

that fact he made those comments, and is an Eagles homer, is probably just coincidence.

It is.

34
by RF (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 2:10pm

Given Barber's deficiencies in blitz pick-up, the Cowboys' use of him and Jones is even more confusing. Wouldn't Barber's skillset be better utilized no downs where blitz pick-up is less crutial? First down, when teams are less likely to blitz?

35
by theory (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 3:11pm

#12

See also: Michael Pittman and Justin Fargas. Both are big, strong, and fast, but just run into the pile.

I'm not sure you can't change a RB's style though - this year's Deuce McAllister is a much better runner than the frequently-stuffed Deuce of 2 years ago.

36
by hector (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 3:19pm

Just for grins, who are the best tailbacks at blitz pickup in the league? I still think Edge is very good at it. Dillon, underrated. Ahman Green has always been able to block.

37
by Todd (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 3:20pm

I agree with #32.

It's definitely not Barber vs. Jones, its 2004 vs. 2006. I'm totally shocked to see how much freedom JJ's running style has lost. I tend to agree with #31 as well. I also question whether Parcells constant hounding about hitting the hole has caused Jones to blindly take what he can get. In every carry, it looks like he holds the ball with 2 hands, sees a hole, puts his head down and plows forward.

I love MB3's running style, but I'm still a Jones apologist who believes the potential is obviously there (see Jones 2004). I just hope JJ can regain his previous form in the coming weeks.

38
by Leo Wang (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 3:25pm

Interesting read. Barber certainly has simply looked more impressive when running the ball the year than Jones. Any comment on a Thomas Jones / Cedric Benson comparison? There are some similarities, in that Benson appears to be an excellent goal-line back so far (limited sample obviously) with good strength and a tenacious running style. I would definitely give Thomas Jones the edge in vision over his brother, though probably not in speed. There also has been the reputation that Benson is bad in pass protection - however, this year I'd say that he has done at least as well as Jones (who has looked bad at times).

39
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 3:30pm

I'm not sure that you can pin the increase in third down sacks on Barber just because there seems to be a correlation. It's a small sample size to begin with, but on top of that, Barber certainly hasn't been the back on all 70 of those plays. Plus I believe Dallas has emptied the backfield more often since Romo took over (though they certainly did it with Bledsoe, too, e.g., the Eagle game). You'd have to compare the personnel packages and protection schemes on the sacks versus non-sacks; see whether Barber was busy picking up a blitzer, while Rivera or Kozier got bulldozed by a DT; and note that Romo has taken at least a couple of "bad sacks."

It seems pretty clear that most people who watch the Cowboys week in and week out view Barber as the better blocking back. Parcells wouldn't use him so much on third down if he weren't.

40
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 3:35pm

I love MB3’s running style, but I’m still a Jones apologist who believes the potential is obviously there (see Jones 2004). I just hope JJ can regain his previous form in the coming weeks.

My guess is that this is Parcells's view as well, and I think it's a dangerous one. The Cowboys have a hot hand - Barber. They should be riding it. It's already late enough into the season that hoping the other back regains a previous form is a little far-fetched. You don't just want one good game from him. You want multiple. And with only two games left in the season, that's a little late.

41
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 3:42pm

Also, and I might be remember wrong here, but wasn't there another back that showed serious flashes when he was put in, but the head coach didn't want to play him much because he was worse at blitz pickup, and so continued to use a different back who was less effective?

I think his name was 'Larry'-something. Might've gone on to have a good year when the coach decided to let him start, too. Not sure.

42
by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 3:53pm

Speaking of which, Larry Johnson has 352 carries with 2 games left on the season. Should Chiefs fans be hoping for their team to get blown out during the next two weeks? I can see Herm giving him 30 carries in each of the last two regular season games, then another 30 in the wild card game (including 3 straight runs into the pile at the 35 yard line, down by 1 with 4 minutes left).

43
by Staubach12 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 4:11pm

I agree with what the other Cowboy fans have posted here. The Atlanta game was a fluke; Barber is the better pass-blocker in general. Usually, he's pretty decent.

A few other observations:

Parcells said at the beginning of the season that he intended to use Jones more in the first half of the season and gradually increase Barber's load as the season went on. Parcells believes that Jones' production drops after the first half of the season as he wears down. The numbers bear this out. Here are JJ's first 5 Games of the season:

@Jaguars L 17-24 17/72 4.2 avg.
Redskins W 27-10 20/94 4.7 avg.
@Titans W 45-14 23/122 5.3 avg.
@Eagles L 24-38 26/100 3.8 avg.
Texans W 34-6 22/106 4.8 avg.

After week 6, Jones' numbers began to decline. This may be the explanation for what happened to the JJ of 2004. In 2004 he only played 7.5 games, and 7 of them were at the end of the year when he was well rested and the defenses were banged up.

I think too much emphasis is being placed on who starts the game. The running game is much more effective in the 2nd half, and it makes more sense to have your most effective back fresh and running in the 2nd half than it does to have him pound it in the first half.

Jones' numbers are hurt by the fact that he runs mostly in the first half and Barber runs mostly in the 2nd half.

The Parcells philosophy is that the purpose of first half runs is to establish the pass and wear out the defense (yards per carry are important, but less important than the number of rushing attempts). In the second half the success of running game really matters because that's when defenses are tired and that's when you might want to start running out the clock. I don't know enough to be able to evaluate the merits of his philosophy, but it explains why he uses the two backs as he does.

I agree with Parcells that Jones should be starting games & playing primarily on 1st & 2nd downs in the first half, but I think he used Jones too much. Jones has about 150 good carries a season in him. MBIII should have gotten the lion's share of the carries (i.e.: ALL of the 2nd half carries and ALL of the 3rd down & short yardage carries in the 1st halves of games). Parcells actually wanted to use Barber more in the beginning of the season and was unhappy about having to use Jones so much. I believe he thought that Barber was not doing well enough in practice in September to justify getting substantial carries in games. Barber has improved this season and is beginning to earn Parcells' confidence.

44
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 4:47pm

I wouldn't touch LJ in a fantasy draft next year. No way. He's finishing the year with 375 carries, minimum.

45
by JWCC (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 6:20pm

On the play that Barber looked so bad on (to me, anyway), Fabini was in for Adams, and Barber seemed to be preoccupied with giving him help. The blitz seemed to come on a slight delay. It was a good call in the situation.

46
by azibuck (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 6:54pm

#43, I'm a Cowboys fan and at this point I'd like to see Barber get the bulk of the carries, but Jones is clearly the better blocker.

47
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 7:00pm

One thing that surprised me last year, given Barber's background in a zone blocking scheme, was that Shanahan decided to take a third round flyer on Maurice Clarett, when Barber was available into the fourth round.

48
by Playit (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 7:03pm

I like EPC so I hope this criticism doesn't sound too harsh on a column that I do generally enjoy reading. However the problem with EPC is that you only see a small snapshot of a team’s performance. I've watched every game Barber has played as a Cowboy and I can say without a doubt that this was his worst blocking outing. Along with all of the other Cowboy fans of the board, I can absolutely assure you that Barber is better in blitz pickup than Jones. I think this board has grown to the extent that all teams are represented by at least one intelligent fan. I wonder if that fact can be exploited to enhance the column. Assuming ego isn’t an issue, perhaps after deciding on an EPC topic, Will could follow up with the fan for that team. For instance, BlueStarDude for this article. Then you’d not only be pulling from this single game’s experience, but seeing a real insight into a teams year long performance and direction. I’ll post more in a second, but there is a tremendous amount to say on this issue alone.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Barber v Jones? How has the loss of Thompson changed the way Parcells has used both? (The Cowboys no longer have a third back and were forced to string along Polite instead of adding another TE to the mix) How is Parcells using both backs in his system and why? How has Jones changed since his successful rookie outing as a runner… how much of this is Parcell’s trying to mold him into Curtis Martin? How has the discovery of Hoyte changed the backfield dynamics? How does Romo’s ability to play in shotgun and with a spread offense change the back’s usage?

These kinds of articles would be one of a kind in football reporting. You seem some of this depth from local reporters, but none of those reporters grasps the usage of statistics like Will.

49
by Playit (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 7:04pm

There is a tremendous amount of logic in why Jones is starting over Barber.

First their strengths and weaknesses:

Barber is the best pass blocking Back on the team. He is generally the only back that Parcells allots in single back alignments for that reason.

Barber is also the best pass catcher of the backs. Not withstanding Romo's admission of Hoyte being his favorite target, Barber has much better hands than Jones, and the best hands of all the backs. Jones has problems working towards the ball and catching the ball away from his body. He catches the ball a bit like a full back, which partially explains why he is so rarely used as an outlet option. Still the Cowboys rarely throw to the backs. This is two fold. First, Bledsoe was absolutely horrible at the dump off pass. Parcells has tried since his arrival to run the screen, but Bledsoe was simply not capable of accurately placing the ball at the right time. I think this has more to do with his foot speed and slow recognition than any other factor. Romo is not burdened by either of those problems, but his additional mobility and accuracy down the field has negated some of the demand for the screen. Teams aren't blitzing as often as they did against Bledsoe, opting instead for complicated zones. Parcell's preference is to run the screen on third and long plays. However, Romo has been exceptional this year in third and long passing to his receivers and tight ends. As such, the Screen simply hasn't been used as much. Finally, this is the first year that the Cowboys have had a line capable of running a decent screen. Larry Allen was far to slow to pull and Riviera, though and improvement, didn't get off his blocks quick enough. Kosier is excellent at pulling and was brought in for this skill more than any other. I think Barber will be used more on first and second downs come playoffs... expect to see more screens when that happens.

Jones has better speed and runs 'safer'. Parcells likes one style of back over all others, the Emmitt Smith or Curtis Martin back. He teaches these fundamentals. Always keep your body square and facing up field. Never lateral step more than one step and always follow it by moving forward. Move to the designed hole first and only move away if you have too. Never lose yards. It's better to gain two yards than lose one trying to gain more. Always keep both hands over the ball between the tackles. People that watched Jones at Notre Dame or his first year in the league will not that this is absolutely the opposite of his playing style before coming to the Cowboys. Jones isn't powerful enough to create space. By not moving laterally, it negates all the advantages of his vision and speed. I absolutely think that Parcells has coached away from his talent as a runner. Barber does virtually none of the things listed above, yet. Jones won't be with the Cowboys too much longer, and when he's not I think you'll see him revert back to more of a Kevin Jones style runner.

So here is the situation...

Parcells wants to balance the load on both backs. He wants the better blocker and pass catcher in at third down. Parcells has always had an obsession with third down backs. He doesn't want his third down back to get too many touches outside of third down and wear down. That makes Barber his third down back and forces the use of Jones for much of the first and second downs outside of the red zone to balance the load. Much of the Dallas run game in the first half is to set up the passing game and run game in the second half. 2 yards per carry is not considered a failure. So long as you can get to 3rd and 6, rather than sitting at 3rd and 10. At the end of the game, if Barber hasn't been used as much, Parcells will run him to run down the clock. If Barber has run, he'll generally turn to Jones or Thompson (before injury). At that point it's all load balancing.

When the playoffs start, Parcells will run Barber more to open up other options. Barber can be used in the open sets while Jones really can't, and Romo is excellent with an empty backfield or single back. Jones will continue to be used on obvious running downs, especially with Hoyte back from injury. Polite is a horrible run blocker (part of what made Jones look worse Saturday night).

50
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 8:15pm

Now, if Barber is the better blocker, better runner, and better reciever, why is Jones even playing?

It makes me think this is another case of Parcells being too enamored with his starters to change thigns up unless he has to. He waited way too long with Bledsoe/Romo, and even though he's said he doesnt like Jones, hes still not playing Barber, even though hes clearly hte better player.

51
by Playit (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 9:19pm

Re: 50

Because he doesn't want to wear down Barber before the playoffs. He's already said before that he doesn't think that Barber can handle the entire load. The Cowboys run the ball more than any other team in the league. He wants to run it about 50/40/10, with the 40% going to his 3rd down back so that he has fresher legs.

Long story short, he saves Barber for when he needs him the most (Red Zone, Short Yardage, Passing Downs, and end of game drive sustainer).

52
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 9:36pm

#48: Article byline: By Michael David Smith

C'mon, if you're going to write that much of a criticism, at least get his name right. :)

I have to say though, in virtually every EPC I read, someone usually comes out and says "This was X's worst night at Y" so I do question exactly how unbiased most fans are. Besides, if fans have additional commentary... that's, uh, what the comments are for.

53
by Playit (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 10:24pm

Re: 52

Shoot... I was thinking MDS too, but I guess I read Will's comment and decided to give him credit instead... oh well. Parcells, of all coaches, is never going to play a back as his third down back unless he's excellent at blitz pickup. It was the entire reason he brought Richie Anderson onto the team to start with. Many people, including the pundits, were expecting him to draft a young back and groom him to play while being the third down back. For some reason Parcells has a few positions that he absolutely wants veterans to play. Don't forget also that our entire passing package was designed around increased protection for the blitz this season. In the first half of the year, Jones was kept in with help while Barber was occasionally allowed to be the single back.

I have noticed too the comments about one game abnormalities. However that might have something to do with people being motivated enough to comment. He might make 15 assertations in one article. The ones that are accurate rarely get the same attention as the ones that aren't.

Really my comment was less a critism and more seeing an oppertunity to make the series even better. I've seen post in these forums that are several times more impressive than anything read on ESPN. It would be a shame not to harness all that free insight.

54
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 12:11am

Playit #51:

The Cowboys run the ball more than any other team in the league.

If you can't be bothered to get simple facts right, why bother commenting?

Dallas is 7th in rushing attempts this year.

He wants to run it about 50/40/10

Right now its around 65-30-5. If he really wants it different, he's shortchanged Barber about 35-40 carries.

55
by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 12:14am

#8 Surely part of the reason that Jones has been injury plagued/prone is because of the heavy workload he gets at the beginning of the season, and more specifically at the beginning of games. The quotes in #11 seem to back up the idea of using MB3 early in the season and in games, and getting Jones more of the ball later in the season

56
by Playit (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 2:45am

Re 54:

I have the Cowboys at #4 right now thanks mostly to the New Orleans game (12 rushes). The week before that game Dallas was number one in rushes by running backs. The NFL site counts QB and WR rushes. As for the distribution, it will be around what I suggested by the end of the season. The real problem is that when Thompson went down there wasn't a third back to share any of the load. Considering running styles (Thompson is a speed back) he was going to steal carries from Jones and not Barber. Without him, all that was left was Polite (the Full back) who runs rarely, but when he does steals carries from Barber.

As for the accuracy of my stats, there was nothing wrong with them. Dallas had lead the league for most of the season in carries and probably will be close again by the end of the season. They were second in the league last season in RB carries. Parcells likes to run the ball. Where they are after each game (as compared to where they average for the season) does nothing to change that fact. I said that Parcells would like to run 50-40-10. Obviously, as I commented in the post before that one, Thompson was the compliment to Jones and his injury has changed the end distribution.

Now why do you bother pointing out supposed errors that are temporary at best and don't change the overall concept they were mentioned to support? What does that add?

57
by hector (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 4:34am

re: 48 I have to say though, in virtually every EPC I read, someone usually comes out and says “This was X’s worst night at Y� so I do question exactly how unbiased most fans are.

I view it differently - I see someone offering their stab at a full-season perspective to mesh with a one-game thorough examination. And given that I think the overwhelming group of writers, readers and contributors are trying darn hard to be as objective as possible, I hope these slants always come out whenever a reliable source feels that way.

Oh, I'm not really a Barber "fan" albeit I admire how he plays. Certainly not a Cowboys fan; just a fan of the league more than anything. I guess I'm fighting 32 NFL team biases then.

58
by azibuck (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 11:06am

Playit: "Parcells, of all coaches, is never going to play a back as his third down back unless he’s excellent at blitz pickup. It was the entire reason he brought Richie Anderson onto the team to start with."

That's utter nonsense. Richie Anderson was the worst blocker I have ever seen, bar none. It galled me that he'd constantly slag ReShard Lee about blocking when Anderson was so awful and Ed George wasn't much better. RLee may have had other deficiencies, but it was not humanly possible that he was a worse blocker than Richie Anderson. Anderson was 3rd down pass catcher, period.

What Parcells does, says, and means, is often three different things. By your comments, it looks like you believe everything the Dallas PR machine puts out, and everything Parcells says at his press conferences. His press conferences are a joke.

Latest example: Just the other day he said, "It's important to have a closer," Parcells said. "Whenever I had good teams, I always had a closer."

Yeah, except the closer on his good teams was also the starter. Start with looking at the Curtis Martin in 1996 and Joe Morris in 1986. I'll save the space of pasting those stats in, but those guys were the "closers" AND starters, and mail carriers and whatever else you want to call them. Even in 1990, when Ottis Anderson shared carries with Tillman and Hampton -- come playoff time, it was all Ottis all the time. And I hope it becomes that with Barber this year, except when the blitz needs to be picked up, because Jones is better at that.

Don't listen to Parcells, he's as full of spit as TO. And yes, I really am a Cowboys fan.

59
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 12:17pm

Playit #56:

The week before that game Dallas was number one in rushes by running backs. The NFL site counts QB and WR rushes.

Excluding those rushes is a very artifical way of looking at the running game. Its somewhat akin to evaluating a passing attack while ignoring any throws to running backs.

The real problem is that when Thompson went down there wasn’t a third back to share any of the load. Considering running styles (Thompson is a speed back) he was going to steal carries from Jones and not Barber.

Thompson was barely seeing the ball when he was healthy. And him going down has not prevented Dallas from signing another back. Its not like there are no other backs available on the street or on practice squads.

Parcells likes to run the ball.

Now that is an assertion that is complete crap. Where was this Coach Parcells who likes to run the ball when Bledsoe was making over 600 attempts per year between 1994 and 1996?

I think Parcells runs the ball a lot because for the most part, the QB's he's coached have been craptacular with respect to protecting the football, therefore, they can't be trusted with it very much in the 2nd half while protecting a lead.

60
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 2:14pm

BlueStarDude, you're off the mark when you write that "It seems pretty clear that most people who watch the Cowboys week in and week out view Barber as the better blocking back." I think what you meant was that Barber has clearly been better than he was during the Atlanta game - but as to whether that's better than Jones would do, that's debatable. And you probably don't have a good enough memory to have an informed opinion on that, do you? Yours,

61
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 2:31pm

I dunno; I think Simms had about 29 attempts per interception. Aikman, I think, had about 33, Jim Kelly 27 or so, Dan Fouts roughly 23, Marino around 33, and Elway around 32. True, Montana and Young were in the high 30s, but if HOF qbs not named Montata and Young are "craptacular" at taking care of the ball, well, I don't know how much meaning the description has. I also don't know why quarterback runs should not be excluded when examining how much a coach likes to run the ball. I mean, other than Vick, how may qbs are running by design, as opposed to looking to pass first on the plays on which they end up recording a rushing attempt?

62
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 2:53pm

I should add that there are clearly times when Parcells has been more pass heavy than others. It is interesting that Bledsoe's interception/attempt ratio in New England when Parcells was coaching was quite good. I think Parcells is a very adaptable coach who is hard to characterize, other than to say that he generally uses personnel very efficiently.

63
by Playit (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 3:23pm

Re: Azibuck

Well there aren't stats to support the ability of blitz pickup one way or the other, but my own subjective opinion was that Richie Anderson was actually quite good in that area of the game. We can certainly agree to disagree there. I personally haven't found Parcell's PC to be that bad. Is it important to have a closer? Of course. Does that mean your closer is also not your starter? Why? I don't see why that can't be the case. What distinguishes Barber from Martin is that Parcells has clearly said since the beggining of the season that he thinks Barber would run down if given the full load. I think it's obvious he didn't feel the same way about Martin.

Re: Andrew

I agree with Will on most of what he wrote. I don't think considering the WR and QB carries are a good measure of running back distribution or generally running game intent. Dallas runs only a handful of designed QB runs. Most of those runs were on plays designed to be passes. Also, while I do think Parcells has been willing to adapt to his offense in the past, he seems intent on establishing a running game regardless of his talent at that position. 2003 is a good example. Even with Troy Hambrick as the primary ball carrier and averaging 3.5 ypc, Dallas still ran the ball more than most of the league. More than teams like Atlanta and KC.

As for Thompson, he would have likely had a larger role if he had stayed healthy. He played well in the preseason and had for the most part corrected his blocking and fumbling problems that were keeping him off the field. It's clear that using him more was a concern of the coaching staff from comments made during the season. Parcells routinely quotes the number of plays and touches players recieve in each game. He is keenly aware of distributing the load. You don't have to believe anything he says... that is your choice, but I have found him to be fairly honest in his comments. As for the fact that they signed another back. I don't think just because someone has RB behind their name that they suddenly earn the trust of the play caller. The fact that none of those backs have been able to remain on the roster should be telling of that fact.

I'm not sure who post 60 is too... If that's to me, then I think it contradicts post 39.

64
by azibuck (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 5:13pm

You find Parcells honest? I find him to be a borderline bald-faced liar. But we can disagree on that too.
Maybe you're just more perceptive than I am...
"I’m not sure who post 60 is too… If that’s to me, then I think it contradicts post 39."

...

65
by Rick (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 5:34pm

re: 62
When Parcells was the NE coach, Bledsoe was actually a very good QB. His game has dropped in recent years because his mobility has become comically bad.

re: 64
Parcells can be honest when he wants to be. For example, when he makes fun of the media for having already annointed Romo as some kind of savior. He usually only lies about his own career plans. And then, yeah, his lies are pretty bald-faced.

66
by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/22/2006 - 11:04am

Will Allen #61:

I dunno; I think Simms had about 29 attempts per interception. Aikman, I think, had about 33, Jim Kelly 27 or so, Dan Fouts roughly 23, Marino around 33, and Elway around 32. True, Montana and Young were in the high 30s, but if HOF qbs not named Montata and Young are “craptacular� at taking care of the ball, well, I don’t know how much meaning the description has.

Since the time these guys played, expectations and performance of the top QB's in the league have risen dramatically. QB's are now expected to be in the 35-40+ range for interception ratio. Ratios down near 30 (or lower) are not considered very good anymore, even if they were in 1988. A QB with a ratio of 30 or below is turning the ball over at least once per game.

I also don’t know why quarterback runs should not be excluded when examining how much a coach likes to run the ball. I mean, other than Vick, how may qbs are running by design, as opposed to looking to pass first on the plays on which they end up recording a rushing attempt?

Every QB making frequent sneaks (Brady comes to mind, but also a number of QB plunges at the goal line), your other running/mobile QB's who have designed draw plays and bootleg runs not named Vick (McNabb, Garcia, Plummer, Fumblepepper, McNair, Young, Carr, Garrard, etc.). Even a QB with just 20-25 rushing attempts on the season is going to have 5% of his teams rushing attempts total. Guys up near 40 are going to have 10%.

67
by kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 12/22/2006 - 1:07pm

Hey MDS, how about a Champ Bailey vs. Chad Johnson EPC next week, or a Lee Evans vs. Pac-Man Jones (if you'd rather focus on up-and-comers who are playing out of their minds out but not yet getting much recognition). Heck, even a Steve Smith vs. DeAngelo Hall, if you want to talk about how Hall is drastically overrated. I love the article, but I feel like most of the time it winds up focusing inside the box (Offensive Linemen, Defensive Linemen, RBs, LBs). In fact, outside of "The Bears Passing Attack" back in Week 3, "The Saints Defense" in Week 4, and "The Jets Defense" in week 14, you haven't made more than passing reference to any WRs or CBs yet (and even in the "Jets Defense" article, you focused on Run Defense and the Pass Rush. The CBs were only mentioned in the last 2 paragraphs).

I think EPC is a top-notch article, and I do understand the problems with watching CBs and WRs (mostly due to television angles), but if possible I'd love to see something a little bit different. CBs, especially, are the hardest for me to understand. Since I only see such a limited sampling of games every week, and since there are no good stats for measuring CBs yet, my understanding of CBs just comes from what I hear from the media (including you guys), mostly. I hear Hall is good, I hear Hall is overrated, I hear PacMan is a bust, I hear PacMan really turns it around, but I don't know what these players do well and what they do poorly.

68
by The Ninjalectual (not verified) :: Fri, 12/22/2006 - 4:08pm

RE Matt, 21:

If you have TiVo or DVR, often you can watch in slow-motion, note where defenders are lining up at the snap, and use the different angles provided in replays to "triangulate" what probably happened in the defensive secondary. Some reading of tea leaves is required, but it's better than the single close-up angle we get live.

69
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Sun, 12/24/2006 - 1:06pm

Playit : It was to myself. I think I hadn't been precise enough in the earlier post, and tried to fix it with a (probably poor) attempt at humor. Peace, bro.