The Dallas Cowboys are back in action this Sunday, and so our advanced stats notebook returns. Week 11 finds the NFC East in even more disarray than the last time we took a look at the environment.
We’ve got notes on Andy Dalton’s return, the keys to Daniel Jones’ recent success, and just how good a couple young talents from Washington and Philadelphia. Let’s get to it.
109 – EPA/play rank of Dalton’s only full game this year
Alright this is a bit of a confusing one so let me elaborate. Andy Dalton has played 136 career games with at least 5 dropbacks. If we rank each game by his EPA/play, his three games this year are his 109th, 122nd, and 127th best. Whether it’s because he’s still getting used to playing for a new team for the first time in a decade or because he’s just getting older, it’s clear he has not found his footing since coming to Dallas. But that doesn’t mean he can’t get better! Here I’ve plotted Dalton’s season by season EPA/play (the solid line) along with the NFL average as well as Dalton’s rolling EPA/play on his most recent 300 plays (the squiggly line). I added that last one because it’s important to note that while his 2020 total is drastically below any other season he’s had, if we expand the sample size a bit to his most recent 300 plays he’s actually just on the low end of his career rather than being historically bad. Getting low-end Andy Dalton production isn’t exactly exciting or encouraging, but I don’t think we should expect to see such bad performances from him moving forward. Rather, we should see your standard below-average performances, which would be the best thing we’ve seen from a Cowboys QB since Dak went down.
2.12 – Travis Fulgham’s yards per route run (YPRR)
The Eagles spent all of 2019 wishing they had a healthy wide receiver corps. Their 2nd round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside underwhelmed and the rest all seemed to be constantly nursing an injury. As it turns out, there was a different receiver from the 2019 class that would come to their aid. Travis Fulgham has become the team’s leading receiver. Among 66 wideouts with at least 40 targets, Fulgham ranks 16th in YPRR. The idea of this statistic is that receivers are at least partially responsible for drawing targets, and a per route stat factors that in while a per target or per catch stat does not. He did, however, prove to be a still-developing receiver last weekend, catching just one of five targets for 8 yards. It was a tough outing, but the signs are still there that he can be an important piece of this offense.
-1 – Antonio Gibson’s rush yards over expectation
Next Gen Stats uses player tracking data to predict how many yards a given run play will go based on the position and speed of every player on the field at the time of a handoff. It’s turned into a great way to help decipher how much of a running back’s production is due to his talent and how much is due to his blocking and scheme. As it turns out, Antonio Gibson is producing nearly exactly as well as we’d expect him to be. Now we obviously can’t tell how good a player is strictly based on something like this, but it does indicate that his production thus far is as much due to the position he’s being put in by his coaches and teammates.
91.4 – Daniel Jones’ Week 10 QBR
The New York Giants enter their bye week after a decisive win over the presumptive division-favorite Philadelphia Eagles, throwing yet another wrench into the NFC East picture. And it was largely thanks to a big day from Daniel Jones. Jones’ 91.4 QBR was the best single-game QBR of his career and the best in the NFL last weekend. And he did it despite being under pressure on 42.4% of his dropbacks, per PFF. The key was how well he used his legs. Jones carried the ball 9 times for 64 yards and a touchdown. He had a better EPA/carry than Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, and Josh Allen. https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1328037670916812800?s=20 If the Eagles stumble against the Browns this week, and the Giants keep moving forward with this read-option offense, New York has a shot at the East.
Remainders – 5.1%
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), the Cowboys have just a 5.1% chance of winning the division now. But perhaps the most interesting thing about their projections are the win totals for all four teams. https://twitter.com/SethWalder/status/1328328739986567170?s=20 At this point in time, it’s more likely than not that the Eagles, or whoever wins the NFC East, will set the new low bar for number of wins to clinch the division, surpassing the 7-9 record of the 2010 Seahawks by half a win. History in the making!