Unrivaled Cowboys Info 24/7

Cowboys Film Study: Counters

We recently studied the Cowboys’ success in 2009 running draw plays.  We discovered that, although Dallas is a superb draw-running team, the frequency with which the team ran the play caused their draw efficiency to decline as the season progressed.

In fact, the Cowboys actually averaged over a full yard less per carry on draws than on all other runs.  To regain the effectiveness of the draw, we concluded that the Cowboys must run less of them in 2010.  In doing so, defenses will be less prepared to defend them and the Cowboys can then reach the Nash equilibrium (the point where the average yards-per-carry will be maximized).

We decided to conduct a similar study on counter plays, with the results shown above.  Counter runs utilize misdirection–a running back either hesitates or starts one way before changing direction and receiving the hand-off.  Offenses will sometimes even pull linemen to the backside of the play to really confuse a defense.

Notice the incredible success the Cowboys had on counters last season, particularly Felix Jones.  Since counters are finesse type runs, it is logical that Jones received the most carries on counter plays and also gained the most yards.  His 10.0 yards-per-carry is absolutely ridiculous, particularly with a sample size as large as 22 runs.

Barber also performed fairly well on counters, perhaps because defenses were less inclined to expect a misdirection play with him in the game as opposed to Jones.  Thus, Barber’s counter average was higher than his yards-per-carry on other runs.

Tashard Choice’s low average means nothing because the sample size of just three runs is much too small to draw meaningful conclusions.

When comparing the overall counter stats with the numbers from the other types of runs (shown to the right), you can see just how effective the Cowboys were running counters in 2009.  They averaged 2.9 yards-per-carry more on counters than other runs, particularly because the opportunity for a big play is so much greater.

Notice the Cowboys had a significantly higher percentage of big plays on counters as well.  In fact, when running counters Dallas was 1.5 times as likely to run for 10+ yards, 3.5 times as likely to run for 20+ yards, and an incredible 6.9 times as likely to run for 40+ yards as compared to all non-counter runs.

It is worth noting that the percentage of negative plays on counters was higher than on non-counters, but this is to be expected from a finesse, misdirection sort of play.  Counters are generally run in situations when an offense is less likely to be debilitated from a negative play (such as 2nd and 5 as compared to, say, 3rd and 2).

Still, the Cowboys were only 1.5 times as likely to lose yardage on a counter as compared to a non-counter, so the risk was well worth the reward.

Ultimately, Dallas would be well-suited to significantly increase the number of counters they run in 2010, especially with Jones.  It may also be smart to replace some of the draw plays with counters, particularly because the two types of run plays are generally called in similar situations.


March 31, 2010 - Posted by | Film Study/Stats, Miscellaneous | , , , , ,


  1. Good article! Loved the way you defined counter. A lot of readers need a little help. We automatically assume everyone is on the same page. I was surprised at Barbers effectiveness. Felix reminds me more and more of Dorsett.

    Comment by john coleman | March 31, 2010 | Reply

    • You’re right. Sometimes I make the mistake of not defining words I consider to be common knowledge that really aren’t common at all.

      Barber’s success surprised me as well, but Jones’ numbers are just insane. There is a real problem if these counter numbers don’t significantly increase in 2010.

      Comment by jongb35 | March 31, 2010 | Reply

  2. No doubt people are going to key on Felix. Even more so if he is the starter. But, that’s really what we want. Same thing with Miles and Witten. Tendancies could really help Roy and Marty. They won’t draw the attention of the other two. So if they are ready, look out. Choice is ready for a big year too. A slot guy could have a field day too. Maybe Ogletree moves in there fulltime. I think he can play in or out. Who knows, maybe Hurd if we keep him, breaks out. Sensi and Hamlin can do it up right this year if they stay healthy. Unless we have injury or big time fall off somewhere, we should be better. If any of the draft picks or redshirt guys chip in, it’s a bonus. I’M PUMPED! I hope our draft doesn’t deflate me. Our schedule(regular season) is tough, so we will find out who we are. Washington will be better, but Philly and the Giants are hard pressed. The Giants were lucky two yrs ago. But they have our number.

    Comment by john coleman | April 1, 2010 | Reply

    • I never really thought about Ogletree as a slot guy. I would love to see him get some reps there during preseason.

      Unless the Cowboys completely tank, you will like this draft. The depth is incredible, with players like Newhouse, Spikes, and Shipley possibly 4th rounders.

      Comment by jongb35 | April 2, 2010 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: