Dallas Cowboys: Pros and Cons of a Ball Control Offense [an analysis]

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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dallas cowboys
Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

What would the Dallas Cowboys sacrifice for ball control?

If the Dallas Cowboys moved to a ball control offense, what exactly would they be sacrificing? Points for one. Not just total points from fewer possessions, but fewer points per drive. If the Dallas Cowboys decided to lean on their running game they’d suffer immensely.

Early down runs this year (excluding garbage time) have only resulted in a 30.4% success rate with an expected points added (EPA) per play of -.296 (notice this is a negative number). The early down passing game has produced, on the other hand, a 44.6% success rate with an EPA of +.238.

The Cowboys O-line can’t effectively run block therefore Zeke can’t effectively run.

That’s not overly surprising since running game success is less of function of the running back and more a product of the offensive line. That’s why Cleveland continued to dominate even after they lost their elite RB and that’s why running backs are perhaps the most replaceable position in the NFL. The Cowboys O-line can’t effectively run block, therefore Zeke can’t effectively run. Simple as that.

Overall, the Dallas Cowboys are one of the top producing passing offenses in the NFL. When they pass the ball, the likelihood of them scoring points is greater than when they run the ball. In fact, running the ball has a net loss in expected points so one can say running the ball hurts the Cowboys scoring chances greatly and the dominant passing game is what bails it out.

To put things in perspective, that’s not entirely uncommon in today’s NFL. Only a handful of teams produce more expected points on the ground than they do through the air and none of them are considered good on offense. That explains why nearly every NFL offense heavily favors the pass over the run.

So the idea of shifting to a ball control offense would come at a tremendous price. It would replace the NFLs 12th best early down passing offense with the NFL’s 30th ranked early down rushing attack (EPA/play).