3rd Downs the Charm

With the Cowboys first preseason game of the year coming this Thursday, the Cowboys will have plenty of opportunity to execute some of the attacking defensive schemes Wade Phillips has installed in Dallas. We won’t see the whole arsenal obviously, but I would expect the Cowboys to make it a point to make some stops this time around. When Ellis went down last year, the defensive struggles came with it. Whether or not this was a coincidence is debatable. Ellis won’t play, so we’ll see how Spencer and the others in rotation fare.

What I want to see the Cowboys do the most is execute their 3rd down stoppages. Last year, the Cowboys had a difficult time stopping teams on 3rd down, which obviously kept drives alive and teams in the game even if we were ahead. That must end if we want to get to the big game this year. Todd Archer has a good article covering this topic as well.

The article states that among the 6 NFC teams in the playoffs, the Cowboys rated the poorest on 3rd down stoppages. The Cowboys allowed teams to convert on 3rd down 43.9% of the time.

Akin Ayodele commented on the shortfalls last year:

“You don’t want to say this, but it takes a little bit out of you, especially if you’re good on first and second down,” linebacker Akin Ayodele said. “If it’s third and 7 or third and 10 and they convert, it just sucks the air out of you.”

I would agree with Akin on that one too. This was very frustrating and a big burden on the offense to keep pace and score on every drive possible.

The Cowboys new Defensive Coordinator, Brian Stewart plans to change this lackluster percentage in favor of the Cowboys.

“Everywhere I’ve been we’ve strived to be the best third-down team in the league,” Stewart said, “and that’s not going to change here.”

Stewart equates 3rd down stoppages to takeaways as well, let’s hope this happens. I’m optimistic that it will, especially with playmakers like DeMarcus Ware leading the way.

“You want takeaways,” Stewart said, “but third downs, to me, is taking the ball away from the other team. You force them to punt or kick a field goal when they’re in the red zone on third down, I think you win that series.”

In other local news, American Idol has found its way to Texas Stadium. Thousands of people lined up before dawn to get a chance at being the next Idol. Let’s see if Dallas has some funny out takes, those are my favorites.

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