The Utilization of Jason Witten

Discussion in 'Fan Zone' started by McLovin, Sep 16, 2013.

  1. McLovin

    McLovin Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure I will get a quiver full of arrows for this assessment, but I have thought for a long time that the offense (/ Romo) is WAY,WAY too reliant on Witten. This is not to say that Jason Witten is not a good TE or that all of this is his fault (directly or indirectly).

    So let me preface the good things that Witten does. When he catches passes moving toward the opponents Goaline or even at a 45 degree angle, he is as good as it gets at moving the chains. His knack for finding openings in zones and selling routes is impeccable. He has great hands, uses his body to "box out defenders", and never fumbles.

    However, he is not an explosive athelete or even remotely agile using the eyeball test. Curl routes and 2 yard stop and turn with shoulders pointed toward the Dallas endzone are what defenses salivate to see. Yet that is all too frequent the check down option.

    I am a stat / finance grad, work in assessing risks for investments, I love some good stats, but to me football is way to complicated for definitive stats because it relies on so many moving parts of a system and the sample/game size is small. It doesn't lend itself to baseball Batting avg, OBS, ERA, etc. Sure I can buy that being efficient in passing and stopping the pass has a high correlation with winning, just I have postulated that scoring >13 pts in the first half strongly boosts your winning %.

    That said, the NFL seems to be morphing into a faster more dynamic game. While it is great to see a Cowboy on amongst all-time leaders in receptions, I have felt that because the lack of a big play threat, all of the targets Witten receives has led to some memorable plays but at the cost of too many 3rd and 4 and a 2 yard reception.

    While I am looking at some other data, I thought I would post the following as an overview. I looked back to 2008-12 at the the top 20 TEs in receiving yards. That figure was a quick 2 minute pull from ESPN and captures the top TEs in those years. What it shows is that Witten is not that effective in what I think TEs should be used for when looking at a per reception or per target basis - 1st downs or TDs.

    If there is a good way to share a spreadsheet, I would be willing to add the link for those wanting to see the other player data. I am not saying this is an exhaustive analysis and Im not ruling out all confirmation bias, but the typical measure of these Stat leaders are - Rec, yards, TD. I think you have to normalize some data (i.e. if you throw to one receiver 100% of the time - they may lead in yards, REc and TDs, but at what cost?)

    In 2012, 1st Dn/Rec percentage of 51% compares to Gronkowski's 82%, Gonzalez's 70%, Graham's 69%. I would like to get this for 3rd down's but haven't got all the data yet. Dez 1stDown/Rec was 59% and Miles Austin was 73%.

    Additionally, 110 Receptions is simply too much and points to a very conservative and predictable offense as Witten does not pose the same big play threat of Gronk, Graham, Gonzales (less now), or Finley.

    If I were defensive coordinator, all I would do is defend the seam route or somehow give Witten the route perpendicular to the sideline. Romo will throw it that way.

    Anyway, I hope to find some more interesting data. The list from this analysis had a few surprises. Again, Witten is a great TE, but to me he needs to be utilized less often to keep defenses honest by knowing there isn't a high chance of Witten on 3rd down.
    koolaid, visionary, Idgit and 5 others like this.
  2. dexternjack

    dexternjack World Traveler

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    Statistics, love it! I touched on this in my thread. The offense seems to go through Witten and it should be the opposite, he should compliment it and be there to block and find the seams and moving the chains. I don't blame JW at all, I blame the coaches.
  3. 50cent

    50cent Well-Known Member

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    Ill be happy when 50% of his targets are thrown in Miles direction. Too many targets for a marginal TD maker. Rely on Miles as your possession WR, not Witten!
  4. links18

    links18 Well-Known Member

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    We have three other TE's on the team. Hanna looks to be just about as shifty as Witten and Escobar is an unknown at this point. I know nothing about the other guy.
  5. MichaelWinicki

    MichaelWinicki "You want some?" Staff Member

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    Too much of the offense goes through Witten... And that's partially why it bogs down so much. Like others have mentioned in other threads... Witten hasn't broken a tackle in years.
    visionary, MrMom and JakeCamp12 like this.
  6. McLovin

    McLovin Well-Known Member

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    The problem is we have wasted many a draft pick on for this fabled 2 TE formation and the main TE is not the skillset of Gronk or Graham. The mismatches are only in small ball. Gronk and Graham are fast and atheletic enough to plant a foot, and make a defender take bad angles. Our TEs are not.

    Really when you watch other teams, you really begin to see that this team has no idea where there strengths are. There is no attack, there is reaction and minimize. In the last few years we have brought in Fasano, not used him, Bennett not used him all under the guise of 2 TE sets. Then we go to a zone blocking line and bring in Berny and Livings, draft and sign man covers to move to cover 2, go from 3-4 to 4-3, now there is talk of all the mismatches a 13 package presents. Meanwhile I get the feeling other teams are like " whoa, they benched Miles or Dez for Escobar?" It may work once because its like seeing a 400lb woman on a unicycle and your get discombobulated, but that personell is not striking fear in the NFL
  7. BoysFan4ever

    BoysFan4ever Well-Known Member

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    Witten gets a pass on this from me. Excuse the pun.

    Team leader. Reliable receiver. Clutch. As long as he's able he's the man.
  8. McLovin

    McLovin Well-Known Member

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    I don't even care if he breaks a tackle if his stop route gets to the sticks. I have a hard time conceptualizing how that is a consistent problem. I know Witten is veteran enough to find the sticks, so it must be the route, but why would there be a route that short of the sticks unless it has receiver moving Forward at least? I can see if the defense is spying, but even 2 yards Witten should be able to box out.

    Its a conundrum that is part coaching, part Witten and maybe part Romo if he refuses to try to fit the ball in a window - EVER.
  9. ScipioCowboy

    ScipioCowboy More than meets the eye.

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    Good analysis.
  10. KB1122

    KB1122 Well-Known Member

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    Been my fundamental assesssment for years. Witten has been an outstanding player. But there is an opportunity cost to throwing to the tight end too often.
  11. JakeCamp12

    JakeCamp12 Well-Known Member

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    I don't think the issue is Witten as much as it is ROMO always looking for Witten. Romo seems to lock on to Witten and never progresses through his reads. I honestly put the blame on Romo more than the offense design or Witten himself.
    visionary likes this.
  12. bbailey423

    bbailey423 Well-Known Member

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    To the OP...good research. I have never done the research....but the eyeball test and watchign other teams play says it all for me. Been saying this for a couple of years and I get shouted down every time. Started a thread last week stating 30 touches as WAY TOO MANY for Demarco Murray. Again, I got shouted down. Now all I see is thread after thread about his lack of vision on agility. Too often....and I blame the owner....but too often we want to make stars out of EVERYBODY that has a good game for Dallas. And that sense of entitlement seeps into a players head...and what you get is a guy like Jay Ratliff who REFUSED to move the the position his body was BEST suited for (a 3-4 DE). SO what we have is a beaten broken man whose body cannot respond 9 months later to surgery. We are now on our THIRD....THIRD TE that we have used a 2nd round pick on. Why? Because none of them were EVER given a chance to contribute. Guys like Jason Witten are very reliable solid players. But that does not make them effective to the degree we use them. Had we involved MartyB more....our run game, our offense, our explosiveness on offense would have benefited greatly. At this point I am sure Witten has his eyes on the HOF.....and he is not going to get there having his catches drop to about 70. But that is honestly where it needs to be. About 4 or 5 a game. And the rest need to be directed to players that are more explosive. Players that can catch, turn and face the defense....make a defender miss......and gallop through the middle of the field or down the sideline. Dallas is getting left behind with this archaic approach to offense. And it will not change until you get someone in here that has ZERO ties to the 90s Cowboys. And let them install a MODERN day offense!
    Mr Cowboy likes this.
  13. cannonball44

    cannonball44 Stephen Peterman's Campaign Manager

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    Wow. I completely agree with every word about Witten and this offense and the coaches and ive felt that way for years. Witten, for all his greatness, does not add to the explosiveness of this offense like a Gates, Davis, Finley, or now Julius Thomas.

    and i fear that the problem is even when we get someone of superior athletic ability like a JT, he'll forever sit behind HOF Witten (deservedly so in many peoples opinion im sure) but we're handicapping ourselves with this dimension of our offense.
  14. kevm3

    kevm3 Well-Known Member

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    As much as you might not like to hear it, TO called it a long time ago. You're not going to win games throwing to Witten all day long. That's what teams want us to do. They'd much rather have Romo throw the ball to Witten than down the field to Dez or Miles. Witten is an outstanding player, but honestly I feel we are a more fluid offense if Tony Romo doesn't have the option to throw it to him because he has to look down the field much more.
  15. Yakuza Rich

    Yakuza Rich Well-Known Member

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    I think the past 2 years we have utilized him poorly. Witten is great because he's extremely good at getting to the first down marker and executing the first down. He's also excellent on those intermediate routes and occasionally he can do well on a longer pass. That and he can block.

    But, he's not a catch the ball run with and break tackles. We have used him more that way and it makes him and the offense less effective. And when we start to see 'bad Romo', he starts relying on him too much...particularly on 3rd down. Re-watching the game we would see Romo look downfield and then turn to throw to Witten on a short pass. The defense knows that is his tendency and almost picked off a couple of those passes.

  16. Frozen700

    Frozen700 Well-Known Member

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    Witten is a HOF....

    The routes he was running the "out routes"...

    Sorry he just cant do it anymore.

    He does not have the speed or quickness to run it. When throwing out, you have to lead the WR/TE...Witten can't catch up to it. If you throw it at his numbers, you are risking a pick, because most Db's jump the out routes
    BigStar likes this.
  17. ufcrules1

    ufcrules1 Well-Known Member

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    Great post OP and dead on.
  18. Future

    Future Intramural Legend

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    Hard to argue with that.

    I appreciate Witten as much as anyone, but I wonder how much more explosive this offense would be if he weren't in the game.
  19. EPL0c0

    EPL0c0 The Funcooker

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    It's also a matter of who is better at getting open and presenting an open target for the quarterback. I'm w/ you on this, but fact is that Witten gets open. Of course, thanks to the limited scope of the television screen, I (we) can't always see how often Miles gets open and is not thrown to
  20. McLovin

    McLovin Well-Known Member

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    To a degree yes, but like with the first pass to Dez, he was not "open" in the sense he had to jump and extend over the CB and make the catch WHILE drawing a PI. When Miles or Dez gets 1-1 coverage, that really should be the first option and trust them to make the play

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