|Inside 20||Inside 10|
The Cowboys were much more effective in the red zone in 2016 than the previous season due to the arrival of stellar rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Elliott was eighth in the NFL in red zone attempts, but top-three in both yards (143) and touchdowns (12.) Prescott also added much-needed stability from 2015’s underwhelming trio of Tony Romo, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore. With Prescott under center, the Cowboys red zone passing attack saw improvements across the board, and Prescott also doubled as a highly-effective runner, scoring a touchdown on six of his nine carries inside the 20.
Not all Dallas players benefited from Prescott being under center. Cole Beasley dropped from a team-high 17 red zone targets in 2015 to eight last season. Terrance Williams also declined from 10 to four red zone targets in 2016. Tight ends combined to command 20 RZ targets in 2015, while Jason Witten gobbled up a team-leading 16 such looks last year. Witten was a big part of the Dallas offense between the 20-and 10-yard lines, but only saw three looks inside the 10.
Look for Dez Bryant to dominate red zone targets if he can stay healthy. Bryant has missed 10 games over the past two seasons, including three last year. Despite those games, Bryant finished second on the team with 12 red zone looks and led Dallas with seven targets inside the 10. With Ezekiel Elliott now established as a premiere scoring threat as a runner, conditions are favorable for Bryant to jump up to double-digit touchdowns in 2017.
New York Giants
|Inside 20||Inside 10|
23.3% of New York’s red zone targets from 2016 are no longer with the team. Enter new arrivals Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram to assist in that area. Marshall himself got 21 RZ looks for a moribund Jets offense last year and is in a nice position to rebound and become a sneaky weekly WR2/3 and an excellent value pick in the middle rounds. Engram isn’t much of a blocker, so he’s expected to be utilized as a big slot receiver. His size and athleticism make in an intriguing option over the middle and in the end zone. Odell Beckham dominated red zone targets once again. Beckham’s 21 looks were fourth in the league, but he only hauled in nine of those passes (42.9%) after catching 11 of 18 (61%) in 2015. Overall, New York attempted 30% fewer passes in the red zone compared to 2015, so Beckham’s target share was actually much higher. Interestingly, every red zone target thrown to Beckham in 2016 came out of the shotgun formation, and 86% of them also came from the no-huddle offense.
Sterling Shepard had a very strong rookie campaign, catching 9 of 12 red zone targets and leading the Giants with 78 receiving yards. But considering New York will attempt to establish a better ground game and the additions of Marshall and Engram, Shepard looks due to play a decreased role inside the 20 in 2017.