Grading Cowboys @ Chargers: Offensive Performances Of Note

Donald Miralle

We look at how the individual players on the Cowboys offense graded out versus the Chargers, and also look at some cumulative grades for the first quarter of the season.

The disappointment over Sunday's loss to the Chargers still lingers, which makes it especially hard to look back at Sunday's game with enough critical distance. Yet that's exactly what we'll try to do as we review the Pro Football Focus player grades to see how the individual efforts of the players graded out.

Us usual, follow the link for PFF's detailed FAQ, which should answer the vast majority of questions about their grading system. PFF also have their own review of the game up, and that is definitely worth a read, this time they focus on the Lee, carter and the offensive line, and we'll start with a review of the offensive line as well.

Offensive Line

We noted last week that the offensive line had been steadily improving, and that continued against the Chargers:

Cowboys Offensive Line
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3 Week 4
Overall Grade
-5.4 -0.5 +9.8 +9.0
Run Blocking
-5.2 -0.3 +7.6 +5.2
Pass Protect
-1.0 +1.0 +0.7 +3.2

Jermey Parnell came in for two snaps to spell Tyron Smith and promptly got flagged for holding. His -0.9 grade for two snaps in pass protection don't significantly alter the overall picture. The Cowboys O-line played a very nice game, and Jason Garret said he was pleased with the performance:

"I thought they played well. We ran for nearly 6 yards a carry. We blocked a front that has traditionally rushed the passer well," he said. "There are some matchup problems that those guys can present. Dwight Freeney is a great player, and has been a great player, in this league for a long time. I thought we blocked him well. I thought we blocked some of the other guys well. Tony had time to throw the football."

This is very good news for the Cowboys, as the offensive line had been considered a major weakness heading into the season. Here's how the linemen graded out individually:


T. Smith R. Leary T. Frederick B. Waters D. Free

LT LG C RG RT
Total
+2.9 -0.3 +2.1 +2.7 +2.5
Run Blocking
+0.9 +0.1 +1.3 +1.6 +0.6
Pass Protect
+1.6 -0.7 +0.6 +0.8 +2.5

Note that Brian Waters played every single snap, relegating Mackenzy Bernadeau to backup duty. Note also that Travis Frederick had his second consecutive game with a strong positive grade, giving him a season grade of +1.9. At the quarter mark of the season, that makes Frederick the highest graded 2013 first-round rookie offensive lineman. Think about that for a minute.

Here's a look at where each Cowboys offensive lineman ranks versus his NFL peers at his position after four games:

POS Player Position Rank Qualifying Players Percentile Season Grade
RT Doug Free 1 72 99% +13.7
LT Tyron Smith 25 72 65% +3.1
OC Travis Frederick 11 33 67% +1.9
RG* Brian Waters 24 70 66% +1.9
LG Ronald Leary 46 70 34% -3.1

Skill Position Players

Here are some of the high- and lowlights from the skill position players:

  • Tony Romo (60 of 60 snaps, +0.1). Romo had a passer rating of 108.4, but the graders at PFF weren't that impressed with his game on Sunday. The PFF grading system doesn't reward a short, high-percentage passing game quite as much as the passer rating does.
  • DeMarco Murray (57/60, -0.7): Murray grades out negatively for the last play of the game where he fumbled a pass by Romo. His 5.0 YPA on the ground doesn't get a lot of recognition from the graders, who assign most of the credit for that YPA to the offensive line.
  • Dez Bryant (60/60, +1.6): Two TDs will make almost any receiver look good, and Bryant probably received extra good marks for the way he made both TDs happen.
  • Terrance Williams (52/60, -1.3): Williams caught seven of eight passes thrown his way, but he had a dropped pass and a fumble. The PFF graders take a very dim view of both and usually grade a drop or a fumble between -0.7 and -0.9, which explains Williams' grade.
  • James Hanna (13/60, -1.9): Hanna was only asked to run-block four times, and that may have been four times too many according to the PFF graders, who hand Hanna a -2.0 for his run-blocking on those four snaps. For the season, Hanna is -4.0 as a runblocker, which makes you wonder why the Cowboys are asking the speedy downfield receiving threat (who's caught all four passes thrown his way) to stay in and block in the first place.

We'll have a review of the defensive grades sometime tomorrow.

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