Two weeks ago, we looked at what the Football Outsiders stats had to say about the 2-2 Cowboys, two weeks before that we looked at what they said about the 1-1 Cowboys. Today, we'll look at where those same stats see the Cowboys after six weeks, and we'll compare and contrast that with the Week 2 and Week 4 Football Outsiders (FO) metrics.
Overall team efficiency.
Good news after six weeks of data: The FO metrics are showing a steady improvement in the overall team efficiency. Unfortunately, that improvement is not happening across all three team units. Here are FO's Team Efficiency Rankings after six weeks:
|Overall Team Efficiency (Rank)
The FO metrics suggest the offense is a top ten unit, and the improvement vs. Week 4 is driven by the performance against the Broncos, while the performance against the Redskins prevented the offense from ranking even higher. Special teams have catapulted themselves back into the top five with an impressive performance against the Redskins, courtesy of Dwayne Harris, but the defense remains a below average unit according to these metrics.
FO use Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) as a measure to rank offensive skill position players. DYAR gives the value of a player's performance compared to a replacement level player at the same position, adjusts it for the game situation and opponent, and then translates that into a yardage number. Here's how the offensive skill position players have fared over the last two weeks:
|Yards Above Replacement, Offense, through Week 6, 2013|
|Player||POS||DYAR||Week 6 Rank||Week 4 Rank||Week 2 Rank||Change wk 6 to wk 4
This is a good situation for the Cowboys. Romo, Murray and Bryant built on their strong positions, and both Witten and Williams made significant jumps vs. Week 4. Williams' emergence in particular is very encouraging for the Cowboys, and it may not be much longer before Williams becomes the official number two wide receiver, even with a healthy Miles Austin. At tight end, Witten has bounced back from a slow start, but the other two tight ends have not yet had the impact that was expected from them.
Another big part of the overall offensive rank is the O-line, which seems to be chugging along nicely.
|Offensive Line (Rank)
|Run Blocking||Pass Protection|
The offensive line looks good in pass protection, but still has its ups and downs in run blocking. The main issue, according to FO, remains the success on short yardage runs on third or fourth down, where the line doesn't appear able to consistently create enough push.
In raw yardage stats, the Cowboys defense ranks 30th against the pass and 19th against the run. In terms of DVOA, the Cowboys rank better in both categories, but not by too much.
|Overall Defense (Rank)
The concern here is that we're not seeing much of an improvement. An adjustment period was to be expected as the defense moved to a new scheme, but the lack of progress is a bit disconcerting, injuries to the defensive line notwithstanding. The pass defense is still an issue, despite playing well against the Redskins, and the run defense has regressed.
A drop from number 9 to number 15 may not seem like much, but keep in mind that these weekly values are cumulative, so the Cowboys' run defense must have been quite bad in Weeks 5 & 6 to drive the 6-week average down to 15.
Moving on to the defensive front seven:
|Pass Rush||Run Blocking|
|Overall||Power Success||Stuffed||2nd level yards||Open field yards|
The front seven remains an average unit overall, despite regressed in some of the run-related metrics (look them up here for detailed explanations). Given the injury situation along the defensive line, an average performance is probably something that should be considered a success.
For the pass defense, FO also offer an interesting metric by looking at the DVOA versus different types of receivers. Here's how the Cowboys fared so far:
|vs. #1 WR||vs. #2 WR||vs. Other WR||vs. TE||vs. RB|
There's an interesting dynamic going on here. The Cowboys, and Orlando Scandrick in particular, are doing an excellent job of shutting down the opponent's slot receivers. Wes Welker was held to just five receptions and 49 yards on a day when Peyton Manning threw for 414 yards, Santana Moss had just two catches last Sunday.
There's also some notable improvement against the #1 wide receivers the defense faces. Here, Brandon Carr's performance against Pierre Garcon is a key driver: Carr limited Garcon to two catches and 26 yards on ten targets on Sunday night.
The Cowboys are still struggling against the underneath throws to running backs and tight ends, but there are encouraging signs that the pass defense could perhaps improve over the coming weeks as the corners get more comfortable in the new scheme.
Overall, the Football Outsiders stats suggest that the Cowboys have to like where their offense is at right now, and they must be very pleased with their special teams. The injuries along the front seven are a big concern going forward, but they may be balanced with encouraging signs from the cornerback play.
"Our corners played lights out," Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said after the Washington game. "They really played outstanding. That was their best game against good wide receivers."