Grading Cowboys @ Eagles: Rough Day At The Office For Cowboys Offense

Elsa

We take a close look at the performance of the offensive line, review how the wide receivers acquitted themselves and wonder how the remaining skill position players graded out against the Eagles.

Often after a win, still giddy with excitement of gameday, and in the thrall of highlight plays repeated endlessly on Sports Center, we as fans have a tendency to focus almost exclusively on the positives and block out most of the negatives. After all, a win is a win, right?

If that's your current frame of mind, then you'd better look for another post to read, because as we review the grades for the offense from Sunday, not everything is rainbows and unicorns.

As 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, Hatcher, and Bryant.

Offensive Line

For a while now, we've marveled at the Cowboys offensive line and the wall of green in the collective and individual grades. Well, that changed on Sunday, as the Cowboys OL had their lowest collective grade of the season.

Cowboys Offensive Line
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7
Overall Grade
-5.4 -0.5 +9.8 +9.0 +9.5 +5.4 -9.6
Run Blocking
-5.2 -0.3 +7.6 +5.2 +3.4 +2.7 -6.6
Pass Protect
-1.0 +1.0 +0.7 +3.2 +5.5 +1.3 -0.3

We also saw a return of the old O-line nemesis: penalties. The Cowboys' linemen were flagged for six penalties, one of which (on Leary) was offsetting. Doug Free had three false starts, Leary had one and Tyron Smith was flaggd for an illegal shift. Garrett blamed some of the struggles on the noise and on playing out of the shotgun.

"We just weren’t as clean as we needed to be, really, on both sides of the ball before the snap," he said. "We had four false starts on offense. Some of them had to do with being in shotgun and noise and all of that. We just didn’t handle that as well as we needed to. Similarly, they got us on some hard counts on defense. One of them happened on an interception, so those are significant plays, and we have to do a better job of cleaning that up."

PFF take a very dim view of penalties in their grades and hand out a -2.7 cumulative penalty grade for the O-line. Here's how the linemen graded out individually:


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

LT LG C RG RT
Total
+0.3 -2.4 -3.9 +0.1 -3.7
Run Blocking
-0.4 -0.4 -3.5 -1.4 -0.9
Pass Protect
+1.1 -1.4 -0.7 +1.1 -0.4
Penalties
-0.4 -0.6 +0.3 +0.4 -2.4

But credit where credit is due: The Eagles defensive ends Cedric Thornton (+1.6) and Fletcher Cox (+2.9) graded out as two of the top three Eagles defenders, and their play made life difficult for the interior offensive line.

Receivers

For once, Tony Romo went hard after Dez Bryant, throwing the ball his way 17 times, the most targets Bryant has had in his NFL career. Unfortunately, only eight of those passes were caught due to a combination of bad throws and bad refereeing, and even on the passes he caught, Dez Bryant had to work hard for his yards: 43 of his 110 yards came after contact.

Player Targets Receptions Yards TD Receiving grade Overall Grade
Dez Bryant 17 8 110 0 +2.3 +2.4
Terrance Williams 7 6 71 1 +0.5 +0.6
Cole Beasley 7 6 53 0 +0.8 +0.9
Jason Witten 6 4 48 0 +0.1 +2.8
Miles Austin 3 0 0 0 -0.9 -0.4

Bryant's explosiveness and big play ability is opening up the passing lanes, and both Williams and Beasley are taking advantage of that. Through a combination of speed, route running and bad coverage, both have abnormally high reception rates: Beasley (18-for-21) and Williams (24-for-28) rank a joint No. 1 in the NFL with an 85.7% reception percentage.

Other Skill Position Players

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

  • Tony Romo (82 of 82 snaps, -1.4). Two interceptions are not going to help your case much, but Romo's -0.8 passing grade is mostly based on negative grades he received for his play under pressure (the Eagles blitzed him 19 times). Oddly, he also got a -0.8 grade as a runner.
  • Joseph Randle (45/82, -1.2): Like Romo, Randle also gets a -0.8 grade as a receiver and slightly better -0.6 grade as a runner. The red grade doesn't look great, and we all would have loved for Randle to explode, particularly in this game, but think about the performance of the fifth-round rookie (who missed large parts of camp) this way: He didn't fumble the ball; he didn't give up a sack, hit, or hurry; and he didn't drop a pass. So there's always that.
  • Phillip Tanner (21/82, +0.2): Brought in mostly as a pass protector on third down, he did not allow a single QB disruption.
  • James Hanna (24/82, -1.3): On 17 run-blocking plays, Hanna collected a -1.4 grade. For the season, he is now at -7.3 as a run-blocker. I'm still baffled by why the Cowboys are asking the speedy downfield receiving threat to stay in and block in the first place, especially when TE Andre Smith got only two snaps on Sunday.
  • Gavin Escobar (22/82, -1.3): Escobar stayed in to run-block on nine plays for a -1.0 grade. How much stronger can Escobar get next offseason, and will it be enough?

Tom Ryle will follow up with a separate review of the defensive grades at 2:00 pm ET.

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