Who Were The Cowboys' Most Productive Defenders In 2013?

Donald Miralle

At the end of the 2013 season, the Cowboys defense collapsed under the weight of its accumulated injuries. Yet that didn't stop some players from being highly productive defenders while other players were less so. We look at who did what in a little more detail.

At the end of November last year, Jason Garrett gave some rare insight into how the Cowboys evaluate their players when he praised Kyle Wilber's performance after the 24-21 win over the Giants.

"I think he played 25 plays in the game last week against the Giants and had 24 production points," Garrett said. "That doesn't mean anything to you guys but that was a really positive performance. He was around the ball a lot ... He is certainly still learning the position. He doesn't always pull the trigger as quick as he needs to just because he hasn't seen the looks as much, but he is playing better and better."

Wilber had four solo tackles, three assists and one TFL against the Giants. Using a standard Fantasy IDP scoring system, which rewards solo tackles with one point and assisted tackles with 0.5 points, we don't get anywhere near the 24-point total that Garrett ascribes to Wilber.

A little digging in the interwebs unearthed a "Production points system" used in youth football scoring system that uses the following scoring system:

Defensive Touchdown = 10 points
Forced Fumble = 5 points
Fumble Recovery = 5 points
Interception = 5 points
Sack = 5 points
QB Hit = 5 points
Tackle for a Loss = 3 points
Solo Tackle = 3 points
Assisted Tackle = 3 points
Pass Deflection = 2 points
Missed Tackle = -1 point

Using the point system above, Wilber would get exactly 24 points for his four solo tackles, three assists and one TFL (though we'd be double-counting the TFL). But that is close enough to make me wonder how the other defenders would look using this particular production point system.

Note: In no way am I inferring that the Cowboys are using the exact same production points system. And that Wilber's score comes back at 24 in this system may be pure coincidence. But I was intrigued enough by this coincidence to calculate the production points for all Cowboys defenders based on the stats we have available.

We know from previous Cowboys statements that they measure the effectiveness of their defensive personnel by how productive each player is per snap played, and that is again inferred by Garrett's quote above, which links production points to snaps played. And that's the ratio we'll be looking at today: Production Points per Snap played (PPS).

A few notes on the data we'll use. Snaps are taken from Pro Football Focus. All other stats are official NFL stats, with QB hits manually compiled from the game books. Tackles for loss are included for reference only, they are not included in the production points as we don't want to double-count tackles and TFLs. Also, we'll only be looking at Cowboys defenders who played at least 100 snaps over the season. Finally, we'll look at three positions groups separately, defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive back. And we'll start with the DL.

Player Snaps Tackles Pass Rush Pass Def Fumbles Prod. Pts PPS
Solo AST TFL MT Sacks QB Hits PD INT TD FF REC TD
DeMarcus Ware 648 28 12 4 0 6 12 2 1 0 0 1 0 224 0.35
Jason Hatcher 773 34 7 8 7 11 14 3 0 0 2 0 0 257 0.33
George Selvie 762 37 8 8 9 7 12 1 0 0 1 1 0 233 0.31
Everette Brown 159 5 5 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 45 0.28
Kyle Wilber
312 10 3 0 0 2 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 69 0.22
Nick Hayden 843 25 19 2 2 0 3 0 0 0 1 1 1 165 0.20
Jarius Wynn 280 6 3 3 8 1 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 43 0.15
Drake Nevis 262 10 3 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 35 0.13
Corvey Irvin 119 2 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 13 0.11
Caesar Rayford 147 2 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 14 0.10

No surprise at all at the top of the table. The most productive linemen on a play-by-play basis were Hatcher and Ware. Both played with injuries, and we saw earlier this week ("Trending Cowboys Players") that both declined significantly over the course of the season. I understand that as football fans, many of us are completely fixated on sacks as the ultimate - and often only - metric by which to measure a pass rusher. But this production score suggests that there may be better ways to measure a 700-snap season than with a dozen or so individual plays.

It's a little disappointing to see Caesar Rayford at the bottom of the list, after all, the Cowboys sent a pick to Indianapolis for his services.

But what's particularly concerning, especially if you measure the effectiveness of the pass rush by sacks and QB hits, is that there's nothing behind Ware, Hatcher and Selvie. And once Ware and Hatcher were injured, the Cowboys may have had a defensive line, but they didn't have a pass rush.

Kyle Wilber played the first 10 games at defensive end, and was only moved to linebacker in the Giants game. As a defensive end, he did not impress. But that would change at linebacker, which is the position group we'll look at next.

Player Snaps Tackles Pass Rush Pass Def Fumbles Prod. Pts PPS
Solo AST TFL MT Sacks QB Hits PD INT TD FF REC TD
Kyle Wilber 199 21 10 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 107 0.54
Sean Lee 717 68 31 4 9 0 1 6 4 1 0 1 0 340 0.47
DeVonte Holloman 214 14 12 1 4 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 99 0.46
Justin Durant 202 14 10 2 8 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 76 0.38
Bruce Carter 902 73 23 5 7 2 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 317 0.35
Ernie Sims 391 31 11 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 128 0.33

Again, no surprise at the top. Sean Lee was easily the Cowboys' best linebacker last season, and if he somehow manages to stay healthy in 2014, he'll be a terror in the middle of the Cowboys defense.

The pleasant surprises here are Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman. The Cowboys invested a sixth-round pick in Holloman, and didn't expect him to play a significant number of snaps outside of special teams this year. Injuries changed that, and once called on to play, Holloman showed that he has a nose for the ball. But before we nominate him for instant Sainthood, keep in mind that this particular production score system does not include negative points for blown coverages, missed reads and other rookie mistakes that plagued Holloman. Nevertheless, with the proper coaching, Holloman looks to be a promising talent.

Kyle Wilber may have finally found his spot at linebacker, and if the coaches production score is anything close to what we're seeing here, they must be excited about Wilber's potential for 2014. Both Holloman and Wilber only logged around 200 snaps at linebacker, so there's a very real question about whether they can sustain this kind of production, but the linebacker shelf may not be as barren as many had initially thought. Of course, if Carter doesn't find his way back to the form that made him a second-round pick, the Cowboys will still have an issue.

On to the secondary:

Player Snaps Tackles Pass Rush Pass Def Fumbles Prod. Pts PPS
Solo AST TFL MT Sacks QB Hits PD INT TD FF REC TD
Barry Church 1,048 107 28 3 13 0 1 6 1 0 3 1 1 444 0.42
Jeff Heath 613 47 13 1 9 0 1 3 1 0 1 1 1 207 0.34
B.W. Webb 185 13 3 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 48 0.26
Brandon Carr 1,148 60 11 2 15 0 0 13 3 1 0 1 0 254 0.22
Orlando Scandrick 1,118 59 5 2 14 2 2 13 2 0 1 0 0 239 0.21
J.J. Wilcox 530 22 16 0 3 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 113 0.21
Will Allen 170 5 4 1 3 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 35 0.21
Morris Claiborne 522 24 2 0 5 0 0 6 1 0 0 1 0 95 0.18

This metric is probably not particularly suited to assess defensive backs. As a rule, the DBs play a little further away from the ball, so it's no surprise to see lower overall production scores here, especially for the corners, who are all bunched pretty tightly together.

Barry Church played a lot closer to the line of scrimmage than any other DB did, which explains why he is ranked so high. Church often looked like an extra linebacker on the field, and he also looks like a linebacker in this metric. Looking at Heath and Wilcox, these numbers could provide a hint as to why the Cowboys went with Heath over Wilcox: Heath, warts and all, simply looked a little more productive than Wilcox. Again, this metric doesn't include all the mistakes a defensive player made, so it is what it is.

We know that the Cowboys use a similar metric as one part of their player evaluations. We also know that there is much more that goes into player evaluations than a simple youth football metric like this, and we also know that we have sample size and other issues with this approach. It's also true that there’s more to playing the game than a couple of big play stats.

There's a limit to how accurately we can assess player performance without access to the team data on performance, assignments, technique and more. Yet even with those limitations, in many cases the data above can be a pretty telling indicator of a player's performance.

And of course, if you don't like the way the production points are allocated, just take the raw data from the tables provided and multiply it with your own factors. Easy as 1-2-3.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Blogging The Boys

You must be a member of Blogging The Boys to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blogging The Boys. You should read them.

Join Blogging The Boys

You must be a member of Blogging The Boys to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blogging The Boys. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker