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Dallas Cowboys Top 11 Players By Snap Count On Offense And Defense

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The Cowboys could be at full strength on Sunday for the first time in a long while.
The Cowboys could be at full strength on Sunday for the first time in a long while.

How many snaps would you expect a starter to play per game? All of them, or three quarters, or perhaps even half? Obviously, this is somewhat of a trick question, as the answer will likely differ by position. You'd probably expect your starting quarterback to be in on all offensive snaps, and probably your O-line as well. But the running back is likely to have less, especially if you have a couple of guys rotating in and out like the Cowboys have.

On defense, barring injuries, you'd probably expect your defensive backs to be in for most snaps, but you'd probably expect some level of rotation along the front seven according to whatever packages would be on the field and whatever scheme the defensive coordinator is running.

In large part due to injury and in partly due to scheme, after four games the Cowboys have only four players who've been on the field for every snap of their unit. These are the four ironmen: Tyron Smith, Doug Free and Kyle Kosier have been in on every single one of the 288 offensive snaps, while Abram Elam is the only defensive player to have played on every one of the 256 defensive snaps so far.

After the break we look at the snap count for the 11 players with the highest snap counts on offense and defense for the Cowboys so far this year.

Top snap counts through week 5, 2009

Offense   Defense
POS Player Offensive Snaps   POS Player Defensive Snaps
RT Tyron Smith 288   S Abram Elam 256
LT Doug Free 288   OLB DeMarcus Ware 247
RG Kyle Kosier 288   LB Sean Lee 233
TE Jason Witten 286   CB Mike Jenkins* 233
C Phil Costa* 269   S Gerald Sensabaugh* 221
QB Tony Romo* 268   OLB Anthony Spencer 215
LG Bill Nagy* 218   CB Alan Ball 206
WR Dez Bryant* 177   NT Jay Ratliff 203
WR Kevin Ogletree 165   CB Terence Newman* 121
RB Felix Jones* 153   RE Marcus R. Spears* 107
WR Miles Austin* 129   LE Kenyon Coleman 103
* denotes players who have missed snaps due to injuries

Couple of thoughts on the data:

  • That's a lot of injuries that the Cowboys have had to work through in the first quarter of the season. Ten out of the 22 top players by snap count have dealt with injuries so far this season.
  • I should probably have included John Phillips (123 snaps) and Martellus Bennett* (117) in the table. That would have given us all 24 players with more than 100 snaps this season. But then the table would have looked a little lopsided. Obviously, that wasn't an option.
  • When your number three wide receiver (who's probably not even the number three wide receiver anymore at this point) has more snaps than your number one guy and almost as many as your number two; when your QB is playing with broken ribs and punctured his lung in week two; when you're third in the league with 331 passing yards per game despite all that, then you've got a very, very potent offense.
  • How about Sean Lee? That's some serious playing time, and should lay to rest any doubts about whether Lee can play the pass. He's a three-down menace.
  • What's up with the low snap counts for the defensive ends? Obviously Jason Hatcher* (88 snaps) isn't on the list as he recuperates from his injury, but it's not like the backups are playing a lot either. Sean Lissemore (52) and Josh Brent (40) didn't see too many snaps but helped by being part of a defensive line rotation that has helped keep everybody fresh. Looks like Rob Ryan really likes to keep offenses guessing with his personnel packages.
  • Final thought: Every one of the 22 guys in the table above is suiting up for the Patriots game. When was the last time the Cowboys played at full strength? It's been a while.