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Grading Rams @ Cowboys: Performances Of Note

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Abram Elam, conspicuous not only for his pink socks, was awarded the gameball by Coach Garrett for his performance against the Rams.
Abram Elam, conspicuous not only for his pink socks, was awarded the gameball by Coach Garrett for his performance against the Rams.

The Cowboys finally got their long-awaited blowout win on Sunday against the Rams. And with a record-book performance by DeMarco Murray, it's only natural that that we look back at the game and see a lot more positives than negatives.

So as we turn to look at the the individual grades for the game, it shouldn't come as a surprise that not a single player graded out truly negatively or significantly below average. But there remain nuances. But instead of calling Cowboys player performances good or bad, today we get to call them exceptional and good.

We already handed out some gameballs earlier today and took an in-depth look at Tony Fiammetta's Sunday, so now it's time to look at how the individual efforts of the players graded out. As we always do, we'll be using the Pro Football Focus player grades for that.

As always, the grades below are based on the (PFF) data. Follow the link for a lengthy introduction to their methodology.

The Secondary

While I usually like to focus on the offensive and defensive lines in these reviews, today we'll start with the secondary because they deserve their place in the sun for once as well, and as a unit, they graded out pretty well.

The most conspicuous man on the field on Sunday was Abe Elam, and not just because he was the only player wearing pink socks pulled all the way up to his knees. PFF credits Elam with a team-high eight tackles, including three tackles for loss on top of his forced fumble and fumble recovery. That effort was enough to earn Elam Garrett's gameball on Sunday, and a strong +1.7 grade.

Only Mike Jenkins (+1.9) graded out higher than Elam, as he also had an outstanding day. In addition to the interception, Jenkins had two defensed passes and allowed only five of nine passes thrown his way to be completed for a miserly 41 yards and a very low 27.8 defensive passer rating.

Here's how the rest of the secondary graded out:


Newman Ball Scandrick Walker Jenkins Elam Sensabaugh
Snaps (61 total)
41 11 36 22 53 61 61
0.6 +1.1 +1.4 -0.3 +1.9 +1.7 -0.3

One interesting thing that was not immediately apparent to me while watching the game is the amount of rotation the Cowboys had at cornerback. We'll see over the course of the next games whether this is just a coincidence or whether this is Rob Ryan continuing to implement more and more of his defensive schemes and rotating players in and out more often.

The O-line

The O-line continues it's up-and-down performance. A good outing against the Lions was followed by a bad game against the Patriots and another good game against the Rams. Hopefully the line maintains its momentum from the Rams game for the Eagles on Sunday, because the performance against the Rams was one for the history books, as the Cowboys rushed for 294 yards, the fourth-most in team history.

"It’s always been an emphasis of ours and being an offensive lineman, you want to run the ball," right guard Kyle Kosier said. "You don’t want to sit back and throw the ball 60 times. You have to prove to your coach you can run it, and we proved tonight we can run it. Now, we’ve got to do it for the rest of the season."

Here's how the individual linemen graded out.

Free Holland Costa Kosier Smith
Overall +1.0 +1.2 -1.0 +1.7 +2.0
Run Blocking
0.4 -0.2 -1.4 0.3 0.2
Pass Protect
0.2 +1.1 0.2 +1.1 +1.4

PFF haven't released the week 7 grades for all teams yet, but it is worth noting that Tyron Smith is the fourth highest rated tackle in the league. Out of 70 tackles. Not bad for a rookie.

Overall the line allowed only two sacks and two pressures, largely because of the success of the running game. Tony Romo had only 24 pass attempts in what what proved to be an easy day for his ribs:

"There was less pressure on the quarterback today than there was in other games, and that’s in direct relation to the running game," Romo said. "As a D-lineman, on the edge especially, if they don’t have to see what happens, they can just rush and get to the quarterback. They can make their decisions a lot quicker. When you’re able to run the ball, it makes the decisions a lot [more difficult]."

Defensive Line and OLB

Except for the indomitable DeMarcus Ware, Rob's Mob had a relatively quiet day on Sunday.

  • DeMarcus Ware (61 of 61 snaps, +0.6 grade) had a sack; two QB hits; a pressure; three tackles, one of which was for a loss; a forced fumble; a batted pass - and that batted pass could easily have been an interception. Normally, you'd expect a pretty good grade for Ware, but the graders at PFF also saw him miss a tackle and get flagged twice (penalty declined once), and that resulted in an overall grade that's slightly lower than one could have expected, but was enough to abuse the Rams' LT Rodger Saffold to the tune of a -4.1 grade.
  • Sean Lissemore (20 of 61 snaps, +0.9 grade) was the highest graded defensive lineman. Remarkably, Lissemore has been graded positively in each of the six games so far this season. Over 90 snaps in six games, Lissemore has accumulated a +7.3 grade. Despite the limited snap count, this makes Lissemore the sixth highest graded 3-4 defensive end in the league.
  • Clifton Geathers (7 of 61 snaps, +0.8 grade) saw some playing time and recorded one pressure.
  • Antony Spencer (+0.7), Josh Brent (+0.6), Marcus Spears (+0.2), Jay Ratliff (+0.1) and Kenyon Coleman (-1.0) mostly had solid, though largely unspectacular showings.
Skill Position Players

Here are some of the high- and lowlights.

  • Jason Witten (62/65, +3.5) graded out as the best offensive player, largely due to a monster of day as a run blocker (+2.1). Martellus Bennett was equally impressive as a runblocker (+1.7), but his overall grade (+1.0) is hurt by his false-start penalty. In terms of pure run-blocking, Marty B is graded as the fifth best tight end in the league so far.
  • DeMarco Murray (43/65, +2.5) had an outstanding game. His overall grade is hit by not catching two passes thrown his way. Phillip Tanner (12/65, +1.5) also had himself a very nice effort and helped his overall grade with a terrific effort on the touchdown run.
  • Dez Bryant (37/65,+2.5) also looks to be developing into a PFF favorite, as he has been graded positively in all five games he played in this year, giving him the 15th best grade in the league. And his grade would have been higher had PFF not assigned him with a dropped pass. Miles Austin (53/65, -1.0) did not have a very effective game, only catching two of five targets, and his grade is hit hard (-0.8) by the offensive PI call against him. Laurent Robinson (21/65, +0.1) caught two of three passes thrown his way in the first half.
  • Tony Romo (62/65, +1.1) had an okay game, and was content to let the rest of the team win the game for a change.

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