The Cowboys have suffered some serious injuries to key personnel this season, enough to make you very concerned about how this season will turn out. But as much as we curse fate, moan about the injuries, question the strength and conditioning department or decry the general indifference of the universe, there really isn't much anybody can do about it now.
Except find suitable replacements for the injured players. And that's not an easy task, especially in the middle of the season where there simple aren't any choice free agents on the market. So the Cowboys Pro Personnel Department is faced with a tough task of trying to replace some of the injured players.
They did demonstrate last year that they had a good or perhaps lucky hand in finding in-season replacements with the likes of Laurent Robinson, Tony Fiammetta, Chris Jones, Sammy Morris and Montrae Holland (after first releasing him).
And this season has once again seen an influx of mid-season free agent signings, the latest being Charlie Peprah and Ernie Sims. Of course, we're not privy to what the Cowboys see in these players, and whether they see them as starters, backups or simply special teams players. But what we do know is how some of the recent signings have graded out in previous years according to Pro Football Focus. So here's a rundown of the individual grades for each player, and included in each table is that player's rank within his position group among all eligible NFL players.
Let's start it off on a slightly positive note with today's signing of Charlie Peprah. Peprah never technically won the starter job in Green Bay outright, but saw extensive playing time filling in for injured players. A knee injury cost him his offseason with the Packers and ultimately led to his release. The Cowboys think his knee is healed up fine, and if it is, they could have a solid veteran to take up the spot vacated by Barry Church and the spot which Danny McCray has been struggling with.
Ernie Sims is a totally different situation. Despite being a high draft pick for Matt Millen and the Lions, he has bounced around the NFL quite a bit since 2006. His PFF grades are atrocious, and he has ranked at very bottom of the PFF rankings for four successive years. To put these grades into context, in their final, terrible 2011 season, Keith Brooking and Bradie James had a -11.1 and -7.9 grade for the season respectively. On the surface, this does not look like a player who will help the Cowboys on defense; let's hope they brought him in only for special teams.
The Buffalo Bills were not happy with Brian Moorman this year and released the veteran punter, ostensibly because his net punting yardage was quite low. He's shown nothing of the sort in his brief stint in Dallas, and the Cowboys are probably quite pleased with the acquisition, not only because they've had to move incumbent Chris Jones to IR. In his two games for the Cowboys, he has gotten a cumulative grade of +2.8 which puts him on track for a +16.8 season with the Cowboys. This already looks like a good acquisition.
Ryan Cook has had an on-again-off -again NFL career after signing with the Vikings as a second-round pick in 2006. He played right tackle in 2008, hardly played at all in 2009 and only became a starter again late in 2010 at right guard. He moved to Miami in 2011 but only saw 21 snaps all season. Cook was an emergency acquisition for the Cowboys, but has acquitted himself well in the opportunities he's had. PFF have graded every game of his positively this season for a cumulative grade of +4.5, which ranks him 15th out of 34 qualifying centers so far this season.
The other two in-season signings, safety Eric Frampton and CB Vince Agnew (practice squad) have not accumulated any noteworthy PFF grades so far. Frampton has demonstrated some proficiency on special teams, covering punts.
We won't know for sure how the signings will turn out until the end of the season. None of these players obviously were the first choice for any team in the league, so we'll have to keep that in mind as we assess them. Having said that, the early returns on Cook and Moorman look to be positive, given the circumstances, and we can only hope that the other free agent additions turn out to be what the Cowboys expect them to be.