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Cowboys Snapcounts Versus Saints: Extended Tryouts For Downroster Players

We look at the snapcounts from the Saints game, with a specific eye on some of the backups and downroster guys who are getting extended and meaningful NFL snaps right now - especially in a loss.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It's Optimist Monday. So instead of lamenting the Cowboys' injury situation for the umpteenth time, we'll focus on the down-roster guys. Because for every injured starter, there's a backup player who's getting snaps against live, NFL-quality competition.

Think of the last few games as extended tryouts for down-roster players in real game situations; a lot of the current backups are getting extended and meaningful NFL snaps right now, snaps that they would almost certainly not have gotten otherwise. This should bode well for the 2013 roster.

Below is an overview of who took snaps yesterday on defense. Note that seven defensive players playing yesterday did not start the season as Dallas Cowboys.

Cowboys' Defensive Snapcounts vs Saints (95 total snaps)
Defensive Tackles Defensive Ends Outside Linebackers Inside Linebackers Cornerbacks Safeties
Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps
Lissemore 47 Hatcher 72 Spencer 94 Connor 65 Carr 95 Sensabaugh 95
Spears 56 Ware 59 Albright 43 Claiborne 93 Frampton 51

Crawford 41 Butler 40 Poppinga 25 Jenkins 42 Peprah 44

Schaefering 19

Sims 19 Moore 28 McCray

Coe 16

Couple of random observations: Danny McCray only had one defensive snap, but did manage to have the highest snapcount on special teams, with 30. For those wanting to lay the blame for the Cowboys unimpressive pass defense at McCrays' feet, you may have to look somewhere else. The Cowboys allowed 406 passing yards even with McCray out, a clear sign that the Cowboys defense has bigger issues to fix than just the play of one safety. Here's Garrett on McCray's situation:

“Danny’s been playing so many snaps on defense, on special teams and battling through injury after injury all year long,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We just felt like it was best for him when we got these other guys back to give them more of an opportunity on defense and all the different personnel packages and let Danny kind of play a little more special teams, spot play on defense a little bit and then kind of get himself back in the role he’s most accustomed to playing. So we feel like we had these other guys who we felt were capable of helping in that way and felt that was the best thing for us this week.”

For the season, the Cowboys have allowed a defensive passer rating of 95.7, seven points higher than that of last year's team (88.4) and higher even than the 92.8 of the 2010 team. And given the investment into the secondary this year, those are not results that anybody can be happy with. The Cowboys' pass defense remains their number one issue, and fixing this must be the Cowboys number one offseason priority. Right now, the Cowboys are the fourth worst pass defense in the league. Only the Chiefs, Eagles and Raiders are worse. Not the type of company you want to be in.

I'd have to do some extensive checking to make sure, but I think that Lissemore, Crawford and Butler all had career high snap counts. That's got to be a positive for guys who are either going to be starters or key backups next year. Similarly, you've got to like the work both Sterling Moore and Charlie Peprah are getting in the secondary. Both look like good options for roster spots next year.

I think the odds are good for Albright to have a breakout season next year.

Cowboys' Offensive Snapcounts vs Saints (57 total snaps)
Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps
Romo 57
Smith 57
Murray 50 Witten 57 Austin 55

Livings 57 Vickers 8 Phillips 9
Bryant 49

Cook 57 Jones 7 Hanna 8 Ogletree 24

Bernadeau 57

Harris 18

Free 35

Beasley 5

Parnell 22

With the exception of Phil Costa, this is the offense the Cowboys were planning to play the season with. This is the offense that has scored more than 30 points in four of the last seven game. This is the offense that ranks third in the league with 208 points scored over the last seven games behind only the ridiculous Seahawks (252) and Patriots (267). Of course, when you also give up the fifth most points in the league over the same span (191) you can thank your lucky stars if you're 5-2 over that stretch.

The Cowboys clearly have a hole at RB behind Murray, but at the other spots, you have young guys with a lot of talent just beginning to come into their own. You've got to like the potential of Parnell, Hanna, Harris and Beasley for next year.

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