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Grading Giants @ Cowboys: Performances Of Note

We take a close look at the performance of the offensive line, review how the 2013 draft picks acquitted themselves and wonder how the secondary graded out after allowing a 102.3 defensive passer rating - despite notching three interceptions.

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of Sunday's game, the Cowboys racked up some impressive and some less impressive numbers, as well as some individual highlights and some individual lowlights to go with it. Like every week, some Cowboys players did their job better than others. Today, we look at how the individual efforts on the team graded out and we'll be using the Pro Football Focus player grades to do that, as we'll probably do for the remaining games on the 2013 schedule.

Follow the link for PFF's detailed FAQ, which should answer the vast majority of questions about their grading system. PFF also have their own review of the game up, and that is always worth checking out. They focus on the defensive line, Morris Claiborne, and DeMarco Murray.

Offensive Line

The Cowboys' offensive linemen as a unit aren't world beaters (yet), and had a little bit of an up-and-down performance on Sunday. Overall, they were fairly solid in pass protection, but had a little more trouble clearing space in the ground game, resulting in a total combined grade of -4.4 for the O-line performance against the Giants.

Bernadeau was clearly the odd man out on the Cowboys' line on Sunday, and the time he missed in training camp may be one reason for that.

Smith Leary Frederick Bernadeau Free

+0.3 -2.0 -0.5 -4.5 +2.3
Run Blocking
+0.1 -2.9 -0.6 -2.4 +0.1
Pass Protect
+0.7 +0.6 -0.1 -2.4 +1.7

Both tackles did a good job, with Free grading out better than Smith (two penalties hurt his overall grade) while the interior O-line struggled to get a push in the run game. Word around Valley Ranch is that Brian Waters could be ready for action against the Chiefs, and judging by these grades, that would likely benefit the overall performance of the line.

The 2013 Draft Class

All seven draft picks were active for Sunday's game, quite an uncommon feat for the Cowboys: Only twice since 1994 have all drafted players made the 53-man roster straight out of camp (2004 and 2000). And outside of RB Joseph Randle, all picks had their first NFL snaps on Sunday.

  • Travis Frederick (79 of 79 snaps, -0.5 grade) proved to be up to the task in his first NFL game. There was one bungled snap with Tony Romo, but Frederick looked good otherwise, allowing one QB hit and one hurry. It may not be anything to write home about yet, but Frederick graded out as the 15th out of 32 centers.
  • Gavin Escobar (23/79, -0.2) was targeted twice and caught the ball once for a seven-yard gain, but stood out more for his recovery of a Phillip Tanner fumble in the second quarter. Also, PFF liked him more for his pass blocking (+0.1) than they did for his receiving (-0.4).
  • Terrance Williams (36/79, -1.8): Running a wrong route that then leads to an interception is not a way to get a good grade in PFF's system.
  • J.J. Wilcox (6/61, 0.0) didn't record any noteworthy stats on his six snaps on defense, but had one tackle assist on a punt return in 16 special teams snaps.
  • B.W. Webb (5/61, 0.0): Maybe the Giants didn't even notice him on the field, because they didn't throw at him - though a pass sailed over Webb on what we are now finding out wasn't really a TD catch by Victor Cruz after all.
  • DeVonte Holloman (21 special teams snaps) had his moment when he recovered the ball that bounced off the Giants' McBride on a Cowboys punt. No defensive snaps for the rookie yet.
The Secondary

There was a notion floating around among some of the Mara sycophants that the Giants would simply have to target Claiborne to win the game. Well, they did throw the ball Claiborne's way three times more than Carr's way, but it didn't help them win.

Player Snaps Targets Receptions Yards Grade
Allen 61
4 3
101 -0.8
Church 60 3 3 35 -0.3
Carr 59 6 3 52
Claiborne 50 9 6 139 -3.2
Scandrick 43 4 3 26

Overall, these grades paint a much more positive picture than the Cowboys' pass defense warrants. Despite getting three interceptions, the Cowboys defense allowed a defensive passer rating of 102.3, which ranks them 23rd in the league after Week 1. Last season, the Cowboys ranked 29th in the league with a defensive passer rating of 94.7, so at this pace they'd have an even worse year than 2012.

At this point the Cowboys' pass defense looks like a carbon copy of the 2012 version - with the saving grace of getting a lot of turnovers. For now, we'll take the win, but we're raising the DEFCON level from four to three: "Increase in force readiness above that required for normal readiness."

Skill Position Players

Here are some of the high- and lowlights from the skill position players:

  • Tony Romo (78 of 79 snaps, -0.2). Romo had a good 90.8 passer rating, but his 5.37 yards per attempt were the third lowest of any starting QB on opening weekend. For a QB who ranks third on the carreer active list with a YPA of 7.9, that's a worrying development. Especially since it felt like he had more time behind his line than he's had for the majority of the last two seasons. Could this be Bill Callahan's influence as a playcaller, choosing the short completion over the long pass?
  • DeMarco Murray (70/79, +2.4) graded out as the best offensive player for the Cowboys, and here's PFF's Sam Monson explaining why: "I really enjoy watching DeMarco Murray run with the football. He has an ease of movement that seems to shake defenders loose with a subtle cut that doesn’t lose any speed, and he is as dangerous out in space as he is between the tackles. The Cowboys look a totally different unit when he is in the lineup. In this game he caught eight passes on nine targets, even if they did only go for 39 yards in total, but he forced eight missed tackles on those receptions to go with another two on his 20 rushes."
  • Miles Austin (72/79, +0.9) was the prototype slot receiver, catching 10 of 12 passes thrown his way.
  • Jason Witten (79/79, -1.1) had a good day as a receiver (+1.6) but didn't look good in run-blocking (-1.9) and pass blocking (-0.2) and his two penalties further impacted his overall grade. As a pure receiver, he was 8-for-9 with two TDs, which is a very good performance any way you measure it.

    Defensive Line

    DeMarcus Ware and George Selvie share PFF's game balls, and they, along with the defensive line, graded out very well.

    • DeMarcus Ware (50/61, +5.4) may not have had a sack, but an interception, one QB hit and six hurries rank him as the fifth best DE in the league
    • Jason Hatcher (49/61, +4.2) had one sack and added four hurries from the DT position, which ranks him as the third best DT in the NFL after Week 1.
    • George Selvie (47/61, +3.4) was the most productive lineman from a statistical point of view, notching a sack, two QB hits and four hurries, good enough to rank him 10th out of 48 4-3 DEs.
    • Nick Hayden (47/61, +2.7) rounds out the good performance of the four starting rushmen and collected one QB hit and one hurry from the 1-technique position. Hayden ranks 14th among 63 defensive tackles in the league.

    And rounding up this Week 1 summary are the three linebackers: Bruce Carter (55/61, +1.9), Sean Lee (61/61, +1.7), and Justin Durant (18/61, +0.7) all graded out positively, with Carter and Lee each ranking 6th in the league at their positions.


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