With the game against Minnesota in the books, here are the individual performance grades of each player. These grades are determined by a combination of game tape review and detailed statistics from Pro Football Focus. Only the Cowboys starters and key depth players were evaluated.
|A||Tony Romo||QB||21||5/8 for 88 yards, 2 TDs|
|C-||Jameill Showers||QB||7||2/4 for yards|
|F||Dustin Vaughan||QB||25||5/13 for 38 yards, but 4 drops|
Tony Romo played well in his first real preseason action this year. As a whole, the offense was a little sluggish at first, but Tony stayed calm and made some good throws, including his patented whirligig dance move.
|A||Darren McFadden||RB||7||4 carries, 37 yards, made 2 defenders miss|
|C||Lance Dunbar||RB||2||1 carry for 1 yard|
|C||Joseph Randle||RB||11||6 carries, 15 yards|
|C||Gus Johnson||RB||13||5 carries for 12 yards|
|D||Tyler Clutts||FB||16||3 pass block snaps, no pressures allowed, 2 dropped passes|
Darren McFadden didn’t run so well with a partial offensive line last week, but he sure looked impressive with more of them out there. McFadden did a great job hitting the holes quickly. He only had four carries, but two of them were 13 and 15 yards. Joseph Randle didn’t find a lot of room to run and couldn’t squirm his way out of trouble. While there is still some uncertainly as to how the running back workload distribution is going to go in Dallas, it’s starting to look like the team might have a couple of good options.
|A||Terrance Williams||WR||20||60 yard catch and run TD|
|B+||Lucky Whitehead||WR||26||TD catch, and good block on McFadden run|
|B||Cole Beasley||WR||17||1 reception for 6 yards|
|C-||A.J. Jenkins||WR||26||1 target, not catchable|
The Cowboys were without their big play making wide receiver, Dez Bryant, but that didn’t stop them from making a big play. Terrance Williams ran a great route, Romo put it in perfectly, and then TWilly was off to the races. Lucky Whitehead played well with two straight good plays. He had a nice seal off block for McFadden and then followed it up with a catch in the end zone.
|C||Geoff Swaim||TE||20||1 reception|
|C-||Gavin Escobar||TE||25||1 reception, 1 drop|
|D+||Jason Witten||TE||21||Struggled both in pass and run blocking|
The surprise here is the poor performance of Jason Witten. You won’t find many games like this for the team’s most consistent performer.
|B+||Travis Frederick||C||34||strong run block|
|C+||Doug Free||RT||34||1 pressure allowed|
|C||Tyron Smith||LT||34||1 sack allowed|
|C||La'el Collins||LG||19||no pressure allowed|
|C||John Wetzel||RG||12||no pressure allowed|
|C||R.J. Dill||LT||7||no pressure allowed|
|C-||Mackenzy Bernadeau||RG||43||strong with pass protection, but struggled with run blocking|
|C-||Darrion Weems||LT||12||struggled with run blocking|
|D||Laurence Gibson||RT||19||2 pressures allowed, including 1 sack|
|D||Ron Leary||LG||34||struggled with pass protection, 3 pressures allowed|
The offensive line didn’t score well, but they had their moments where they looked like a well-oiled machine. Many of the reserve lineman did a lot better than last week as they got to go against guys at their depth chart level. However, after a strong game last week, rookie tackle Laurence Gibson struggled protecting the quarterback.
|A-||Greg Hardy||DE||24||1 pressure, 2 stops, strong in run defense|
|A-||Jeremy Mincey||DE||18||2 pressures, 1 stop, strong in run defense|
|B+||Randy Gregory||DE||28||1 sack, 3 pressures, strongest pass rushing score|
|B-||Lavar Edwards||DE||25||1 pressure|
|C||Ben Gardner||DE||22||1 pressure|
|C||DeMarcus Lawrence||DE||22||1 pressure|
|D+||Ryan Russell||DE||20||no pressure|
Let me first begin by saying it is so refreshing to see so many guys perform well on the defensive line. Greg Hardy played extremely well from the inside. With the defense getting so much contribution from other edge rushers, Hardy could find himself playing a lot of DT this year. He hasn’t made any big splay plays that grab the fan’s attention, but watching the tape shows that he’s in on many of the Cowboys big defensive stops. With all the hype of the Cowboys new pass rushers, Jeremy Mincey reminded everyone that he’s still very much in the mix. Like Hardy, he played well against both the pass and the run.
|A||Davon Coleman||DT||25||2 pressures, 3 stops|
|B+||Tyrone Crawford||DT||20||good push, forced a holding penalty|
|B||Nick Hayden||DT||17||no pressure, 2 stops, strong in run defense|
|B-||Ken Bishop||DT||21||1 pressure|
|C-||Jack Crawford||DT||24||1 pressure, ineffective against the run|
|D||Terrell McClain||DT||26||1 pressure, struggled against the run|
I could use this time to talk about how great Davon Coleman is, but it might seem like I was talking up a pet cat. I don’t want to be that guy. There is no doubt that he has played well all preseason. Tyrone Crawford and Nick Hayden did a good job clogging the middle. The poor performance of Terrell McClain was a little surprising. It could be just the rust as he recovers from a bone bruise and strained hamstring. He’s going to have to get it together quickly as nobody is safe with all the depth the Cowboys have on the defensive line.
|A||Jasper Brinkley||LB||23||3 stops, excellent in run defense|
|B+||Andrew Gachkar||LB||27||1 stop, 4 tackles|
|C||Sean Lee||LB||18||1 stop, 2 receptions allowed for 16 yards|
|C||Damien Wilson||LB||38||2 tackles, 4 receptions allowed for 27 yards|
|C||Keith Smith||LB||9||2 receptions allowed for 6 yards|
|C-||Kyle Wilber||LB||25||1 tackle assist|
The Cowboys linebackers were attacked a lot in this game with short passes. This allowed the Vikings to get some nice gains, but when the linebackers got there – they wrapped up well. Sean Lee looked good in his debut playing the weak side LB. But even more impressive was Andrew Gachkar playing in the middle. The Cowboys have been toying with an assortment of lineups to find the best fit, but the combination of Lee-Gachkar-Hitchens might be the winning ticket while Rolando McClain serves his suspension. Jasper Brinkley played as if his job depended on it, which very well could have been the case. This definitely helps his chances.
|B+||Brandon Carr||CB||32||4 receptions allowed, 1 pick, QB rating 67.4|
|B-||Tyler Patmon||CB||23||1 reception allowed, QB rating 79.2|
|B-||Corey White||CB||38||2 tackles, no receptions allowed|
|C||Morris Claiborne||CB||32||no receptions, 1 penalty|
|D+||Robert Steeples||CB||22||never targeted, 1 penalty|
It may have seemed like the same ol’ Brandon Carr was out there roaming around while the receivers he was covering were making plays, but it didn’t quite go down like that. Often times Carr had good position and he made a nice interception, giving Dallas their first takeaway of the preseason. Reserves Tyler Patmon and Corey White continue to play well. And it was nice to see Morris Claiborne turn in some good snaps. The Vikings were able to move the ball at times, but the Cowboys defense did a good job of limiting the big plays.
|A||Barry Church||SS||30||4 stops|
|C+||Byron Jones||FS||46||2 stops, 1 reception allowed|
|C||Tim Scott||FS||44||1 assist tackle|
|C||J.J. Wilcox||FS||29||1 reception allowed|
Barry Church played extremely well, but the big story here was watching the rookie, Byron Jones, log some playing time at safety. He mis-timed his jump on the Vikings two point conversion, but played solid overall.
|A||Cole Beasley||PR||2||Nice 40 yard return|
|B||Chris Jones||P||5||Averaged 46.2 yards, 2 fair catches, 2 inside the 20|
|C||Lucky Whitehead||PR||2||2 returns, 13 yards|
|C||Dan Bailey||K||5||3 kickoffs, only 1 touchback, made both PATs|
|F||Geoff Swaim||ST||missed tackle|
|F||Damien Wilson||ST||missed tackle|
|F||Keith Smith||ST||missed tackle|
Cole Beasley looked good returning punts, but everything else about the special teams was heinous. This week’s grade highlights the missed tackles from the players that could end up on the roster.
Tony Romo - a passer rating performance of 139.6 is just enough to get the blood flowing.
Greg Hardy - his powerful play isn't making any highlight reels, but his impact is being felt.
Terrance Williams - picking up where he left off last postseason.
Darren McFadden - it wasn't much, but it might help a few fans back away from the ledge a bit.
Barry Church - the upgrade to the defensive line may get him some clean looks at ball carriers.
Jeremy Mincey - played strong and showed he is still factored into the pass rushing equation.
Cole Beasley - he's making a case for the punt returning job.
Jasper Brinkley - he may be fighting for a spot, but at least he's fighting.
Davon Coleman - it's going to be hard to cut this guy, so don't bother.
After School Detention:
Dustin Vaughan - I think Ricky Vaughn has better chance of making this team.
Terrell McClain - could he be a surprise cut?
Ron Leary - struggled early, but started to put together a couple good plays.
Tyler Clutts - he won't be asked to do a lot of pass catching.
Laurence Gibson - took a step back in the fight for one of the last roster spots.