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Dallas Cowboys Snap Counts At The Bye

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Who has played so far this season? We look at offense, defense, and special teams by number of snaps.

Dallas Cowboys v Green Bay Packers Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With no game this past week, it seemed like a good time to tally up the snap counts for the Cowboys on offense, defense, and special teams over the first six games.

Offensive Snap Counts

These are all the guys who have played on offense so far.

Player Pos Snaps Snap %
82-J.Witten TE 412 100%
70-Z.Martin OL 412 100%
72-T.Frederick OL 412 100%
4-D.Prescott QB 411 99.80%
68-D.Free OL 408 99%
21-E.Elliott RB 294 71.40%
83-T.Williams WR 291 70.60%
77-T.Smith OL 263 63.80%
19-B.Butler WR 236 57.30%
11-C.Beasley WR 231 56.10%
65-R.Leary OL 226 54.90%
71-L.Collins OL 186 45.10%
88-D.Bryant WR 184 44.70%
79-C.Green OL 150 36.40%
87-G.Swaim TE 139 33.70%
13-L.Whitehead WR 73 17.70%
46-A.Morris RB 58 14.10%
41-K.Smith FB 49 11.90%
25-L.Dunbar RB 49 11.90%
89-G.Escobar TE 26 6.30%
73-J.Looney OL 13 3.20%
27-J.Wilcox DB 6 1.50%
45-R.Smith FB 2 0.50%

The Every-Down Players

This group is made up of Jason Witten, the quarterback, and the offensive linemen.

Jason Witten, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, Dak Prescott and Doug Free have played every play, or nearly every play.

But the other two legs of the offensive line haven’t been as stable. Dallas’ left tackle Tyron Smith has missed two games, and its left guard La’el Collins is out for the year. That’s more missed time than all of 2014. Let’s hope the line can stay healthy going forward.

The Second Tier

This group is made up of the starting running back, the wide receivers, and second tight end.

Of these, Ezekiel Elliott is in the lead, followed by Terrance Williams, Brice Butler, Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant, and Geoff Swaim.

Bryant’s injury caused him to miss half of the games, but the rest of the receivers have rallied to fill in.

Everyone Else

This group is led by Lucky Whitehead, Alfred Morris, Keith Smith, and Lance Dunbar. Dunbar has been hurt, keeping his impact down. Keith Smith has settled in as the fullback over Rod Smith. Despite their modest number of plays, all have made positive impacts.

Defensive Snap Counts

The Defensive Line

Player Pos Snaps Snap %
98-T.Crawford DL 264 69.30%
58-J.Crawford DL 237 62.20%
96-M.Collins DL 232 60.90%
97-T.McClain DL 218 57.20%
93-B.Mayowa DL 167 43.80%
92-C.Thornton DL 138 36.20%
95-D.Irving DL 97 25.50%
75-R.Davis DL 62 16.30%
90-D.Lawrence DL 46 12.10%

This table shows the four starters have played 57% to 69% of the snaps - Tyrone Crawford, Jack Crawford, Maliek Collins, and Terrell McClain.

In 2014, the top four defensive linemen by snap counts were Jeremy Mincey, Tyrone Crawford, Nick Hayden, and George Selvie. The Cowboys don’t yet have a ferocious line, but it’s improving.

Next up are Benson Mayowa and Cedric Thornton, the two free agent signings, with 43% and 36% of the snaps.

Then you have the injured guy - David Irving - the waiver wire pickup - Ryan Davis - and the suspended star - DeMarcus Lawrence. One would expect both Irving and Lawrence to begin taking more and more snaps as the season wears on. The question is where? Irving may be better inside. While Lawrence will likely cut into Jack Crawford’s snaps.

This is the most fluid roster group on the team.

The Linebackers

Player Pos Snaps Snap %
50-S.Lee LB 381 100%
59-A.Hitchens LB 174 45.70%
56-J.Durant LB 141 37%
51-K.Wilber LB 36 9.40%
52-A.Gachkar LB 30 7.90%
57-D.Wilson LB 26 6.80%

As I’ve said every week, this group is Sean Lee and fillers. The main fillers right now are Anthony Hitchens and Justin Durant. It’s possible this group will change over the course of the season, if Mark Nzeocha gets healthy and starts taking snaps at middle linebacker.

Will Rolando McClain make a miracle return or Jaylon Smith make a miracle recovery? Both would really upgrade this group, but we can’t expect that in 2016. How about Darren McFadden for a linebacker? That’s likely to be just as much of a long shot.

The Defensive Backs

Player Pos Snaps Snap %
39-B.Carr DB 381 100%
42-B.Church DB 334 87.70%
24-M.Claiborne DB 331 86.90%
31-B.Jones DB 324 85%
30-A.Brown DB 238 62.50%
27-J.Wilcox DB 205 53.80%
32-O.Scandrick DB 92 24.10%
38-J.Heath DB 34 8.90%

Both Brandon Carr and Mo Claiborne have been solid on the outside, elevating their games a lot. Anthony Brown has been a savior with Orlando Scandrick’s hamstring problems. And JJ Wilcox has quietly played more than 50% of the snaps without getting burned.

How much of this improvement can be attributed to making Joe Baker the new secondaries coach and hiring Greg Jackson to coach safeties, where Baker was last year?

Special Teams Snap Counts

Player Pos Snaps Snap %
57-D.Wilson LB 110 71.90%
38-J.Heath DB 107 69.90%
52-A.Gachkar LB 105 68.60%
51-K.Wilber LB 84 54.90%
41-K.Smith FB 81 52.90%
42-B.Church DB 74 48.40%
31-B.Jones DB 69 45.10%
27-J.Wilcox DB 61 39.90%
45-R.Smith FB 53 34.60%
30-A.Brown DB 52 34%
89-G.Escobar TE 51 33.30%
6-C.Jones ST 49 32%
59-A.Hitchens LB 43 28.10%
13-L.Whitehead WR 38 24.80%
82-J.Witten TE 36 23.50%
39-B.Carr DB 34 22.20%
24-M.Claiborne DB 34 22.20%
50-S.Lee LB 31 20.30%
87-G.Swaim TE 27 17.60%
25-L.Dunbar RB 17 11.10%
11-C.Beasley WR 13 8.50%
53-M.Nzeocha LB 11 7.20%

This is where bottom of the roster guys stay on teams. Some guys are just built to be special teams players, like Jeff Heath and Andrew Gachkar. Other guys hope to play teams while they try to break into the starting lineup, like Damien Wilson. Other guys play teams and have a niche role on offense or defense, like Keith Smith, Lucky Whitehead, Rod Smith, and Kyle Wilber. The rest of the guys are offensive or defensive regulars who also have to play special teams to adequately cover kickoffs and punts, or return them. These include Barry Church, Byron Jones, JJ Wilcox, Anthony Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Jason Witten, Brandon Carr, Mo Claiborne, Sean Lee and Geoff Swaim.

Not much has happened this season on special teams. Dan Bailey is still super solid, but not perfect. Chris Jones is punting well. But on the return side, Dallas has given up more than it’s gotten, though no returns have made a difference in games.

Injuries and suspensions

To finish, let me highlight the major injuries and suspensions so far, and who has filled in.

  • Tony Romo - six games and counting (Dak Prescott)
  • Orlando Scandrick - four games (Anthony Brown)
  • Dez Bryant - three games (Terrance Williams and Brice Butler)
  • Tyron Smith - two games (Chaz Green)
  • La’el Collins - on IR, out for the season (Ron Leary)
  • James Hanna - on PUP, can return (Geoff Swaim)
  • Darren McFadden - on NFI, can return (Zeke Elliott and Alfred Morris)
  • Charles Tapper - on IR, can return
  • Rolando McClain - suspended 10 games, has not reported (Anthony Hitchens and Justin Durant)
  • Randy Gregory - suspended 14 games
  • DeMarcus Lawrence - suspended four games, has returned (Tyrone Crawford moved outside and Maliek Collins took Crawford’s snap inside)
  • Kellen Moore - out for season
  • Jaylon Smith - NFI - unlikely to return
  • Lance Dunbar - two games
  • Mark Nzeocha - four games
  • David Irving, Chaz Green, and Ron Leary have also been inactive for injury reasons.