On offense, we break down the team into three groups: the every-down players, the second-tier guys (who play from 40% to 75% of the snaps), and everyone else. Who did what this week against the Bears, a game the Cowboys won 31-17?
The Every-Down Players
There were 68 snaps on offense this week. The big news is that two of the every-down players from last week didn’t play every down this week.
- Tyron Smith was replaced by Chaz Green for the game.
- La’el Collins played 40 snaps, or 59%, with Ron Leary subbing in for him for the remaining 28 snaps. With Collins having surgery on his big toe, it’s clear Leary is going to get all these snaps for the foreseeable future.
- The other every down players were the same: Dak Prescott, Jason Witten, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free.
Dak Prescott had a big game that has been commented on elsewhere. Jason Witten had only two targets this week for 25 yards, his lowest total in three games. He almost scored a TD (which would have helped Dak’s stats), but stepped out at the half-yard line. Dak snuck the ball in on the next play.
Chaz Green was cited for two accepted penalties, holding and a chop block, but has to be considered a huge success standing in for the player some rank as the best the Cowboys have. His first penalty helped stall a drive and led to a Dan Bailey field goal. The second was overcome by a great screen pass to Ezekiel Elliott, and was followed by Dak’s first touchdown pass.
The Second Tier
This week, this group includes:
- Dez Bryant, 52 snaps
- Ezekiel Elliott, 51
- Terrence Williams, 48
- Cole Beasley, 30
- Geoff Swaim, 29
- Brice Butler, 27
The notable numbers here are that Zeke played eight more snaps than last week, Beasley played 11 fewer snaps, and Geoff Swaim added 11 snaps. This shows the heavier rushing dose in the game once Dallas had the game in hand.
Ezekiel Elliott was the obvious star of this group, with 30 rushes for 140 yards, and two catches for 20 more. This was the kind of performance everyone expected of Zeke. It ties him for second in the NFL in rushing yards with 274.
Unlike last game, Terrence Williams was a big factor in the passing game, with four targets, four catches, and a team-high 88 yards. Unfortunately, he fumbled at the end of a 47-yard catch and run and momentarily blunted the Cowboys momentum. Brice Butler was targeted once, but couldn’t come up with a pass in the end zone. Geoff Swaim also saw one target and dropped the ball.
Cole Beasley continued his very hot start with seven catches on seven targets for 73 yards, and his longest catch (by yards in the air). Like Witten, he too almost made the end zone, but was down at the half-yard line. Lance Dunbar punched it in. Cole also had his bell rung, but wasn’t out of the game long.
Dez didn’t dominate like he did against Washington, with three catches for 40 yards. But he did catch Dak’s first and only TD pass on the season. The scary part was how he strained his knee, though like Cole, it didn’t keep him out of the game.
The other players receiving offensive snaps were:
- Lucky Whitehead, 11 snaps
- Keith Smith, 8
- Alfred Morris, 7
- Lance Dunbar, 6
- Joe Looney, 5
Unlike last week, this group didn’t do much in the game. Lucky Whitehead had his first jet sweep, which went for three yards. Lance Dunbar was not targeted for a pass, which is his value. Instead, because Zeke begged off the field near the end zone, Dunbar got his first TD rushing in from the one. Morris was used on six of his seven plays, with five rushes for 19 yards and one catch for two. Keith Smith is still the fullback. The invisible man, Gavin Escobar, did not play an offensive snap, but did have 11 special teams plays.
(Special teams snap counts are moving to the post on defensive counts.)