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Cowboys’ offensive snap counts at the bye: Dallas is getting back to last year’s formula, but needs to be better

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Who played, and who produced, for the Dallas Cowboys offense? In our weekly look at the snap counts, we’ll evaluate whether Dallas is using it’s players well, and how well each of them is producing.

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys fell to the Packers 35-31 in a game they could have won. They were left disappointed once again by the late-game heroics of Aaron Rodgers.

Offensive Overview

The Cowboys rolled up more than 400 yards again, and 31 points, but lost at home. As Bob Sturm noted, that almost never happens.

When your offense scores 30 points (or more), gains 400 yards of total offense and runs for 150 yards on the ground, they win - regardless of anything else. We don't even look at defensive stats or turnovers or anything. Just those three numbers that demonstrate great productivity and plenty of it happening with a great ground attack.

Games over the course of Cowboys history where Dallas has checked those three boxes total 60.

They have done it 60 different times and have won 57 of them. 57-3 seems like a pretty solid trend, right?

Dak Prescott threw a pick-six, but it was in the hands of Terrance Williams that must be blamed for the miscue. Otherwise Dak was masterful, with a 96.6 QBR (on a 100 scale), three touchdown passes, and a touchdown run. See the Dak and Zeke report for more. Zeke also had a big game, with 29 rushes for 116 yards, his highest output of the season.

Cowboys are getting better in the passing game, but not quite there yet.

Last week we asked where the short passing game was, as neither Cole Beasley nor Jason Witten could get untracked. In this game, Witten was back with an 8 of 10 day, while Beasley caught four passes to tie his season high, but added two touchdowns. That, and Zeke’s game, helped Dallas to go 7 for 12 on converting third downs, and three for three on fourth down. As a result, Dallas dominated the time of possession 35:06 to 24:54. But critical penalties really cost Dallas - a 15-yard facemask call on Anthony Hitchens and a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Benson Mayowa - as Green Bay converted punts to touchdowns on both drives.

Here are the passing charts we have been compiling.

Player Game Snaps Targets Catches Percent Yards TDs Yds/Snaps
Dez Bryant NYG 67 9 2 22% 43 0 0.64
At DEN 66 16 7 44% 59 1 0.89
At AZ 41 2 2 100% 12 1 0.29
LAR 58 13 5 38% 98 0 1.69
GB 64 8 5 63% 52 1 0.81
Total 296 48 21 44% 264 3 0.89
Terrance Williams NYG 38 7 6 86% 68 0 1.79
At DEN 49 5 4 80% 17 0 0.35
At AZ 33 4 3 75% 47 0 1.42
LAR 47 6 4 67% 34 0 0.72
GB 55 3 2 67% 14 0 0.25
Total 222 25 19 76% 180 0 0.81
Cole Beasley NYG 52 5 3 60% 32 0 0.62
At DEN 57 8 4 50% 33 0 0.58
At AZ 25 1 1 100% 4 0 0.16
LAR 31 6 3 50% 17 0 0.55
GB 37 6 4 67% 23 2 0.62
Total 202 26 15 58% 109 0 0.54
Brice Butler NYG 35 3 1 33% 30 0 0.86
At DEN 22 2 1 50% 18 0 0.82
At AZ 7 2 2 100% 90 1 12.86
LAR 22 2 2 100% 12 1 0.55
GB 22 2 2 100% 57 0 2.59
Total 108 11 8 73% 207 1 1.92
Ryan Switzer NYG 2 0 0 0% 0 0 0.00
At DEN 6 0 0 0% 0 0 0.00
At AZ 2 0 0 0% 0 0 0.00
LAR 8 0 0 0% 0 0 0.00
GB 3 0 0 0% 0 0 0.00
Total 21 0 0 0% 0 0 0.00
Noah Brown NYG 0 0 0 0% 0 0 0.00
At DEN 5 0 0 0% 0 0 0.00
At AZ 8 1 1 100% 13 0 1.63
LAR 7 0 0 0% 0 0 0.00
GB 0 0 0 0% 0 0 0.00
Total 20 1 1 100% 13 0 0.65
Jason Witten NYG 74 9 7 78% 59 1 0.80
At Den 71 13 10 77% 97 1 1.37
At AZ 47 4 1 25% 3 0 0.06
LAR 71 2 1 50% 9 0 0.13
GB 73 10 8 80% 61 0 0.84
Total 336 38 27 71% 229 2 0.68

Terrance Williams and Jason Witten are almost exactly where they were last year. Williams is at .81 yards per snap versus .80 last year, while Witten is at .68 versus .66. That’s the okay news.

The bad new is that Dez is .89 this year versus 1.16 last year, and Cole Beasley is at .54 versus 1.38. Those were Dallas’s top two receivers last season, and they are both off. Dez is off in terms of catch percentage (44% v. 52%), while Beasley is further off (58% v. 76.5%).

The only bright spot is Brice Butler, who is gaining 1.92 yards per snap (versus .51 yards last year) and catching 73% of his targets (versus 50% last year).

The rest of the receivers and tight ends have only two catches between them.

The Cowboys have to keep up the high completion percentage they had in the Green Bay game, but stretch it out so everyone is at or above 10 yards per catch. This may still be a factor of the offensive line not giving enough protection, or opening enough holes for Zeke to take pressure off the passing game.

Offensive Line

Here are the snaps.

Player Pos Age Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Gm5 Total Season Percent
Travis Frederick C 26 4 74 71 47 71 74 337 337 100%
Zack Martin G 27 4 74 71 47 71 74 337 337 100%
La'el Collins T 24 4 74 71 47 71 74 337 337 100%
Tyron Smith T 27 4 74 71 47 71 74 337 337 100%
Chaz Green G 25 3 74 71 47 0 0 192 337 57%
Jonathan Cooper G 27 1 0 0 0 71 74 145 337 43%
Joe Looney C 27 4 0 0 0 2 0 2 337 1%
Byron Bell G 28 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 337 0%

Here’s our weekly look at the line from Pro Football Focus’s grading

  • Tyron Smith - 76.2 (up from 68.7)
  • Jonathan Cooper 39.7 (up from 32.8)
  • Travis Frederick 81.9 (down from 84.2)
  • Zack Martin 82 (down from 85.6)
  • La’el Collins 43.6 (up from 38.3)

This is a sign of improvement, as three linemen were among the top five grades on the team — La’el Collins for a second week in a row, Tyron Smith, and Jonathan Cooper.

Quarterback

Not much to say here. Dak played a very solid game, with the pick-six his only blemish. Could have had longer ANY/A numbers as well. See the Dak and Zeke report.

Running Backs

Player Pos Age Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Gm5 Total Season Percent
Ezekiel Elliott RB 22 2 60 63 43 64 64 294 337 87%
Keith Smith FB 25 2 2 2 5 7 13 29 337 9%
Alfred Morris RB 29 2 8 1 0 3 5 17 337 5%
Rod Smith RB 23 2 2 4 3 1 3 13 337 4%

Zeke had a very solid game. Alfred Morris chipped in two runs. And Dak Prescott had his highest rushing game of the year with four carries for 37 yards and the touchdown that gave the Cowboys the lead with 1:13 left.

Interestingly, Keith Smith played a lot at fullback. He had no rushes, but two catches for 10 yards. And Rod Smith caught a pass for 18 yards. Nice to see this additional diversity in the Cowboys’ game.

Wide Receivers

Player Pos Age Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Gm5 Total Season Percent
Dez Bryant WR 29 2 67 66 41 58 66 298 337 88%
Terrance Williams WR 28 2 38 49 33 47 55 222 337 66%
Cole Beasley WR 28 2 52 57 25 31 37 202 337 60%
Brice Butler WR 27 2 35 22 7 22 22 108 337 32%
Noah Brown WR 21 1 0 5 8 7 0 20 337 6%
Ryan Switzer WR 22 2 2 6 2 8 3 21 337 6%

Should Brice Butler get more snaps? At the moment, he’s about the only big-play threat on the team. The Cowboys have to figure out how to break other guys free.

Tight Ends

Player Pos Age Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Gm5 Total Season Percent
Jason Witten TE 35 2 74 71 47 71 73 336 337 100%
James Hanna TE 28 2 21 9 14 30 20 94 337 28%
Geoff Swaim TE 24 2 9 0 7 4 9 29 337 9%

Jason Witten is still the only tight end receiver. I think the Cowboys miss the element Rico Gathers could have brought had the concussion not changed his season.

Comments at the bye

The offense put together two solid games after struggling the first three weeks against pressure defenses. They still need to be better. The offensive line is the key. La’el Collins is coming around, and Jonathan Cooper played much better in his second game. Getting all five of them in sync should increase Zeke’s yards per carry, and open him up for more explosive plays. That should help the passing game, as teams will have to key more on the run. The Cowboys need to free Cole Beasley, or punish teams for doubling him.

The Cowboys also need to have a ruthless approach. If they score 20+ points in the first half, the object must be to double it in the second half. With this defense, no lead is safe. The team has not found its groove yet, but it needs to with a tough schedule ahead.

Dak should run more. In run-pass option plays, teams almost always key on Zeke. Dak needs to punish them more to free up Zeke for the kind of up the gut runs he had last year against Cincy and Pittsburgh.

Offensive snap counts 2016

Offensive snaps Game 1 - New York Giants

Offensive snaps Game 2 - At Denver

Offensive snaps Game 3 - At Arizona

Offensive snaps Game 4 - Los Angeles Rams