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Cowboys’ offensive snap counts: What happened to the short passing game?

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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.

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

That was a very disappointing 35-30 loss to the Rams at home.

Offensive Overview

As we explained in our weekly Dak and Zeke report, it was a tale of two halves for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense. In the first half, Dak put up numbers like the Arizona game, with an ANY/A above 11 yards, and a passer rating in the 140s. In the second half, Dak’s numbers were worse than the Denver game, with an ANY/A of 3.42 and a passer rating of 53. That led to several punts, after which Los Angeles scored every time.

The Cowboys rolled up 440 yards of offense and 30 points, which should be enough to win. On a day when the defense was missing Sean Lee, Todd Gurley and Jared Goff had their way on the way to 35 points. Two Cowboys turnovers - a fumbled punt by Ryan Switzer and a pick by Dak after his arm was hit - led to 10 Rams’ points.

Where is Dallas’s short passing game?

This is the second game in a row where Jason Witten has been shut down, and Cole Beasley’s three catches and 17 yards isn’t enough.

Here are the receiver numbers.

Player Game Snaps Targets Catches Percent Yards TDs Yds/Snaps 2016 Snaps 2016 Yds 2016 Y/S
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
Total 232 40 16 40% 212 2 0.91 688 796 1.16
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
Total 165 20 11 55% 86 0 0.52 603 833 1.38
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
Total 167 22 17 77% 166 0 0.99 746 594 0.80
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
Total 86 9 6 67% 150 1 1.74 429 219 0.51
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
Total 20 1 1 100% 13 0 0.65 NA NA NA
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
Total 18 0 0 0% 0 0 0.00 NA NA NA
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
Total 263 28 19 68% 168 2 0.64 1017 673 0.66

As you can see, Jason Witten has disappeared in the last two weeks. Did L.A. copy something that Arizona was doing to take Witten away? Witten again had only a single catch.

Cole Beasley had three catches. He now has 11 on the season at the quarter pole. That comes out to a pace of 44 for the year. He led the team with 75 last year.

These are the two players that Dallas relies on to move the chains in the passing game. Ezekiel Elliott does so in the running game. None of them are working as well as last year.

If they aren’t getting it done, who is there to pick up the slack? Dez Bryant got a lot of yards this week, but a poor 38% completion rate was responsible for several of Dallas’ second half punts when the game slipped away. Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are above last year’s numbers, but they aren’t getting enough volume to right the ship. Dallas won in Arizona off the big plays to Butler. They had big plays to Dez this week, and a big run by Alfred Morris, but it all dried up in the second half.

I don’t have the answer. My guess is that it’s a combination of things that starts with the offensive line opening holes for Zeke, and giving Dak time to find open receivers. If the Cowboys can roll up 440 yards and 30 points a game, where’s the problem, you might say? The problem is that the Cowboys still haven’t rediscovered the efficient attack that led them to a 13-3 record last season.

Here are the group snap counts.

Offensive Line

Player Pos Age Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Total Season Percent
Travis Frederick C 26 4 74 71 47 71 263 263 100%
Zack Martin G 27 4 74 71 47 71 263 263 100%
La'el Collins T 24 4 74 71 47 71 263 263 100%
Tyron Smith T 27 4 74 71 47 71 263 263 100%
Chaz Green G 25 3 74 71 47 0 192 263 73%
Jonathan Cooper G 27 1 0 0 0 71 71 263 27%
Joe Looney C 27 4 0 0 0 2 2 263 1%
Byron Bell G 28 4 0 0 0 0 0 263 0%

The big news here is that Jonathan Cooper took the place of Chaz Green at left guard. Here are Pro Football Focus’ updated ratings for the year.

  • Tyron Smith - 68.7 (up from 62.2)
  • Jonathan Cooper 32.8 (Chaz Green was 34.2)
  • Travis Frederick 84.2 (up from 77)
  • Zack Martin 85.6 (up from 85.5)
  • La’el Collins 38.3 (up from 32.9)

We put these out here not because they are perfect ratings, but because there isn’t much else out to evaluate individual linemen. PFF really liked Travis Frederick and La’el Collins this week, giving them 84 and an 82.9 grades, respectively.

Faced with his toughest task of the season since facing Von Miller in Week 2, Collins turned in his best performance of the season against the Rams. He got off to a fast start, burying Alec Ogletree on the Cowboys’ opening drive and looked largely in control the rest of the way. Surrendering only 3 pressures on 46 snaps in pass protection, none of them quick enough to disrupt Dak Prescott early in his dropback, this was comfortably Collins’ best display of the season so far.

Quarterback

Dak played every down. We don’t even need the chart. Look at the Dak and Zeke report to see how he was great in the first half, and pretty unproductive in the second half.

Running Backs

Player Pos Age Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Total Season Percent
Ezekiel Elliott RB 22 2 60 63 43 64 230 263 87%
Keith Smith FB 25 2 2 2 5 7 16 263 6%
Alfred Morris RB 29 2 8 1 0 3 12 263 5%
Rod Smith RB 23 2 2 4 3 1 10 263 4%

Alfred Morris had only three snaps, but he carried twice for 76 yards, including a 70-yard run where he was caught at the five-yard line. Zeke finished it off for the TD.

See the Dak and Zeke report for Zeke’s totals. 85 yards rushing; 54 yards receiving. The latter number is the second highest of his career. Zeke was pretty good on the day, but Todd Gurley outproduced him by a lot, which is a poor reflection on the Dallas defense.

Wide Receivers

Player Pos Age Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Total Season Percent
Dez Bryant WR 29 2 67 66 41 58 232 263 88%
Terrance Williams WR 28 2 38 49 33 47 167 263 63%
Cole Beasley WR 28 2 52 57 25 31 165 263 63%
Brice Butler WR 27 2 35 22 7 22 86 263 33%
Noah Brown WR 21 1 0 5 8 7 20 263 8%
Ryan Switzer WR 22 2 2 6 2 8 18 263 7%

We’ve looked at their production up top. Big yardage day for Dez Bryant, but only a 38% completion rate. The chemistry between Dez and Dak is still not where it needs to be yet, it led to far too many Dallas punts.

Tight Ends

Player Pos Age Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Total Season Percent
Jason Witten TE 35 2 74 71 47 71 263 263 100%
James Hanna TE 28 2 21 9 14 30 74 263 28%
Geoff Swaim TE 24 2 9 0 7 4 20 263 8%

Jason Witten again played every down, but he was invisible for the second game in a row. James Hanna had the big play - a 28-yard TD. I doubt this means increased usage for James Hanna in the offense. But it would be nice if the second tight end was a receiving threat so teams have to account for all the Dallas players.