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What PFF grades say about the Cowboys additions in free agency?

Here’s a look at the Cowboys free agent acquisitions in the eyes of Pro Football Focus.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys really got active over the last several weeks in free agency. Their approach was slightly altered to peruse the market for better talent than in year’s past but somehow the expenditures were very similar to the low-cost style the Cowboys have become known for.

The front office made a few more publicized acquisitions like the trade for Robert Quinn as well as reaching a one-year deal with Randall Cobb. The Cowboys also made a few low-key signings such as Kerry Hyder, George Iloka and Christian Covington. Every offseason, the Cowboys have a goal of filling their roster needs with low-risk free agents in hopes to draft more purely. This difference here is that the Cowboys actually acquired players that have a shot to make strong impacts this season.

Tons of football publications have their own methods for grading players and Pro Football Focus is one of the more mainstream platforms for such formulas. We thought it would be worth a look to see how the newest faces on the Cowboys were graded out in comparison with their peers on the roster.

Let’s start by looking at the defensive line, the Cowboys still have an extension to hammer out with DeMarcus Lawrence but even with him, there was still plenty of work to be done. Factoring in Randy Gregory’s indefinite suspension, Tyrone Crawford’s off-field incident, and also just a need for more production made this a position of importance. First up, here are 2018 PFF’s grades for Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Robert Quinn:

Player Overall Run DEF Pass Rush Coverage Total Snaps
Christian Covington 73.4 70.1 63.6 72.3 281
Kerry Hyder 59 58.1 57.8 - 153
Robert Quinn 69.9 56.9 73.2 75.3 635

At first-glance, Christian Covington received some high markings on few snap counts. A scheme like Rod Marinelli’s will fit well for Covington, who can give the Cowboys a nice rotational piece with high production value. Kerry Hyder may not look great on PFF’s grading scale but keep in mind he was out of place in a 3-4 scheme change in Detroit. Robert Quinn is the big get for the Cowboys, he will be penciled in at right end, giving the Cowboys a nice tandem of Quinn and Lawrence.

Now, for comparisons, a look at how the incumbents on the Cowboys roster did last season:

Player Overall Run DEF Pass Rush Coverage Total Snaps
DeMarcus Lawrence 88 81.7 82.7 66.2 848
Tyrone Crawford 72 66.4 69.1 66.6 732
Randy Gregory 61.7 61.9 66.8 64.1 522
Taco Charlton 64.3 64.9 58.6 62.1 428
Dorance Armstrong 53.7 53 55.1 57.5 273
Antwaun Woods 68.5 74.1 52 72.3 659
Maliek Collins 61.8 59.4 61.1 55.2 608
Daniel Ross 66.3 78.3 54.1 61.9 252

Let’s continue by looking at the statistical production and why Robert Quinn was a really valuable piece to add on defense. The Cowboys have said that Quinn is a replacement for Randy Gregory but he’s also a replacement at right end for Tyrone Crawford, who was slated to slide back over in the interim. This move could mean that Tyrone Crawford will be spending more time inside, which is where he has been most successful for Marinelli.

Here is a three-season look at the production for Quinn, Crawford, and Gregory:

Player Games Tackles TFL Sacks FF
Tyrone Crawford 45 90 16 14 2
Robert Quinn 40 80 20 19 6
Randy Gregory 28 45 11 7 2

If Quinn remains healthy, he’s without a doubt the best option at right end in terms of production value. With all the question marks on the availability of certain guys, the Cowboys deserve credit for the efforts made in shoring up this unit.

Now, we move over to the safety position and George Iloka. On a limited snap count, here are his PFF grades:

Player Overall Coverage Run DEF Pass Rush Total Snaps
George Iloka 68 63 75.7 60 117

PFF agrees with the Cowboys assessment that Iloka is a better fit at strong safety and though his snap count was limited, he would be an upgrade for the run defense:

Player Overall Coverage Run DEF Pass Rush Total Snaps
Xavier Woods 68 72.3 60.5 - 1,015
Jeff Heath 56.4 59.1 48.9 51.3 1,128
Kavon Frazier 52.2 44.7 70.6 66.3 192

Jeff Heath struggled quite a bit last season stopping the run and the signing of Iloka is proof that the Cowboys want a better option. Heath and Iloka have very similar production over the last three seasons and that’s why it seems like Heath just had a really down year:

Player Games Tackles Solo FF INT
Jeff Heath 47 165 131 3 5
George Iloka 48 168 116 1 4

Pairing Xavier Woods’ coverage abilities with Iloka’s knack for run defense could give the Cowboys quality safety play. Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier will be your sub-package guys with a heavy special teams load. Let’s not write Jeff Heath off just yet because he always seems to be around when a play is needed to be made. Grabbing Iloka on a friendly deal is just one part on the checklist as the Cowboys very interested in drafting a safety with several on their 30 visits list.

Moving on to receiver, the Cowboys will be looking to replace Cole Beasley with Randall Cobb.

Player Overall Receiving Run Block Total Snaps
Randall Cobb 60.2 62.3 34.7 467
Cole Beasley 74.6 73.8 67.2 768

Cobb is the biggest health question mark of all the recent signings, he played a little over half of the snaps that Cole Beasley did. However, a healthy Randall Cobb gives the Cowboys a much more dynamic threat in the passing game. That health is quite the caveat to overcome for Cobb but the Cowboys seem to be confident that he’ll be a big contributor this season.

Here are the three-year production statistics for both Cobb and Beasley:

Player Games Rec. Rec. Yds Yds/Rec. TD Long
Cole Beasley 47 176 1819 10 12 54
Randall Cobb 37 164 1646 10 10 75

No offense intended for Cole Beasley, who will be harder to replace than most believe, but now you have more potential for explosive playmaking. The Cowboys really want that explosiveness on offense with Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb all possessing outstanding abilities in that area.

Overall the Cowboys did a nice job of supplementing talent in free agency which hasn’t been their strong suit of late. The talent levels of the players they gained far outweighs that of what they lost.

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