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2022 Cowboys analytics roundup: Cooper Rush is no QB1

The Dallas Cowboys offense is starting to sputter.

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Cowboys find themselves in a very odd situation right now. They’re 4-1 and have rattled off four straight wins with a backup quarterback. If they can make it five straight wins next week on the road against the undefeated Eagles, they’ll move into a tie for the best record in the NFL. But the Cowboys’ performance so far this season hasn’t been a team that belongs in the conversation of best in the league.

This is, in part, due to the high amount of parity around the league right now, which is a nice way of saying nobody is really that good. The analytics reflect this, too, showing a Cowboys team that’s been genuinely great in some areas but still has work to do. So let’s dive into the numbers. Important note before we get started: strength of schedule adjustments for DVOA metrics are now at 50% strength.

Cowboys Efficiency at a Glance

DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Week DAVE DAVE Rank
DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Week DAVE DAVE Rank
Offense -1.2% 17th 17th -3.5% 23rd
Defense -18.6% 6th 5th -8.0% 4th
Special Teams 2.9% 5th 6th 1.8% 5th
Overall 20.2% 6th 6th 6.3% 9th

The Cowboys are sixth in the league in overall DVOA, just as they were last week. That grade puts them at fourth in the NFC behind the Eagles, Buccaneers, and 49ers. Dallas is sitting at that spot almost entirely on the strength of their defense and special teams, both of which are performing at elite levels.

The offense hasn’t been miserable, but it’s definitely kept the Cowboys from being more efficient. We’ll explore that side of the ball in more depth in a minute, but a moderate uptick in production from the offense would easily propel this team to the top of the NFC food chain.

2022 NFL Team Tiers, Weeks 1-5, courtesy of

The EPA-based team tiers are less kind to the Cowboys, but they also don’t account for strength of schedule or factor in special teams play, which has been big for Dallas. The offense is 25th in offensive EPA/play, giving them the worst offense of any team with a winning record through five games. And on that note, it’s time to discuss this offense in depth.


Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA -1.2% 17th
Pass DVOA 7.2% 17th
Run DVOA 6.8% 9th

A week ago, the Cowboys made promising strides in their passing attack while their ground game - which had been off to a hot start - had trouble against Washington’s defense. After playing the Rams, the offense did the exact opposite. The pass game dropped from a 19.2% DVOA grade to 7.2% while the run game went from 0.0% to 6.8%. Both of those are sizable changes in one week’s time.

The more curious part of this fluctuation comes when you consider the Rams defense entered the game third in run defense DVOA but was in the bottom third of the league in pass defense efficiency. In other words, the Cowboys rediscovered their run game mojo against a really stout run defense but were unable to take advantage of a struggling secondary. It was the first genuine step back for Cooper Rush since taking over for Dak Prescott this year. Speaking of Rush...

Cooper Rush’s Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 66.9 5th
EPA/play 0.068 16th
CPOE -3.7 26th
DVOA 10.9% 10th
DYAR 174 15th

Cooper Rush took a step back in every single one of these metrics this week. It was the first time all year he really looked like a backup quarterback, and Kellen Moore seemingly recognized that, only asking Rush to drop back 19 times.

Now, several of Rush’s passes turned into flat out drops, which isn’t on him. But Rush had trouble making things happen in the passing game all day, and didn’t look like the player who was routinely making defenses pay for disrespecting him. Maybe he just wasn’t able to get into a rhythm, or maybe it was just the byproduct of facing Aaron Donald.

Or maybe, just maybe, Rush is running out of magic. The offense has been middling all year, and most of their success has come in the run game. Furthermore, most of Rush’s success has come on play-action shot plays. With Rush leading this offense, Dallas is second from the bottom in drive success rate, which measures the rate at which a down series results in either a first down or touchdown. Simply put, Rush isn’t moving the chains or scoring touchdowns; only the Raiders have attempted more field goals than Dallas on the year.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Adjusted Line Yards 4.51 16th
RB Yards 4.42 17th
Adjusted Sack Rate 5.8% 10th
Pass Block Win Rate 43% 32nd
Run Block Win Rate 73% 9th

All things considered, the offensive line did a solid job against Aaron Donald. He recorded two sacks, both coming against the rookie Tyler Smith, and tied his season high for single-game pressures with six. But Donald didn’t complete destroy the offense, and the Cowboys managed to find success in spurts.

The line as a whole did a phenomenal job in run blocking, especially given how good this Rams defense had been against the run so far. The Cowboys’ duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard ran for 164 yards and most of their yards came in that phase of the offense. It was an encouraging return to form for this line after struggling against Washington, especially as the Cowboys prepare for a road trip to Philadelphia.

The Cowboys predictably slipped in their pass protection rankings this week, which is definitely attributable to the Aaron Donald Effect. But they can take solace in knowing that three out of their five starters are playing great so far: Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, and Terence Steele have all allowed zero sacks so far this season. The right side of the line is solid.


Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA -18.6% 6th
Pass Defense DVOA -26.6% 4th
Run Defense DVOA -5.4% 18th
Pass Rush Win Rate 56% 1st
Run Stop Win Rate 29% 25th

Welcome to the fun part of the analytics roundup. Dan Quinn’s defense is not to be trifled with. They’re second in the league in sacks, first in pressure rate, and have recorded at least one takeaway in all but one of their games so far.

The pass rush is the engine of this defense so far. Micah Parsons played through a groin injury and recorded two sacks and a forced fumble. He’s back into a tie for the league lead in sacks and second in pressures. Parsons also reclaimed his crown as the leader in pass rush win rate among all defenders at 33%, though DeMarcus Lawrence isn’t far behind him; he sits at 29%, good for fifth among all edge rushers.

Cowboys Pass Coverage

Targets Completions Completion Rate Passer Rating Allowed ADOT When Targeted Air Yards Allowed Yards After Catch
Targets Completions Completion Rate Passer Rating Allowed ADOT When Targeted Air Yards Allowed Yards After Catch
Trevon Diggs 35 22 62.9% 90.3 11.7 165 176
Anthony Brown 54 31 57.4% 84.9 9.4 192 101
Jourdan Lewis 20 15 75.0% 94.8 6.7 51 94
DaRon Bland 8 6 75.0% 52.1 4.8 17 35
Jayron Kearse 5 4 80.0% 100.0 7.4 33 7
Malik Hooker 9 7 77.8% 51.2 8.6 28 24
Donovan Wilson 21 12 57.1% 46.3 11.0 35 48
Israel Mukuamu 4 3 75.0% 83.3 1.5 5 13
Micah Parsons 2 1 50.0% 70.8 0.5 -5 18
Leighton Vander Esch 13 10 76.9% 82.9 3.5 12 40
Anthony Barr 13 10 76.9% 83.2 3.5 21 32

This Dallas secondary played a phenomenal game against Matthew Stafford and the Rams, with the exception of two plays. Cooper Kupp had a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown that tanked Trevon Diggs’ numbers - and for the record, he was correctly assessed the catch allowed, but everything that happened after was the result of terrible play by the safeties who were supposed to be helping Diggs.

In addition to Kupp’s big play, TuTu Atwell caught a 54-yard bomb early in the game. Those two plays accounted for 45% of Stafford’s passing yards on the day. Another 18% of his yards came on the Rams’ penultimate drive, which ended in a Malik Hooker interception. All in all, this secondary bottled up the passing attack and once again proved how dangerous they can be. They’ll need to keep it up against a red hot Eagles offense next Sunday night.

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