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2022 Cowboys analytics roundup: Dallas still riding high despite loss

Dak Prescott is returning at the perfect time for the Dallas Cowboys.

NFL: OCT 16 Cowboys at Eagles Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There’s a strange feeling in Dallas right now. They lost to the Eagles on Sunday Night Football after an abysmal first half that dug far too deep a hole to climb out of, and things didn’t look all that good. On the flip side, though, Dak Prescott is likely returning this week for a home game against the Lions, giving reason for optimism.

So let’s cast aside the conflicting vibes for a moment and get to the hard, emotionless numbers. Before we dive into the analytics roundup, a reminder that for all DVOA related metrics the strength of schedule adjustments are currently at 60% strength while the DAVE metric is currently made up of 45% actual performance and 65% preseason forecast. Here we go:

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 -0.3% 17th 17th 1.2% 16th
Defense -16.7% 6th 6th -8.9% 4th
Special Teams 3.4% 4th 5th 2.2% 4th
Overall 19.8% 4th 6th 12.3% 4th

On the larger scale, nothing has really changed for the Cowboys. The defense and special teams are elite while the offense is just mediocre. But the interesting development is that Dallas actually moved up two spots in overall efficiency despite the loss. That’s partially an indictment of the rest of the league, but also shows how good these Cowboys have been even when not at their best.

2022 NFL Team Tiers, Weeks 1-6, courtesy of

As has been the case, the EPA-based team tiers are less kind to the Cowboys. They’re fifth in defensive EPA/play but 25th in offensive EPA/play. The run game has been good too, placing just above the average line in EPA/rush, but the Cowboys are third from the bottom in EPA/dropback. In other words, the Cowboys are really being held back by poor quarterback play, which makes Prescott’s impending return even more exciting.


Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA -0.3% 17th
Pass DVOA 4.0% 21st
Run DVOA 9.2% 6th

Following up on that point, this offense has done a solid job of treading water with Prescott out. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has expanded his running playbook and it’s resulted in one of the most efficient rushing attacks in the league.

Of course, the passing game has suffered. Having a backup quarterback in there will do that to you, and the Cowboys were also playing Cooper Rush with an inexperienced receiving corps to boot. With the way this defense and special teams are playing, even a moderate uptick in passing efficiency could do wonders for this team.

Cooper Rush’s Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 61.3 6th
EPA/play 0.007 21st
CPOE -5.9 32nd
DVOA 2.0% 15th
DYAR 139 17th

It certainly seems like this past week was the last time we’ll see Cooper Rush in starting action, at least for the time being, so this section is almost a postmortem on his performance. It needs to be emphasized that Rush was a backup quarterback with just one career start to his name a month ago, so keeping the ship steady while the team went 4-1 with him starting is something to be celebrated.

That said, Rush’s best attribute was his ability to not lose the game for Dallas, but he did just that in a dreadful game against the Eagles. Rush had been flirting with danger the last few weeks, and it bit him in a big way on Sunday night. Still, he finishes with a fairly average ranking across the board in the quarterback metrics here, which is all you can realistically ask for in a backup.

One thing to note: much of Rush’s production came on designed play-action shot plays, taking advantage of defenses selling out against the run. Rush had a completion rate of 65.9% on play-action, much higher than his 54.5% on regular dropbacks. Rush also averaged nearly three more yards per attempt on play-action passes. Meanwhile, he had four more turnover worthy plays on regular dropbacks, and all seven of his sacks came without play-action.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Adjusted Line Yards 4.73 8th
RB Yards 4.55 14th
Adjusted Sack Rate 4.8% 5th
Pass Block Win Rate 41% 32nd
Run Block Win Rate 72% 9th

The offensive line has been doing a great job in run blocking, but let’s focus on their pass protection. As was the case last week, the Cowboys are dead last in pass block win rate, which measures how often the line holds their blocks for 2.5 seconds on pass plays. Despite having the worst pass block win rate, Dallas is fifth in adjusted sack rate. How is that possible?

In short, Kellen Moore has been scheming around the team’s deficiencies in pass protection. Rush has averaged the third fastest time to throw this year, and his average pocket time (the time from the snap to either the pass attempt or being pressured/sacked) is one of the lowest in the league at 2.2 seconds. Because of Rush’s quick release on most plays, that contributes to a much smaller sample size for this line when it comes to the pass block win rate metric, so the bad plays essentially weigh more in the overall numbers.

When this line breaks down in pass protection, it usually comes from the left side of the line. Rookie Tyler Smith has allowed 13 pressures, now tied for the most on the team with Matt Farniok. Connor McGovern is behind those two with nine pressures allowed. The right side trio of Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, and Terence Steele have given up pressures too, but they’ve yet to allow a sack. It’s becoming clear which part of the line is the weak link, though it could change if Jason Peters continues to see more of the field now that he’s back from injury.


Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA -16.7% 6th
Pass Defense DVOA -24.6% 3rd
Run Defense DVOA -5.4% 17th
Pass Rush Win Rate 54% 2nd
Run Stop Win Rate 28% 29th

By all accounts, this Dallas defense just had its worst performance of the season. But they only dropped by less than 2% in DVOA grade and held firm at sixth in the league in defensive efficiency. Perhaps more encouraging is that the run defense experienced zero change in their run defense DVOA grade despite facing one of the best rushing attacks in the league. That’s solid for a run defense that’s been anything but this year.

If there was one real concern for this defense after the Philly game, though, it’s Micah Parsons. Now, Parsons still leads all defenders in pass rush win rate with 34%, but the Eagles effectively neutralized him in the first half by basically just reading an unblocked Parsons on RPO plays. It resulted in the first time all season Parsons failed to record a pressure in a half of football.

Credit belongs to Dan Quinn for making adjustments at halftime, and Parsons tallied three pressures in the second half in an adjusted role. But Philadelphia may have just provided a blueprint for handling Parsons when he comes off the edge as a rusher. We saw in the second half that it still wasn’t enough to contain him, but if teams are able to consistently mitigate Parsons the way the Eagles just did, that could become a problem for this pass rush.


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 37 23 62.2% 89.0 11.4 170 182
Anthony Brown 58 34 58.6% 86.6 9.2 212 124
Jourdan Lewis 23 17 73.9% 92.3 6.7 57 101
DaRon Bland 8 6 75.0% 52.1 4.8 17 35
Jayron Kearse 7 5 71.4% 90.2 6.9 34 14
Malik Hooker 10 8 80.0% 53.3 8.5 36 27
Donovan Wilson 22 13 59.1% 64.6 10.7 42 48
Israel Mukuamu 4 3 75.0% 83.3 1.5 5 13
Micah Parsons 6 4 66.7% 138.9 2.0 -2 62
Leighton Vander Esch 16 12 75.0% 81.8 3.1 14 52
Anthony Barr 13 10 76.9% 83.2 3.5 21 32

The Eagles also found a way to scheme receivers open against this defense, which mostly consisted of throwing to open guys after reading Parsons. On Sunday night, Parsons was targeted four times and gave up three completions for 44 yards. That wasn’t necessarily because Parsons did anything wrong in coverage, but the Eagles found ways to put him in conflict, and Parsons lost the no-win situation every time.

Jalen Hurts also had an easy night elsewhere, with just two of his passes being contested. Hurts also averaged 4.4 yards through the air on his throws, his second lowest figure on the year. It was a dink and dunk approach, but it worked. It also helped, of course, that three of the Eagles’ five scoring drives began in Cowboys territory. It’ll be interesting to see if opposing offenses try to recreate this approach, and how this defense responds to it.

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