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2022 Cowboys analytics roundup: Dak Prescott elevates Dallas to a new level

How good can these Cowboys be?

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

For those who have been following along with these analytics roundups, you know that the Cowboys have been playing at a very high level in just about every area of the game besides the passing offense. Well, Dak Prescott returned this week and looked pretty good in a blowout win over the Lions.

So, has Prescott done enough to make these Cowboys a complete team? Well, it’s only one game so far, but early returns are positive! Let’s get into all of the analytics, but not before a reminder that strength of schedule adjustments for all DVOA-related metrics are currently at 70% 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 -1.7% 18th 17th 0.2% 18th
Defense -21.3% 2nd 6th -11.9% 2nd
Special Teams 4.5% 2nd 4th 2.8% 3rd
Overall 24.1% 3rd 4th 14.9% 5th

The Cowboys have moved up to third in total team efficiency. They’re just behind the Eagles, while the Bills are in first place by a large margin. Dallas is notably second in their conference, and the next best team in the NFC, surprisingly, is the Seahawks. Seattle is seventh in overall DVOA, a reminder of how bad the conference is right now outside of the NFC East.

As has been the case all year, the Cowboys are being carried by elite defense and special teams units, both of whom have jumped up to second in their respective categories. You’ll notice that the offense actually took a step back in efficiency, but we’ll examine that closer in just a bit.

2022 NFL Team Tiers, Weeks 1-7, courtesy of

The Cowboys made a modest improvement in the EPA-based team tiers. The defense shot up to the top of the league, which is to be expected after generating five takeaways in one game. The offense didn’t take a huge step forward, but Prescott’s unit was 12th in EPA/play this week. If that continues, the Cowboys will gradually drift to the right on these tiers, which is exactly where they want to go.


Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA -1.7% 18th
Pass DVOA 4.8% 20th
Run DVOA 6.0% 8th

By all accounts, the offense looked better on Sunday than they had for much of the time with Cooper Rush under center, but the Cowboys dropped in offensive DVOA this week. There are a few reasons for that. For starters, going 3/9 on third downs and fumbling in the red zone did not help. And while the Cowboys did improve their passing DVOA from 4.0% to 4.8%, their rushing DVOA dropped from 8.2% to 6.0%; that isn’t a troubling development, but it does explain some things.

Perhaps the biggest explanation, though, comes from the adjustments for quality of opponent. The Lions entered the game ranked 32nd in defensive DVOA, but they held Dallas to just three points in the first half. In other words, the offense performed well overall but should have done better against such a bad defense. Since DVOA can’t account for this being Prescott’s first game back from injury, though, we’ll just have to consider that as another variable in this analysis. Still, the overwhelming consensus is that this offense looks better now.

Dak Prescott’s Efficiency *in Week 7*

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 55.0 T-12th
EPA/play 0.385 3rd
CPOE 10.0 6th
DVOA - -
DYAR - -

Things get a little tricky here. Since Prescott missed so much time, it’s hard to simply compare his metrics to players with a full season’s worth of games to their name. In fact, Football Outsiders (who produce DVOA and DYAR metrics) don’t even list Prescott as a qualifying player for their usual quarterback metrics yet. As such, we’ll just look at how Prescott performed versus the field in this week alone. As he plays more games, though, this will change.

As it stands, Prescott had a very good first week back. He was inside the top six in both EPA/play and completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) and his QBR was just outside the top ten. Prescott also completed 76% of his passes despite leading the league in intended air yards and throwing into tight windows at the second highest rate this week. It’s wise not to overreact to one game, but this certainly looked like the Prescott fans are used to seeing.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Adjusted Line Yards 4.74 7th
RB Yards 4.65 13th
Adjusted Sack Rate 5.4% 7th
Pass Block Win Rate 45% 32nd
Run Block Win Rate 73% 8th

It hasn’t jumped off the page much, but this offensive line has been making strides in pass protection as of late. Much of their early success under Cooper Rush came because Rush got the ball out so quickly, but Prescott held the ball for the seventh longest average this week. And while he did get sacked twice, Prescott was only pressured on six of his 28 dropbacks.

Both tackles gave up a sack in the game; for Terence Steele, it was the first sack he’s given up all year, and it came courtesy of a filthy spin move from rookie Aidan Hutchinson. But Connor McGovern, who played on 94% of the offensive snaps this week, didn’t allow a single pressure. That’s the first time he’s done that since Week 1 of the season, when he only played seven snaps before getting hurt. That’s a positive development for McGovern.


Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA -21.3% 2nd
Pass Defense DVOA -29.9% 1st
Run Defense DVOA -9.7% 12th
Pass Rush Win Rate 54% 1st
Run Stop Win Rate 28% 30th

Yes, this defense is elite and Dan Quinn deserves all the flowers. Micah Parsons continues to lead all defenders in pass rush win rate and total pressures, while he’s tied for second in sacks. DeMarcus Lawrence isn’t far behind, ranking eighth in pass rush win rate and is tied for 13th in pressures among edge rushers.

But the run defense is what sticks out here. Dallas has made legitimate strides in that aspect of the game in each of the last three weeks, and it’s been by design: opposing running backs in those games have faced a heavy box on just over a third of their carries. In other words, the Cowboys have been selling out to stop the run, and it’s largely worked. But it’s not the most sustainable approach, which might explain why the Cowboys on Tuesday traded for nose tackle Johnathan Hankins, who has been a plus run defender for much of his career.

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 38 23 60.5% 75.8 11.2 170 182
Anthony Brown 61 37 60.7% 89.1 9.2 239 135
Jourdan Lewis 26 19 73.1% 74.2 6.2 51 119
DaRon Bland 9 7 77.8% 53.5 4.2 17 40
Jayron Kearse 12 10 83.3% 105.2 6.8 68 43
Malik Hooker 11 9 81.8% 56.8 8.0 39 35
Donovan Wilson 24 14 58.3% 63.0 9.8 38 53
Israel Mukuamu 4 3 75.0% 83.3 1.5 5 13
Micah Parsons 7 5 71.4% 142.9 1.9 -1 71
Leighton Vander Esch 18 14 77.8% 88.0 2.9 17 75
Anthony Barr 17 13 76.5% 87.6 3.8 35 54

The big story in this secondary right now is the loss of Jourdan Lewis, who suffered a Lisfranc injury while making a diving interception this week. His season is over now, an unfortunate blow to this defense. Lewis had been playing well all year, although he struggled a week prior against the Eagles. It’s disappointing that Lewis suffered this injury while having a really nice bounce-back game, especially against his hometown team.

Filling in for Lewis going forward is rookie DaRon Bland, who’s already had a chance to fill in for Lewis earlier this year against the Commanders. Bland allowed an 81.8% completion rate in that game but also made a huge interception in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Of course, that game saw Bland be moved up the depth chart with very little warning. Bland should look better with a full week of preparation with the starters. Still, it’ll be interesting to see if teams decide to go after Bland, since Anthony Brown has drawn most of the targets this season so far.

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