There are many numbers that can be examined in an NFL game. One of them is the snap counts. Here is a look at some of those for the Dallas Cowboys win over the Washington Commanders.
As the team brings players back or works them in, they tend go easy and work those players in slowly. But not always.
Michael Gallup is going to be WR2 but after so long in recovery, the staff didn’t give him a full workload, letting Noah Brown carry the main load as WR2 for another game with 79% of the offensive snaps, while CeeDee Lamb is carrying the WR1 load with 95% - and 97 yards and a touchdown in the game. Still, Gallup was on the field for 39 snaps, or 64% of Dallas’ offensive plays. The number of targets also showed some conservatism, with only three targets all game. He made the most of them, though, catching two balls including the first touchdown of the game. It was a great first outing for him, and promises more good things to come.
Jason Peters is the most calculated case of bringing someone along. With all the issues on the offensive line, there is a temptation to lean even more on the future Hall of Fame lineman. But the team remained deliberate with him, increasing his workload on offense exactly 50% from the previous week, or 21 plays. Things are working well in pass protection as Cooper Rush was only sacked once and hit just three times. That is a nice accomplishment for a line that had to rely on Matt Farniok to fill in for a few plays, and also says something about the job Tyler Biadasz is quietly doing at center.
The run game is a different story, however, as the Washington defense only gave up 62 yards on the ground. The Commanders forced Dallas to rely on Rush to pass the ball, and he was good enough for the 15-point win. That worked out, but may not be sustainable. The return of Dak Prescott will change things, of course.
But there is a another phase to the game, and it is interesting to see that Peters also took a couple of snaps on special teams. Those appeared to come after Zack Martin had to miss two plays after he apparently rolled his ankle. Peters stepped in to take Martin’s place on special teams after that, where the other offensive linemen had six plays, with Martin and Peters combining for the same. That is a testament to how he is willing to do what the team needs.
Four members of the secondary were on the field for every defensive down, Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Donovan Wilson, and Malik Hooker. And they certainly delivered.
That is the kind of coverage you need, and they repeatedly thwarted Carson Wentz and the Commanders’ receivers. There was also another key member of the secondary, who didn’t get the ramp up treatment. DaRon Bland was forced into playing the slot when Jourdan Lewis developed a problem in pregame warmups and played 80% of the defensive downs. He responded with three tackles and the interception that effectively sealed the game for the Cowboys. It was an impressive debut on defense for the rookie who had just played some special teams snaps in the first three games. If Lewis is healthy, expect him to step back into the slot role. But Bland looks to have a future with the Cowboys.
Israel Mukuamu had a much more limited role on defense, only logging 38% of the plays, along with 60% of the special teams opportunities. His impact was surprisingly big, logging six total tackles and a QB hit. This secondary looks to be the best we have seen in decades, and there is a lot of youth.
The numbers here are interesting, and reveal things about Dan Quinn’s approach to the entire defensive line. None of the DTs on the team were on the field for even 50% of the snaps, with Osa Odighizuwa having the most at 49%. Neville Gallimore saw 31%, Quinton Bohanna got 28% of the work before his injury, and Trysten Hill, probably filling in for Bohanna after the injury, notched 28%.
Clearly, Dallas is not using two DTs on every play. Part of that is moving DEs inside, and Micah Parsons also played some at DE. We also saw three-man rushes during the game. Defensive end is a more limited role under Quinn. That is not always effective against the run, as Washington gouged the Cowboys for 155 yards. Still, the DTs had eight total tackles and the Gallimore sack. If they can figure out the run defense, this could be an epic defense.
Leighton Vander Esch actually logged more snaps than Parsons, 92% to 85%, and of course Parsons logged some of those as a pass rusher. Anthony Barr continues to be an excellent signing, on the field for 70% of this game. He and Vander Esch are the main off the ball linebackers. Together with Parsons, they contributed 16 tackles including a TFL for Parsons. They also harassed Wentz, with Barr getting a QB hit as well as the frequent close encounters Parsons had. However, they also are a big part of the run defense, which obviously needs work.
We often don’t consider this aspect of the game, but there is another function of teams besides the obvious aces like Luke Gifford and C.J. Goodwin. It is where the team brings along younger players who still need development. There are two players that fall clearly into this category, CB Kelvin Joseph and LB Jabril Cox. Neither took a snap with the defense, but they played 80% and 67% of the ST downs respectively. Many express concerns about the draft capital they represent from the 2021 class, with Joseph being a second-rounder and Cox a fourth.
However, both have had injury struggles and clearly fit in the category of being brought along slowly by the team. Joseph has a huge challenge with so much CB talent on the roster ahead of him. It isn’t much easier for Cox since Barr has been added to the team. There is still time for this pair to become more integral to the defense. For now, they are just depth while getting some valuable work on teams. Patience is necessary with them.
Rosters are dynamic as players develop or become a problem, as well as the inevitable adjustments dictated by injuries. Snap counts are useful in seeing how the staff is managing things. So far, they have gotten the team to 3-1, and that is stat that matters most.