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2022 Cowboys analytics roundup: Dallas starts the season with nowhere to go but up

Silver lining: things can’t much worse from here for Dallas.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys football is back, and with it comes the weekly analytics roundup! Here, we track the Cowboys’ performances in a variety of advanced analytics metrics and monitor how they stack up against the rest of the league as the season goes by. And if any of you caught the Cowboys’ season opening loss, you can probably guess what the numbers say about this team.

To say that the Cowboys looked bad on Sunday night against the Buccaneers would be an understatement. They were the only NFL team to not score a touchdown this weekend, lost Dak Prescott and several other starters to injury, and did all of this on primetime television for all to see. Not surprisingly, the analytics paint that exact picture.

Cowboys Efficiency at a Glance

Offense -49.0% 32nd -7.8% 27th
Defense 0.2% 15th -2.2% 9th
Special Teams -0.9% 18th 1.0% 5th
Overall -50.0% 30th -4.7% 19th

As a quick reminder, DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average and it measures, in simplest terms, efficiency. DVOA will usually carry with it an adjustment to take into account quality of opponents played, but that won’t kick in for a few weeks with how new the season is. In the meantime, we can look at DAVE, which combines a team’s DVOA with their DVOA-based preseason projections in an attempt to not overreact to a bad game.

So, with that in mind, we can see that the Cowboys were the third least efficient team in the NFL in Week 1. Their DAVE rank has them at 19th, which basically suggests that the Cowboys weren’t expected to be good but they also weren’t expected to be this bad. Notably, the disparities between the DVOA and DAVE of defense and special teams were much larger than for the offense, which speaks volumes about the preseason expectations for each of those groups.

2022 NFL Team Tiers, Week 1, courtesy of

Here we see a breakdown of where every team stacks up in the league based on their expected points added (EPA) per play. Just like their overall DVOA, the Cowboys are right there at the bottom, ranking dead last in offensive EPA/play.

The good news here (maybe) is that they’re right there in the cellar with the reigning Super Bowl champ Rams, as well as several other playoff teams from a year ago in the Packers, Patriots, 49ers, Raiders, and Cardinals. Of course, none of those other teams lost their starting quarterback in Week 1, but it goes to show how this first week can create some really wild overreactions.


Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA -49.0% 32nd
Pass DVOA -50.0% 32nd
Run DVOA -6.1% 14th

If the Cowboys front office was hoping for a Week 1 performance that would silence all the doubters of their personnel moves on offense, then they couldn’t have been more disappointed. Dallas is dead last in offensive efficiency, and so is their passing offense. Their rushing attack was considerably better, but even that ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of efficiency.

There were a ton of reasons for this, and we’ll get into some of those reasons in depth in a minute. Simply put, though, this was an example of an offense undergoing too much change - changes to personnel, scheme, and philosophy - and then asking the first-string offense to go out and execute it for the first time ever against a defense that’s been extremely good the last three years and appears to still be great. Most Cowboys fans thought this was a recipe for disaster heading into this game, and they’ve certainly been validated thus far.

Dak Prescott’s Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 15.3 31st
EPA/play -0.362 32nd
CPOE -23.0 32nd
DVOA -52.3% 31st
DYAR -70 31st

There is no more influential driver of offensive success in football than the quarterback, so it’s not a surprise that the Cowboys’ horrendous offensive showing stems from an equally horrendous performance from Dak Prescott. I’ve been accused in the past of being a homer for Prescott, but his Week 1 performance was objectively terrible. Relative to what we’ve come to expect from him, it may very well have been his worst game ever.

It’s hard to really rag on Prescott too much now, since the Cowboys’ offensive prospects have sunk even lower with the news that he’ll miss some time, but it can’t be overstated how bad he was against Tampa Bay. The numbers speak for themselves: Prescott is last or second to last in every quarterback efficiency metric here. How rare is that? Even in 2018 before the Amari Cooper trade, Prescott didn’t perform this poorly.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Adjusted Line Yards 4.57 18th
RB Yards 3.75 22nd
Adjusted Sack Rate 10.6% 26th
Pass Block Win Rate 44% 28th
Run Block Win Rate 83% 1st

It wasn’t all Prescott, though. The offensive line didn’t make things any easier for their struggling quarterback or the inexperienced receivers. Only four teams recorded a lower pass block win rate - which measures the rate at which an offensive line holds their pass blocks for at least 2.5 seconds - than Dallas in Week 1. Additionally, their adjusted sack rate was equally poor.

More than that, though, this offense was reconfigured in the offseason to be a run heavy attack. While they finished Week 1 leading the league in run block win rate - the same as pass block win rate but for running plays - they were 18th in adjusted line yards, a metric that identifies how much of a running back’s actual yards were created by the offensive line. Dallas needs to be much better in this area, especially with their sudden deficiency at quarterback.

All in all, it was a poor day for this line in pass protection. Connor McGovern was the only lineman to not allow a pressure in the game, and he didn’t even play two full series before leaving the game. Matt Farniok, who replaced McGovern at right guard, struggled mightily: he gave up five pressures in the game, the same amount as all the other linemen combined.

That said, Farniok’s play wasn’t all bad; he’s second among all guards in run block win rate. Similarly, Tyler Biadasz is fourth among centers in run blocking while Terence Steele is tied for ninth among tackles. That all bodes well for an offense that’s likely to run the ball even more with Prescott out.


Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA 0.2% 15th
Pass Defense DVOA -4.8% 14th
Run Defense DVOA 4.3% 22nd
Pass Rush Win Rate 55% 6th
Run Stop Win Rate 25% 30th

When a defense picks off Tom Brady, sacks him twice, and holds him to just one touchdown in a game, generally that would be considered a good night. But the analytics paint a different picture, placing Dallas middle of the pack in overall defensive efficiency and against the pass.

Placing sixth in pass rush win rate is impressive, though it’s almost entirely bolstered by Micah Parsons’ very good night. Just how good was Parsons? He currently leads the league in pass rush win rate at any position with a score of 60%; for context, the second-closest figure is, ironically, Buccaneers edge rusher Shaq Barrett with 47%. He had a historically good game:

The problem for this defense, though, was a familiar one: unable to stop the run. Leonard Fournette, playing in the first game of his third year in Tampa Bay, put up his best rushing performance in a Buccaneers uniform. Tampa Bay frequently ran at Dorance Armstrong, who actually ranks second among edge defenders in run stop win rate, but their blocking scheme was predicated on getting Armstrong to over-pursue and take himself out of the rushing lanes.

It worked to perfection, and Dallas finished this week with the third worst run stop win rate as a team. They’re also 22nd in run defense DVOA, which is a problem. Run defense was this unit’s Achilles heel last year, and through one game it doesn’t appear to have been addressed.

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 6 3 50.0% 106.2 17.8 21 12
Anthony Brown 9 7 77.8% 116.7 11.3 80 28
Jourdan Lewis 4 3 75.0% 110.4 8.8 10 34
Jayron Kearse 1 1 100.0% 118.7 19.0 19 1
Malik Hooker 1 0 0.0% 39.6 40.0 0 0
Donovan Wilson 3 0 0.0% 0 22.3 0 0
Micah Parsons 0 0 0.0% N/A N/A N/A N/A
Leighton Vander Esch 4 3 75.0% 80.2 3.5 10 5
Jabril Cox 0 0 0.0% N/A N/A N/A N/A
Anthony Barr 2 1 50.0% 56.2 3.0 1 5

Anthony Brown must hate going against the Buccaneers. Last year, he was personally victimized by Antonio Brown. This year, it was mostly Mike Evans. Either way, Brady threw at Brown more than any other Cowboys defender. Brown gave up completions on 77.8% of those targets, although he did limit the yards after the catch.

Trevon Diggs didn’t record a takeaway, but he did play notably better in coverage than he did for much of last year. With an average depth of target of nearly 18 yards, Tampa Bay clearly tried to test Diggs deep and see if they could catch him hunting for picks. It didn’t work, as Diggs deflected two of the six passes thrown his way. He did give up the touchdown to Evans, but that was mostly a case of a perfectly placed ball thrown to a master of the back shoulder fade.

All in all, the Cowboys played well in coverage, although not up to the standards they set last year. Brown had another bad game against this team, but his body of work last year suggests he’ll rebound. As with all of these analytics we’re looking at, it’s important to remember that this is just one game. The efficacy of these metrics will improve dramatically as the sample size grows, so stick around even if the Cowboys won’t be favored in many games going forward.

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