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2022 Cowboys analytics roundup: Dallas takes a big step forward in Week 2

The Cowboys got better, and in a big way.

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, in the first analytics roundup of the 2022 season, we noted that the Cowboys began the year with nowhere to go but up. That turned out to be completely accurate, as Dallas came out in Week 2 and pulled off the upset without Dak Prescott under center.

Not only did they win, but the Cowboys made strides in every single one of the analytics categories we track here. Before we get into all the numbers, just a reminder that all DVOA metrics do not yet account for strength of schedule; that will come in a few weeks, after a larger sample size of data has been collected.

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 -17.8% 28th 32nd -6.7% 24th
Defense -17.2% 6th 15th -4.6% 6th
Special Teams 3.3% 9th 18th 1.5% 5th
Overall 2.7% 15th 30th -0.7% 19th

Unsurprisingly, everything got better here. After Week 1, Dallas was 30th in overall efficiency and now they’ve jumped all the way up to 15th. The defense and special teams also both made big jumps, while the offense was only marginally better. These changes from Week 1 to now are indicative of both how bad the Cowboys were against Tampa Bay and how well they played against the Bengals.

The DAVE metric represents a combination of the Cowboys’ preseason DVOA-based predictions and their actual DVOA grades so far. Two weeks in and DAVE is currently made up of 85% preseason forecast and 15% actual grades. In looking at that, the defense and special teams are now right about where they were expected to be, while the offense is still lagging behind expectations.

2022 NFL Team Tiers, Week 1-2, courtesy of

Looking at the Cowboys’ league-wide rankings by expected points added (EPA) per play, the Cowboys have played themselves out of the cellar. They’re still not out of the clear, ranking dead last in offensive EPA/play, but nobody expected this team to make a sizable jump in just a week, especially without Prescott.

It’s worth pointing out that Tampa Bay leads the league in defensive EPA/play, suggesting that last week’s dismal offensive performance likely had as much, if not much more, to do with the Buccaneers being good as it did the Cowboys being bad.


Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA -17.8% 28th
Pass DVOA -14.5% 27th
Run DVOA 0.7% 10th

Even if the Cowboys lost this week, it seemed likely that we’d see some improvements in their offensive efficiency. Their DVOA grade of -49.0% last week - as well as a passing DVOA grade of -50.0% - was dead last in the NFL by a pretty big margin. Ranking 28th in the NFL on offense isn’t a winning formula in 2022, but there was a ceiling on just how much better this group could get in one week.

The most positive development, though, was the running game. The Cowboys had to go away from it earlier than they wanted against the Buccaneers, but that didn’t happen against Cincinnati. They ran the ball extremely well, too, and jumped into the top 10 in rushing efficiency because of it. Dallas will need that to be the case as long as Cooper Rush is under center.

Cooper Rush’s Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 72.6 6th
EPA/play 0.062 13th
CPOE -5.6 26th
DVOA 5.4% 12th
DYAR 47 17th

Speaking of Cooper Rush, he played well. Not well enough to create a quarterback controversy, but enough to secure the win. In many ways, Rush played just like he did against the Vikings last year, although he didn’t turn the ball over in this one.

Surveying this collection of metrics paints an intriguing picture. It should be noted that Rush’s sample size is half of all the other starters, which makes it easier for him to have a higher QBR and lower CPOE. That also reflects his solid, but not stellar, performance. His rankings in EPA/play and value-based metrics DVOA (value per play) and DYAR (total value) back that up. In short, Rush is good enough to win with, but not good enough to win the game for you.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Adjusted Line Yards 4.55 17th
RB Yards 3.75 23rd
Adjusted Sack Rate 7.6% 20th
Pass Block Win Rate 42% 32nd
Run Block Win Rate 81% 1st

While Rush played well, it was this rushing attack that really made the offense click. And for that, the offensive line did their fair share. They saw an uptick in their adjusted line yards, though their ranking is skewed somewhat by some statistical outliers towards the top; for reference, the Cowboys’ current adjusted line yards would’ve been the eighth highest figure over the entirety of last year. Dallas also remains first in the league in run block win rate. This is their bread and butter right now.

The pass protection, on the other hand, is more like soggy bread and moldy butter. They’re dead last in pass block win rate and 20th in adjusted sack rate. These poor numbers are almost entirely the fault of Matt Farniok, who once again struggled at left guard. He was charged with allowing four hurries and six pressures; the rest of the offensive line combined gave up just one hurry and three pressures. Keep that in mind for whenever Jason Peters is ready to go.


Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA -17.2% 6th
Pass Defense DVOA -22.3% 5th
Run Defense DVOA -10.8% 12th
Pass Rush Win Rate 52% 5th
Run Stop Win Rate 26% 27th

Now that’s more like it. The Cowboys defense was solid against Tampa Bay, but their vulnerabilities against the run were exposed. That wasn’t the case against Cincinnati, and this pass rush also made life miserable for Joe Burrow. This defense is back into the top 10 in efficiency, and they did it without notching a takeaway this week.

Let’s talk about Micah Parsons for a moment: he’s off to an utterly dominant year. His 59% pass rush win rate still leads all defenders; Von Miller is in a distant second place with 46%. Parsons is also tied with Myles Garrett for the league lead in pressures (13) and tied with Khalil Mack for the league lead in sacks (four). That’s with Parsons playing on nine less pass rush reps than Garrett and 11 less than Mack. It’s no wonder he’s the new betting favorite for Defensive Player of the Year.

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 14 9 64.3% 106.2 10.0 65 25
Anthony Brown 19 13 68.4% 111.7 10.2 110 50
Jourdan Lewis 10 7 70.0% 94.2 4.8 24 57
Jayron Kearse 1 1 100.0% 118.7 19.0 19 1
Malik Hooker 3 2 66.7% 91.0 17.3 12 12
Donovan Wilson 6 2 33.3% 2.8 15.0 1 8
Micah Parsons 0 0 0.0% N/A N/A N/A N/A
Leighton Vander Esch 8 6 75.0% 81.8 1.1 9 24
Jabril Cox 0 0 0.0% N/A N/A N/A N/A
Anthony Barr 5 3 60.0% 64.6 0.8 -5 19

Joe Burrow recorded a 48.4 QBR against the Cowboys this week, which ranked 21st among all 32 quarterbacks this week. That’s usually a good sign that the defense did their job. That Ja’Marr Chase only had 54 yards on five catches is also a good sign. The secondary isn’t taking the ball away like they did last year, but they’re also not giving up much in coverage.

Something worth pointing out through two games is how good the linebacker duo of Leighton Vander Esch and Anthony Barr have been. They’ve both been stout against the run, and Barr had a big tackle for loss against Cincinnati, but they’ve also been great in coverage. Barr is currently giving up the 13th lowest passer rating among linebackers and Vander Esch’s 81.8 passer rating allowed is well below last year’s figure of 87.9, which was a career best for him. Those are very positive developments for this defense, which will need to keep it up if they want to keep winning without Dak Prescott.

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