The Cowboys have reached their bye week and sit at 4-2, not a bad record by any stretch, but also not as good as many fans had hoped for. It’s clear that this team has talent, but they’ve got a few things to figure out during this week of rest. In anticipation of those adjustments, here are the team’s best players on offense and defense, according to Pro Football Focus.
Offense is a work in progress
After so much time was spent on the offseason changes to this offense, and the flashy Texas Coast name given to this scheme, it seems there may have been too much hype. Through six games, the Cowboys offense has had some up’s and some down’s and, overall, looked like a unit that’s only six games into a new scheme. These players, though, have been pulling their own weight.
LG Tyler Smith - 84.2
Tyler Smith has the highest player grade on offense, though he’s also played two fewer games than everyone else. That said, the second-year pro has looked much better than he did a year ago (which in itself wasn’t bad), and Smith is clearly very comfortable at left guard.
WR CeeDee Lamb - 77.6
CeeDee Lamb is off to a great start this year. He’s catching 81% of his targets, second-best in the league among qualifying receivers, and ranks 11th in both yards after the catch (YAC) per reception and yards per route run. He’s also averaging 14 yards per catch, ninth among all receivers. The only thing lacking from Lamb’s season thus far is touchdowns; the star receiver has just one through the first six games.
LT Tyron Smith - 76.5
Similar to the other Smith, Tyron Smith has a high grade that is at least partially helped by the fact that he missed two games. Still, Smith has looked like his usual self now that he’s back at left tackle. He has yet to allow a sack and has only surrendered five pressures this season.
QB Dak Prescott - 75.8
While he hasn’t been perfect, Dak Prescott is playing much better than he did a year ago. The West Coast principles of this Texas Coast offense have led to much more efficient play from Prescott: he’s fourth in the league in completion rate and has the eighth-quickest release. Prescott has also cut down on the turnovers; only three starting quarterbacks have a lower rate of turnover worthy plays this year.
WR KaVontae Turpin - 75.1
One of the more (only?) universally praised things about Mike McCarthy running the offense is the way KaVontae Turpin has actually been used. He had more touches on offense in the season opener than he did all of last year. He’s still getting incorporated into the offense, but Turpin already has 11 touches for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
RG Zack Martin - 75.0
A 75.0 player grade would go down as the second-worst of Zack Martin’s career, which is a testament to how good he is. But the future Hall of Famer is still playing great football, and is currently fifth among qualifying guards in run blocking grades.
RB Rico Dowdle - 70.5
Coming as a bit of a shock, Rico Dowdle is the Cowboys’ highest-graded running back, not Tony Pollard or Deuce Vaughn. Pollard’s grade of 66.4 ranks 11th on the offense, while Vaughn has hardly played and was a healthy scratch last week. Dowdle has had more than a few flashy plays, offering a nice complement to Pollard.
TE Jake Ferguson - 70.1
Jake Ferguson marks the final offensive player with a grade above 70, though he just barely made the cut. In his first year as the starter, Ferguson has been reliable but underused. Ferguson is averaging 5.1 YAC per reception and 1.32 yards per route run, both of which rank inside the top 15 of tight ends, his target rate has him behind several backups. Perhaps more touches are in order for Ferguson.
Defense isn’t perfect, but quite close to it
Ironically, the Cowboys offense has more qualifying players that graded above 70, but the defense has four players that graded above 85 while the offense has none. Dan Quinn’s unit has once again produced some elite results, though there’s definitely room for improvement.
EDGE DeMarcus Lawrence - 91.9
DeMarcus Lawrence might be having the best year of his career. His 91.9 grade is third among all qualifying defenders. He has 21 pressures on the year and also leads all defensive linemen in run block grades.
EDGE Micah Parsons - 91.0
Micah Parsons is Micah Parsons. There’s not much else needed here, as the Lion has remained hungry. He’s third among EDGEs in pressures even after sitting out a week with the bye, and he’s got five sacks on the year so far.
iDL Osa Odighizuwa - 89.7
Perhaps the most welcome surprise this year is Osa Odighizuwa playing like one of the best interior defenders in the league. His 89.7 grade ranks sixth among interior defensive linemen. Odighizuwa’s run defense grade of 81.6 is also fourth among interior defenders, which has gone a long way towards cementing his spot at the top of this defensive line rotation.
S Juanyeh Thomas - 87.4
Juanyeh Thomas forced the Cowboys’ hand at preseason cut time, and he’s justified that decision every time he steps on the field. Thomas is a tackling machine who’s fared better than the starting trio of Cowboys safeties in coverage so far this year. He still isn’t playing that much, but Thomas should get some run going forward.
LB Markquese Bell - 84.0
Markquese Bell was handed the unenviable task of converting to linebacker last second, and he’s responded well. He leads the team in defensive stops despite playing a fraction of the defensive snaps. With Leighton Vander Esch on the injured reserve, Bell will see more playing time, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
CB DaRon Bland - 77.9
DaRon Bland has had to step up in the absence of Trevon Diggs (who’s not included here for obvious reasons) and he’s done just that. He’s allowing a sub-50% completion rate and his 22.7 passer rating allowed is second-lowest among qualifying cornerbacks.
S Israel Mukuamu - 73.1
Israel Mukuamu is included here because of his very small sample size. Mukuamu has played on just 6.9% of all defensive snaps, and has been a healthy scratch in three games, but his player grade reflects solid play in those limited reps. Given the struggles Jourdan Lewis is experiencing in the slot, and Mukuamu’s solid performance there in the playoffs last year, maybe it’s time for Mukuamu to start seeing the field more.
EDGE Dorance Armstrong - 73.0
It’s easy to forget about Dorance Armstrong given the names ahead of him on the depth chart, but the man just keeps on producing. He has 12 pressures and two sacks despite playing on just 36.6% of the defensive snaps. Armstrong offers insane depth for this pass rush.