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Cowboys analytics roundup: Dallas on top of the world after strong first week

It’s still very early, but the Cowboys’ numbers are very good.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The NFL season has officially kicked off after a riveting Week 1, and with that comes the return of the weekly Cowboys analytics roundup. Here, we’ll break down and track various key advanced statistics for the Cowboys throughout the year in an effort to see where the team stacks up against the rest of the league with each game that passes.

Before we get into the heart of it all, a quick housekeeping note. Many of the metrics used in previous installments of the analytics roundup relied heavily on DVOA - Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which measures overall efficiency adjusted for quality of opponent - and related statistics. With DVOA moving from Football Outsiders to FTN Fantasy this summer, some of those statistics are not yet available on the new site. Rest assured that they will be incorporated into our trackers once they are available.

Now, let’s look at some analytics!

Cowboys Efficiency at a Glance

Offense 14.7% 9th 10.1% 2nd
Defense -66.6% 1st -10.9% 2nd
Special Teams -2.3% 22nd 0.0% 14th
Overall 79.1% 1st 21.2% 1st

With this being the first week of the season, DVOA metrics are not yet accounting for strength of schedule; that adjustment kicks in after a few games have been played. For now, though, we can compare the Cowboys’ DVOA grades with their DAVE grades, which combines the team’s DVOA-based preseason projections with their actual DVOA grades. In short, DVOA is how efficient they’ve actually played while DAVE is how efficient they were relative to preseason expectations.

In that regard, we can see that the Cowboys are off to a very hot start, as one might expect after a 40-0 win. The offense placed inside the top 10 in Mike McCarthy’s debut as the play-caller, but still fell below expectations a bit. The special teams grade might surprise some, but the Cowboys’ blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown doesn’t factor into the special teams DVOA grade because it is a statistically anomalous play and highly unlikely to repeat. Missed extra points, however, do factor into the special teams grade.

2023 NFL Team Tiers, Week 1, courtesy of

Looking at the team tiers, which are based on expected points added (EPA) per play, the Cowboys are in a class of their own. A year ago at this time, the Cowboys were dead last in total team EPA/play. Now? They’re the best team in the league.

Unsurprisingly, the Cowboys lead the NFL in EPA/play allowed, and their offense put up a really good showing too despite not really being asked to do too much. It likely won’t make anyone feel better, though, to see those pesky 49ers so close to that big blue star.


Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA 14.7% 9th
Pass DVOA 14.4% 17th
Run DVOA 21.3% 6th
EPA/Play 0.145 6th
EPA/Dropback 0.240 6th
EPA/Rush 0.057 3rd

After all the talk in the offseason about the new Texas Coast offense with Mike McCarthy calling plays, all anyone could talk about after the game was the defense and those poor, poor Giants. But the offense did pretty well for themselves, scoring on five of seven drives before the starters were pulled.

The caveat here is twofold: for starters, the weather conditions absolutely took away some of the Cowboys’ game plan. McCarthy himself admitted on Monday that they canceled out several packages due to the weather. The way the game went, with Dallas jumping out to a big lead early, also contributed to the play-calling down the stretch. In other words, the Cowboys offense wasn’t exactly pulling out all the stops in this one. It will be more informative to watch them face a much better defense in the Jets next week, but the early results were solid on offense.

Dak Prescott’s Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 72.6 7th
EPA/play 0.345 5th
CPOE -10.2 29th

Dak Prescott didn’t light up the stat sheet, but he also didn’t need to. Prescott engineered four different drives that got inside the 10-yard line, and three of those ended with rushing touchdowns. The lone exception saw a likely touchdown pass dropped.

The lack of yards and touchdowns means nothing in the grand scheme of things, as Prescott had a very efficient night. Ranking seventh in QBR and fifth in EPA/play reflect that. He took a beating in completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) but it’s important to remember that CPOE does not adjust for dropped passes. According to Pro Football Focus, Prescott had four passes dropped Sunday night. Had those four passes been caught, Prescott would’ve finished with a +6.5 CPOE, which would’ve ranked 10th among all quarterbacks.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Pressure Rate 16.0% 9th
Sack Rate 0.0% 1st
Pass Block Win Rate 42% 29th
Run Block Win Rate 70% 17th

The Cowboys offensive line was playing without Tyler Smith, and backup Chuma Edoga left the game with a minor injury and was replaced by undrafted rookie T.J. Bass. But it didn’t make much of a difference, as the Cowboys kept Prescott clean. The Dallas offensive line was one of just five teams to not yield a sack in Week 1.

Edoga and Tyler Biadasz both surrendered two pressures each, all of them generated by the hulking behemoth that is Dexter Lawrence, but the rest of the line dropped a goose egg in the pressures column. Tyron Smith, playing left tackle for the first time since 2021, looked every bit like his former self and Zack Martin didn’t appear to miss a step during his contract holdout in the preseason. Getting the younger Smith back should only make this line better.


Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA -66.6% 1st
Pass Defense DVOA -89.5% 1st
Run Defense DVOA -29.4% 6th
Pass Rush Win Rate 55% 8th
Run Stop Win Rate 34% 11th
EPA/Play -0.427 1st
EPA/Dropback Allowed -0.507 1st
EPA/Rush Allowed -0.240 15th

Even the most ardent believers of the Cowboys defense could not have seen this performance coming. Dallas recorded a pressure on over 60% of the Giants’ dropbacks, and they sacked Daniel Jones a whopping seven times. The pass rush, led by Micah Parsons, was hilariously effective from the very first snap, and there was nothing the Giants could do to stop them.

While it was a lot less impressive, the Cowboys run defense looked improved from a year ago as well. Johnathan Hankins and Mazi Smith hardly played because the Giants were throwing the ball so much after getting in a hole early, but their few reps against the New York rushing attack offered reasons for optimism, too.

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 3 2 66.7% 93.8 2.7 6 20
Stephon Gilmore 8 3 37.5% 12.5 10.5 26 10
DaRon Bland 5 3 60.0% 25.0 1.0 -9 17
Malik Hooker 1 1 100.0% 100.0 3.0 3 5
Jayron Kearse 2 1 50.0% 58.3 1.0 0 7
Donovan Wilson - - - - - - -
Leighton Vander Esch - - - - - - -
Markquese Bell 2 2 100.0% 95.8 2.5 5 9
Damone Clark 3 3 100.0% 79.2 0.3 1 5
Juanyeh Thomas 1 0 0.0% 39.6 5.0 0 0

Perhaps the most intriguing detail from this game was the Giants’ decision to target Stephon Gilmore as many times as they did Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland combined. Perhaps the coaches wanted to see if Gilmore had lost a step or not. Short answer: he hasn’t. Gilmore allowed just three catches and recorded two pass breakups and an interception.

All in all, the Dallas secondary had a great night despite missing Donovan Wilson at safety. Jones barely completed over half his passes even with two thirds of his attempts traveling less than 10 yards downfield. A big part of that was the pass rush that afforded him no time to throw, but these defensive backs held their own too.

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