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2023 Cowboys analytics roundup: Dallas emerging as the best team early

How long can the Cowboys keep this up?

New York Jets v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The second week of the new NFL season is over and the Cowboys are one of just nine teams that are undefeated so far. They pulled off the Full Sinatra by beating New York (Jets) a week after beating New York (Giants), and did so with a combined 70-10 score. The Cowboys have looked as impressive as any team in the NFL, and the advanced analytics reflect that.

To follow up on last week’s analytics roundup, all of the DVOA-related statistics that were unavailable last week are now up and running, as well as the addition of a new pass blocking metric that we’ll explore later. As will be the case for the next few weeks, strength of schedule adjustments for all DVOA grades are not yet active, but these metrics still offer a good indicator of team strength. Having said all that, let’s dive in.

Cowboys Efficiency at a Glance

DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Rank DAVE DAVE Rank
DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Rank DAVE DAVE Rank
Offense -1.4% 19th 9th 8.3% 6th
Defense -62.2% 1st 1st -15.0% 1st
Special Teams 2.5% 11th 21st 0.6 11th
Overall 63.3% 1st 1st 23.9% 1st

The headliner here is that the Cowboys are, far and away, the best team in the NFL right now. That’s pretty hard to dispute given the way they’ve played through two games. It’s fair to point out that the Giants and Jets aren’t especially good teams, but the Cowboys won by significantly more than their point spread suggested going into each game.

In short, they did what a good team is supposed to do to a bad team: win big. Nobody questions when Georgia beats UT Martin and Ball State by a combined score of 93-10 because that’s what they’re supposed to do. The Cowboys don’t get knocked in the analytics here for the same reason Georgia remained number one in the rankings in their first two weeks of the season.

2023 NFL Team Tiers, Weeks 1-2, courtesy of

Let’s check the EPA-based team tiers. Once again, exceptionally good news for the Cowboys. They are in a tier of their own, far ahead of the rest of the crowd. A week ago, they were a little too close for comfort with the 49ers but left them in the dust this week.

As is the case with their DVOA grade, a lot of it has to do with the defense performing at an unprecedented rate. History tells us that will stabilize once they play some better quarterbacks, but the Dallas defense is still off to a special start. The Cowboys offense is also faring pretty well here, in sharp contrast to their offensive DVOA grade.


Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA -2.4% 19th
Pass DVOA 25.9% 13th
Run DVOA -18.0% 21st
EPA/Play 0.110 7th
EPA/Dropback 0.338 3rd
EPA/Rush -0.117 15th

So, let’s talk about the offense, shall we? Last week they were ninth in offensive DVOA and sixth in EPA/play while not having to do too much. This week, they moved the ball almost at will against a very good Jets defense but fall to 19th in offensive DVOA and seventh in EPA/play. What gives?

A big part of it appears to be the sharp drop-off in rushing efficiency. Tony Pollard averaged under three yards a carry and the team as a whole averaged exactly three yards a carry. The Jets were credited with 24 run stops in the game; for context, the Dallas defense has just 18 through both games. It was a poor day for the run game, though some of that can be attributed to an offense that was simply trying to chew clock for most of the game. The passing game had a great day, rising up the ranks in both pass DVOA and EPA/dropback, thanks in large part to a great performance from Dak Prescott.

Dak Prescott’s Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 83.2 2nd
EPA/play 0.382 2nd
CPOE 3.1 13th
DVOA 25.7% 6th
DYAR 159 6th

Prescott was electric against a Jets defense that had just brought out the worst in Josh Allen less than a week prior. He ranked second in both QBR and EPA/play in just Week 2 alone, and finds himself in that same spot in both categories for the season. Prescott is also sixth in both DVOA (quarterback value per play) and DYAR (overall quarterback value).

The one outlier here is Prescott’s completion percentage over expectation (CPOE). As we mentioned last week, CPOE doesn’t account for drops and that hurt Prescott in Week 1, but he’s quickly climbed up to 13th after posting the eighth-best CPOE in Week 2. That outlier will likely go away with more games from Prescott, who is having a great start to the season by all accounts.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Pressure Rate 13.8% 4th
Adjusted Sack Rate 1.8% 5th
Blown Block Rate 2.54% 4th
Pass Block Win Rate 49% 25th
Run Block Win Rate 71% 13th
Adjusted Line Yards 3.88 19th

The offensive line had another great day in pass protection. While Prescott did get sacked once, it was not the fault of the offensive line, as Prescott held the ball far too long (nearly eight full seconds). That was a rarity, though, as Prescott got the ball out quickly once again. It should be noted that since pass block win rate measures how long the offensive line held up their blocks for 2.5 seconds or longer, the sample size for the Cowboys is incredibly low right now with Prescott getting most of his passes off in less than 2.5 seconds, thereby leading to a poor grade for Dallas.

The new addition here is the blown block rate, which comes courtesy of Sports Info Solutions. According to their site, a blown block is defined as “any time a blocker does not successfully block the defender they attempted to engage with and, as a result, gives the defender an opportunity to negatively affect the play.” As you can see, the Cowboys have done exceptionally well in that regard, another testament to the sharp uptick in pass protection so far from last year.


Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA -63.6% 1st
Pass Defense DVOA -68.3% 1st
Run Defense DVOA -54.4% 1st
Pass Rush Win Rate 60% 1st
Run Stop Win Rate 35% 6th
EPA/Play -0.429 1st
EPA/Dropback Allowed -0.432 2nd
EPA/Rush Allowed -0.421 1st

No surprises here: the Cowboys are really, really good on defense. Micah Parsons had another great game, and he’s currently got the second-most pressures in the NFL while leading all defenders in pass rush win rate. He’s not alone, though: Osa Odighizuwa leads all interior defenders in pass rush win rate while DeMarcus Lawrence, Dante Fowler, and Sam Williams are all in the top 20 of pass rush win rate for EDGEs. This defensive line is firing on all cylinders.

And it’s not just the pass rush, either. The Cowboys are tops in the league in run defense DVOA by a considerable margin and also lead the league in EPA/rush allowed. A year ago, that was this defense’s Achilles heel, prompting a midseason trade for Johnathan Hankins and later drafting Mazi Smith in the first round. It’s obviously still early, but those moves appear to have worked.

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 8 2 25.0% 1.0 15.9 6 20
Stephon Gilmore 13 7 53.8% 86.1 11.5 76 66
DaRon Bland 8 4 50.0% 16.7 4.4 -6 22
Jourdan Lewis 1 0 0.0% 39.6 11.0 0 0
Malik Hooker 1 1 100.0% 60.4 3.0 3 5
Jayron Kearse 3 2 66.7% 51.4 2.7 6 18
Donovan Wilson - - - - - - -
Leighton Vander Esch 2 1 50.0% 56.3 1.0 3 0
Markquese Bell 5 5 100.0% 99.2 4.2 21 18
Damone Clark 4 3 75.0% 77.1 0.0 1 5
Juanyeh Thomas 2 1 50.0% 56.3 0.0 -5 10

Trevon Diggs is off to a great start in 2023. His passer rating when targeted is 1.0, best in the NFL; for context, a quarterback would record a passer rating of 39.6 if they simply threw the ball into the dirt. That’s how good Diggs has been through two games with eight targets. He didn’t allow a single reception against the Jets either, and came away with his first pick of the year.

Elsewhere, Jourdan Lewis returned to the field for the first time since suffering an injury last year that was apparently career-threatening. He was eased into things, only playing on 10 defensive snaps all day, but did force an incompletion on his lone target of the day, breaking up a pass intended for former Cowboy Randall Cobb. Getting Lewis back just makes this defense deeper, and it sounds like it won’t be long until they also get Donovan Wilson back on the field as well.

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