Dallas Cowboys Week 2 PFF review

It appears there is ample desire for a weekly breakdown of Cowboy player PFF grades, so the effort to make this a regular Fanpost feature is now underway! If you'd like to peruse Week 1's grades, check them out here:
Dallas Cowboys Week 1 PFF review

In addition, this week we have a new feature: notable opposing player grades! It might prove helpful to have a sense of how the game went for the other side; write in the comments what you think of this.

Onward and upward!

Dak Prescott - 70.4 grade (87 snaps)

Another week, another unimpressive (but solid) grade for the Cowboy QB (16th among 33 QBs). For all of Prescott's high efficiency from a completion percentage basis - especially to open the contest - he was getting the ball out (8th-fastest Time To Throw) for a shorter Average Depth Of Target (5.0) which likely contributed to the ordinary grade. As you'll see later on, the secondary of the Jets came to play, leaving less out there for the taking for an offense that appeared to be playing it conservative on the day.

I wouldn't put too much stock in this in the early going, but it's interesting:


Running Backs
Tony Pollard - 71.1 grade (56 snaps)
Rico Dowdle - 66.3 grade (18 snaps)
Hunter Leupke - 57.1 grade (18 snaps)
Deuce Vaughn - 62.3 grade (13 snaps)

Pollard's raw-stat efficiency was close to plodding (2.9 Y/C), but his grade rebounded to 21st out of 76 this week. Considering the quality of the opposing front, we should be able to take this as a sign in the right direction. There was little to take from the rest of the group's day; we'll see whether the numbers shift this week in a much more favorable matchup.

Wide Receivers
CeeDee Lamb - 77.5 grade (63 snaps, 38 route snaps, 13 targets)
Michael Gallup - 51.1 grade (63 snaps, 34 route snaps, 2 targets)
Jalen Tolbert - 60.9 grade (59 snaps, 35 route snaps, 4 targets)
KaVonte Turpin - 75.2 grade (16 snaps, 10 route snaps, 1 target)
Jalen Brooks - 56.0 grade (15 snaps, 5 route snaps, 1 targets)

Come back quickly, Brandin! Without the newcomer Cooks, Dallas is against looking like a one-man show, though at least Lamb is proving up to the challenge. It wasn't a banner day for the WR1, but he was steady as she goes over a notable target total. That the other receivers only managed a total of 8 targets (as many as Pollard alone had on the day) is damning, particularly by Gallup; 2 targets on 34 routes is unacceptable and brings pretty clear implications (see below graphic - you won't need your Where's Waldo skills for this one!). To be fair, the Jets like the Cowboys field three high quality CBs and thus make life difficult for the top trio of any opposing wideouts...but, still. As a silver lining, Tolbert is cementing that he does belong on an NFL field.


Tight Ends
Jake Ferguson - 75.2 grade (52 snaps, 19 route snaps, 4 targets)
Peyton Hendershot - 37.7 grade (31 snaps, 10 route snaps, 0 targets)
Luke Schoonmaker - 54.5 grade (31 snaps, 4 route snaps, 1 target)

It is just about confirmed that the Cowboys do indeed (and not unexpectedly) have a legit, quality TE1! Ferguson was again in the "green" with his blocking grades, and this time around the lack of slippery substances falling from the sky enabled a rebound in the receiving grade department. He should spend the year boosting the team's line play while slipping out for his fair share of Schultz-type routes and receptions. With the other two TEs also seeing notable snap numbers, this entire group should prove important for the Cowboys - but if Hendershot continues to struggle to offer some playmaking down the field to go with poor blocking, he would almost certainly see a (permanent?) ticket to third on the depth chart. Schoonmaker didn't run many routes, but for 2023 he's more about his solid blocking and should be able to chip in like he did with his TD on his single target.

Offensive Line
Tyron Smith - 79.3 grade (71.3 run/87.5 pass, 87 snaps)
Chuma Edoga - 42.3 grade (41.4 run/48.6 pass, 45 snaps)
Tyler Biadasz - 57.7 grade (56.3 run/60.1 pass, 87 snaps)
Zack Martin - 70.9 grade (65.9 run/76.8 pass, 82 snaps)
Terence Steele - 37.8 grade (55.8 run/19.9 pass, 87 snaps)
TJ Bass - 69.4 grade (68.5 run/57.5 pass, 41 snaps)
Asim Richards - 83.5 grade (5 snaps)

The offensive front didn't dominate the way it did during Week 1, but it still got the job done against another tough matchup. Tyron Smith is serving notice that he is far from done - his overall grade for the week was 4th among all OTs and he was once again especially strong in pass blocking (tops among all OTs over the first couple of games this season). If he doesn't put up a fully vintage TSmith season while healthy in 2023, it's mostly because he is "only" good at this point in run blocking, though I think we'll all happily take his present split. Martin and Bass (half a game snap share) were the other two who graded out positively; Martin dropped off from his Team Of The Week performance, but he was still excellent in pass blocking. The Cowboys won't regret it when Tyler Smith returns to LG in Edoga's place, and we'll want to keep an eye on Steele's pass blocking and hope his atrocious work in that department was just a fluke bad day.

Interior Defensive Line
Osa Odighizuwa - 74.5 grade (24 snaps, 5 run/19 pass rush)
Neville Gallimore - 69.3 grade (13 snaps, 3 run/10 pass rush)
Mazi Smith - 70.0 grade (11 snaps, 4 run/7 pass rush)
Jonathan Hankins - 47.0 grade (10 snaps, 5 run/5 pass rush)

Odighizuwa is emerging as a legit high-end interior pass rusher, with a second-straight very good grade there placing him 12th among all interior defenders at rushing the passer. Yes, his run-blocking would be a weakness (if the Cowboys were depending on it), but that's actually the case for many of the top interior pass rushers around the league thus far. It is also appearing that he will be the only Cowboy IDL to reliably see a good number of snaps; the rest of the hierarchy likely will shift around in terms of both quantity and usage, with each pivoting largely on matchup. Mazi Smith isn't playing a lot, but he is holding his own grade-wise when he does see the field, and Gallimore really might end up sticking around. Note the absence of Golston here; he saw most of his snaps over the tackle in Week 2, and thus his (nice) grade line appears in the next section.

Edge Defenders

Micah Parsons - 94.4 grade (41 snaps, 10 run/31 pass rush)
DeMarcus Lawrence - 94.4 grade (24 snaps, 3 run/21 pass rush)
Dorance Armstrong - 62.1 grade (23 snaps, 7 run/16 pass rush)
Sam Williams - 61.4 grade (20 snaps, 5 run/15 pass rush)
Dante Fowler - 54.1 grade (15 snaps, 4 run/10 pass rush/1 coverage)
Chauncey Golston - 85.4 grade (14 snaps, 3 run/11 pass rush)

New Item: Parsons Usage Report
Week 2 - 33 snaps on DL, 7 snaps in the box (linebacker)
Season - 70 snaps on DL, 11 snaps in the box

What you already knew: Micah Parsons is a monster. Not much else need be said here about him. What you might not have known: DeMarcus Lawrence isn't done yet! He built off a solid Week 1 grade to put up one that would have been worthy of Team Of The Week, had it come on more snaps. He very much will see judicious rotation in and out, but he is the other guy on the Dallas DL who can be special on any given day and wreck gameplans (while rarely having a poor day). Armstrong saw the heaviest run-stopping usage for the group and did solidly in that area, while Golston graded out terrifically over a handful of snaps. The X-Factor of the group as the season proceeds looks to be Sam Williams - he'll leave upside on the table if he doesn't break out this year, but at any time he could start adding to the pass rush and kick it up another level. And it's already at a pretty high one...


Award Alert: Parsons not only made PFF's Team Of The Week, but he also garnered their Defensive Player Of The Week outright. He also grabbed the official NFC Defensive Player Of The Week award.

Leighton Vander Esch - 63.1 grade (47 snaps, 11 run/4 pass rush/32 coverage)
Markquese Bell - 73.1 grade (22 snaps, 3 run/19 coverage)
Damone Clark - 62.5 grade (17 snaps, 8 run/9 coverage)

With the Jets abandoning the run early on, we can see from the snap counts that the Cowboys played a lot of coverage, meaning a mix of Clark and Bell flanking LVE and some plays with neither youngster. None of the 'backers stood out much on tape and they graded accordingly, but that works both ways - they didn't have a playmaking impact, but they stuck to their assignments and didn't make mistakes either. The coverage grades for all three were solid, and there were zero missed tackles from the trio. Clean game!

Trevon Diggs - 72.3 grade (47 snaps)
Stephon Gilmore - 42.0 grade (47 snaps)
DaRon Bland - 72.0 grade (27 snaps)
Jourdan Lewis - 58.1 grade (10 snaps)
CJ Goodwin - 60.7 grade (1 snap)

In breaking the snap count tie this week to determine the listing order, I'll defer to this will be the final time he appears in this review this season. *sigh* By grade, the Cowboys are losing a top-10 CB, and Diggs was looking as if he was continuing his development by limiting easy catches surrendered in return for his usual ballhawk hunting. Meanwhile, as good as Gilmore was a week ago (making the Team Of The Week) he was crushed in coverage grade - this as a result of being given the full "credit" for the Garrett Wilson catch and run. Given that it was a single play whose fault can also be debated, that smacks of a grade fluke. Bland was steady eddy once again out of his usual slot role - his usage will be the key element to observe in response to the loss of Diggs. Lewis returned to the field and saw a little slot usage in Bland's place; he'll now likely be needed as a top-3 snap count CB on a team that plays its top-3 CBs a ton.

Jayron Kearse - 67.1 grade (47 snaps, 17 DL+box/30 coverage)
Malik Hooker - 91.8 grade (44 snaps, 44 coverage)
Juanyeh Thomas - 62.0 grade (17 snaps, 7 box/10 coverage)
Israel Mukuamu - 61.7 grade (3 snaps, 3 coverage)

Have yourself a day, Mr. Hooker! A huge day in coverage led the FS to what might prove to be a signature career day for the Cowboy, though hopefully he has many more similar days ahead of him. The others in the group held their ground, avoiding any missed tackles and serving as another layer of glue-types in the manner of the linebackers.

Award Alert: Hooker grabbed a Safety spot on the PFF Team Of The Week.

Team Grades/Breakdown
Noise-canceled score - "a score that accounts for how efficiently the offenses moved the ball, putting less emphasis on noisy things as turnover and special teams swings"
NC Dallas Cowboy - 27
NC New York Jets - 6

As with last week, the Cowboys didn't earn a "true" high-scoring performance on the offensive end, but the defense again legitimately locked the opposition down. D-fence!

Adjustment: PFF doesn't present a list of all team grades in just a single week, so there is no quick way to pull up how Dallas's various team grades rank compared to those of other teams. In lieu of that, the number in the parentheses will offer how the week's grade compares to the team's season-long grade in the same area. This will naturally be less useful early on (when each new week will have more impact on the season-long number), but over time it should prove a nice snapshot of how the team did on the week versus its "usual" for 2023.
Overall - 81.3 (-4.8)

Offense - 68.9 (+0.5)
Passing Off - 66.7 (-1.9)
Rushing Off - 67.2 (+3.6)
Pass Blocking - 53.2 (-12.2)
Run Blocking - 58.1 (-5.5)

Defense - 89.4 (-1.2)
Run Def - 83.1 (+7.5)
Tackling - 64.0 (-12.3)
Pass Rush - 78.1 (-10.1)
Coverage - 80.6 (-9.2)

Special Teams - 64.0 (-25.2)

In terms of trends, the OL took a couple of steps back relative to the season as a whole - but without it putting a crimp on the performance of the offense as a whole. Good work, skill position players! The defense saw some drops, but that was mostly a function of how awesome it was in Week 1 (and the run defense had a good day)!

Tier graphic? Tier graphic!
Offenses rebounded league-wide from a poor showing in the opener, but that didn't slow the Cowboy defense! The team remains in the top tier.

Game Ball

CeeDee Lamb - the best performances came on defense, but let's be honest: take any one away, even Parsons, and the job likely still would have gotten done against Zach Wilson and the Jet offense. It was on the flip side of the matchups where the Jets might have been able to keep up, and it's scary to consider where the ball movement would have come from without Lamb getting open play after play.

Opposing Player Report

QB Zach Wilson - 48.5
RB Breece Hall - 56.1
WR Garrett Wilson - 61.3

G Wilson put up the second-best grade of all Jet players on offense, and it was pretty messy for the skill position guys outside of him. Dallas contained Hall over his limited touches, and, yeah, Z Wilson wasn't able to handle Dallas's pass rush or coverage.

LG Laken Tomlinson - 66.9
RG Alijah Vera-Tucker - 51.2

Tomlinson led all NY offensive players in grade, and Vera-Tucker was the only other lineman to crack 38.0 or better.

DE John Franklin-Myers - 69.6
DE Quinton Jefferson - 54.9
DT Al Woods - 61.1
DT Quinnen Williams - 73.2
LB CJ Mosley - 78.5
LB Quincy Williams - 66.1
LB Jermaine Johnson - 64.9

On the defensive front, the Cowboys managed to hold mainstays Williams and Franklin-Myers without too much damage, and those around the two were all rather ordinary. This area was the best avenue to a chance of victory for NY, and it was contained.

CB Sauce Gardner - 82.8
CB DJ Reed - 76.8
CB Michael Carter - 83.3
S Jordan Whitehead - 65.0
S Adrian Amos - 66.0

The classic chicken-or-the-egg question: did a strong-grading NYJ secondary make life tough on Dallas's non-Lamb receivers, or did the receivers make it easy on the Jet secondary and drive those grades?

Final Word
It's a shame that the Cowboys have to move on from playing New York teams, as it's been a feast thus far. For now, the biggest question facing the Cowboys is whether they've had it easy...or made it very, very hard on Gotham. Next up: Arizona.

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