The Cowboys showed up in Arizona with a very different team from the one that dominated the two New York teams to start the year, losing 28-16 to a Cardinals team that was expected to be the worst in the NFL. The Cowboys played poorly all the way around, which meant a lot of very bad player grades from Pro Football Focus. Let’s look at some of the more notable grades from this game.
Very few players with a good grade
It should come as no surprise after a loss like that to see very few Cowboys players come away with a positive player grade. That’s the case this week, with only three players having a grade anywhere above 80. One of those is fullback Hunter Luepke, who recorded his first catch and carry and had a good day all around. However, with just eight offensive snaps in the game, his sample size is quite small.
EDGE DeMarcus Lawrence - 87.3
DeMarcus Lawrence followed up a dominant game a week ago with another really good game. Unfortunately, he was the only defender who really showed up. Lawrence recorded five tackles, two tackles for loss, two pressures, and a sack.
LG Tyler Smith - 84.4
Tyler Smith made his season debut, and he was sorely missed. He put up a goose egg in the pressures allowed column and was as excellent as he always is in the run blocking game. The lone blemish on Smith’s day was a holding call, but he looked significantly better than he did last year, which was already a solid rookie campaign.
RB Rico Dowdle - 75.4
Rico Dowdle got a healthy workload on Sunday and rewarded the coaches with a solid day of work. He was responsible for the lone touchdown of the game, taking a screen pass 15 yards to paydirt. On the day, Dowdle totaled 21 rushing yards on four carries and 25 receiving yards on three catches, including an excellent effort on a screen pass.
Cowboys RB Rico Dowdle is showing what he can do when healthy. He totaled seven touches for 46 yards, including this 9-yard catch in fourth quarter. Dowdle played 11 offensive snaps behind Tony Pollard's 70, two shy of Pollard's career high. pic.twitter.com/3e2SJA2Guv— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 25, 2023
WR Michael Gallup - 74.7
Lost in the disappointment of the game as a whole was Michael Gallup’s coming out party. After seeing very little work in the first two games, Gallup led the team with six catches and 92 yards. Four of his six catches moved the chains, too. It was a welcome return to form for Gallup.
Micah Parsons and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day
While many will focus on Dak Prescott throwing his first interception of the year at the end of the game, the story of this loss is a vaunted Dallas defense getting picked apart by an offense led by Josh Dobbs and first-year coordinator Drew Petzing. Some of the Cowboys’ best players put up terrible performances in this one, which is how you get beat by bad teams.
EDGE Micah Parsons - 67.9
All in all, Micah Parsons wasn’t terrible. But the standard for Parsons is so high, and his performance fell well below that standard. His over-pursuit on the Dobbs keeper that went for 44 yards on the second play of the game was just the start of it, as Parsons played too aggressive and out of control all game long.
CB DaRon Bland - 61.0
DaRon Bland moved outside to fill the spot vacated by Trevon Diggs, and everyone in the building seemed confident in him. The Cardinals clearly did not, as they targeted Bland early and often. Bland failed to force an incompletion on the day, and his player grade is accordingly low.
S Malik Hooker - 59.4
Malik Hooker doesn’t often see that much action with how deep he plays, but he was on the wrong end of a busted coverage assignment that let rookie receiver Michael Wilson get wide open for a 69-yard bomb late in the game when the defense needed a stop badly. That poor play was a huge factor in this grade.
LB Damone Clark - 45.7
Damone Clark may have led the team in tackles with nine, but many of them came after several yards had already been gained. His average depth of tackle of 4.6 yards was the highest of any Cowboys linebacker on Sunday. Clark also struggled in coverage, giving up completions on both of his targets and allowing 17 yards after the catch.
S Jayron Kearse - 34.8
Based on player grades, Jayron Kearse was the worst Cowboys defender on Sunday. Markquese Bell actually had a lower grade, but he only played nine defensive snaps. Kearse was getting abused in run defense, with a shockingly high 12 yards average depth of tackle. He was targeted a game-high four times and gave up completions on all of them for a total of 38 yards.
Dak Prescott and the backup linemen
All things considered, the offense handled their offensive line situation fairly well. They moved the ball effectively although they repeatedly stalled out in the red zone. It’s clear, though, that the gameplan was heavily affected by three backups starting along the offensive line.
Dak Prescott - 48.9
Dak Prescott’s grade gets tanked a bit by his interception in the endzone, but he wasn’t playing out of his mind prior to that either. He had one big time throw and two turnover worthy plays, mostly sticking to quick underneath throws to mitigate the pressure against a patchwork offensive line.
LT Chuma Edoga - 67.8
Chuma Edoga started at left tackle after playing left guard in the first two weeks. He played better than the other two reserves, which is to be expected given his veteran status, but Edoga was still not great. He gave up three pressures and the lone hit on Prescott.
C Brock Hoffman - 54.0
Brock Hoffman made his first career start and did just about as well as you might expect. He held up well in pass protection with zero pressures allowed, and didn’t have any bad snaps on the day. However, he was a weak point in the run game, with the second-lowest run blocking grade of the Cowboys’ linemen on Sunday.
RG T.J. Bass - 39.7
Undrafted rookie T.J. Bass was the only lineman who had a worse run blocking grade than Hoffman. Problem is Bass also struggled in pass protection, giving up three pressures and tying Edoga for the team lead. Like Hoffman, this is about in line with the realistic expectations for Bass in his first career start, but it’s still not good.