The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

2010 Dallas Cowboys Player Grades, Awards Through Week 11

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Jonathan Bales

Offense

  • QB Tony Romo: B-

Romo’s injury has made this a nightmare year for him, but he wasn’t playing terribly while he was healthy.  His numbers were about the same as last season, but the big difference, of course, was that the team wasn’t winning games this year.

  • QB Jon Kitna: B

I don’t think Kitna is better than Romo or has even played better this year.  I am simply grading him as a backup.  When taking that into consideration, he’s been really good, especially of late.

  • RB Marion Barber:  D

I know some of you think Barber still deserves to be the starter, but he’s been really bad this season.  He’s shown no explosion and actually goes down easy on contact.  He’s the team’s best pass blocker and should only play on third downs, in my opinion.

  • RB Felix Jones:  C+

I was really expecting more out of Jones this season.  He’s become the Cowboys’ clear workhorse running back, but there are major holes in his game.  He needs to play more intelligently and really work on his pass protection, but he does seem to have regained his ability to accelerate in the last couple of games.

  • RB Tashard Choice:  ?

I can’t grade Choice because he’s received just over five snaps per game.  My hunch is that he’d grade out as Dallas’ top back if he had more opportunities.

  • FB Chris Gronkowski:  C-

Gronkowski is obviously more athletic than former Cowboys fullback Deon Anderson, but the ‘Boys don’t really need more playmakers.  They simply need a devastating lead blocker, which Gronkowski is not.

  • TE Jason Witten:  C+

I realize Witten has still racked up the receptions (leading all NFL tight ends), but he hasn’t been his normal self this season.  He’s been a step slower out of breaks, accumulates a lot of penalties, and has been quite mediocre as a blocker this season.

  • TE Martellus Bennett:  B-

Bennett with a higher grade than Witten!? Well, for the opportunities he’s been provided, Bennett has outperformed the Cowboys’ starting tight end.  He’s been far superior in both run and pass blocking, especially.

  • LT Doug Free:  B

A lot has been made of Jerry Jones’ failed gambles this year, but this one has worked.  Free has easily been the Cowboys’ best offensive lineman.

  • LG Kyle Kosier:  C

Kosier has again been injured a lot, and he’s been just okay when he’s been healthy.  There wasn’t much of a drop-off when undrafted rookie Phil Costa filled in.

  • C Andre Gurode:  C-

Gurode has been much better of late, but he started the season horribly.  He struggles with stunts and recognizing blitzes, which is a bad sign for a center.

  • RG Leonard Davis:  C-

Davis’ struggles have been publicized ever since he was benched against the Titans.  He has played decently at times, though, particularly since that benching.

  • RT Marc Colombo: F

A lot of people think Colombo and Davis have been equally bad this year, but trust me when I say Colombo has been far, far worse.  He really hasn’t had a good game all season.  He’s incredibly slow-footed, struggling with defensive ends who possess any sort of speed.  He’s also been average (at best) in the run game.

  • WR Miles Austin:  B+

Austin has come back to reality a bit since last season, but a lot of that has to do with factors outside of his control.  He’s still the hard-working, incredibly talented player from ’09.

  • WR Dez Bryant: A-

This kid has been simply amazing.  I’ve never seen a rookie with comparable ball skills, ever.  His work as a punt returner has been incredibly valuable as well.

  • WR Roy Williams: C

After a hot start, Williams has cooled down lately.  A lot of that has to do with Bryant’s emergence, as the rookie has stolen a lot of snaps from Williams in base personnel packages.

Defense

  • NT Jay Ratliff: B-

Ratliff hasn’t been as dominant as usual, perhaps due to the sub-par play around him.  He still has the potential to create havoc, as he did this past week.

  • NT Josh Brent: C-

The supplemntary draft pick has actually gotten pretty many snaps, mostly in nickel situations (when the Cowboys go into a 4-3 alignment).  His motor is excellent, but he needs to find a way to more adequately shed blocks.

  • DE Igor Olshansky:  D-

Olshansky needs to go.  He’s extremely limited in what he can do (stop the run), and he hasn’t done that well all year.

  • DE Marcus Spears:  C-

Spears’ injury was more devastating to Dallas than many people realized, as he was one of the only players who was stopping the run.  He too, however, is very limited in his skill set.

  • DE Stephen Bowen:  D+

After an impressive preseason, I haven’t seen much from Bowen at all.  He’s gotten blown off the ball in the run game and stoned in the passing game.

  • DE Jason Hatcher:  C+

Hatcher has been the Cowboys’ best defensive end, which is sad.  He played remarkably well last week, but he needs to show more consistency.

  • OLB DeMarcus Ware:  B+

Despite a little dry spell recently, Ware is still fifth in the NFL in sacks.  He’s been caught out of position a handful of times this season, but I think we make a bigger deal of it than normal because it’s DeMarcus Ware.

  • OLB Anthony Spencer:  C

Spencer was primed for a breakout season and it simply hasn’t come.  Perhaps he benefited from Ware’s presence more than we imagined, but he was even sub-par against the run early in the season.  He’s picked that part of his game up of late.

  • OLB Victor Butler: C+

For the most part, I’ve liked what I’ve seen out of Butler.  He’s become a better run defender, although that part of his game still needs work.  His natural pass-rushing ability is obvious.

  • ILB Bradie James:  B-

James is again having a solid season, although his numbers may not be as eye-popping as usual.  For his size, he’s been decent in coverage.  He blitzed a ton when Wade Phillips was still in town, which doesn’t seem to fit his skill set well.  I think Paul Pasqualoni has used him better in the past two games.

  • ILB Sean Lee:  C

Lee’s sample size of plays isn’t enormous, but there has been improvement.  He played well last week, showing good range, leverage, and improved strength inside.

  • ILB Keith Brooking:  D-

I love Brooking’s attitude, but the end appears near.  I think the Cowboys should be starting Lee already, as Brooking has looked lost out there.  At worst, he needs to be off of the field in all nickel situations.

  • S Gerald Sensabaugh:  C-

Sensabaugh is the definition of a role player: doesn’t make a ton of glaring mistakes, but doesn’t make many plays of his own either.  He needs to tackle better.

  • S Alan Ball:  D+

We saw signs of life from Ball two weeks ago, but his season overall has been poor.  He doesn’t drive well on the football and takes horrible pursuit angles.

  • S Barry Church:  B-

No one seems to talk about it, but Church has done well as a nickel linebacker.  Let’s not forget he’s an undrafted rookie playing an entirely new position.  I think he has potential for Dallas at his normal safety spot.

  • CB Terence Newman:  B-

Newman started off the year quite well but has regressed in the past few weeks.  He’s never had the best ball skills, but recently he’s shown poor technique as well.

  • CB Mike Jenkins: C

Jenkins has been a scapegoat for the Dallas defense, but he hasn’t been that bad.  His mistakes are magnified because they often deal with effort, which is a big no-no.  It appears he’s beginning to regain his confidence.

  • CB Orlando Scandrick: C

Scandrick is so difficult to grade because when he’s been good, he’s been really good, but when he’s been bad, it’s been awful.  It’s my opinion that he plays much better outside than in the slot.

  • CB Bryan McCann:  B

This grade is simply because it’s obvious the kid has playmaking ability.  He clearly hasn’t received enough snaps for me to grade him as a cornerback, but the future looks bright.

Special Teams

  • P Mat McBriar: A-

Another Pro Bowl-caliber year.

  • K David Buehler:  D-

This is a major problem for Dallas and it needs to be fixed.  If the Cowboys win a few more games here to give them any shot at making the playoffs, Buehler’s got to go.  His kickoff distance no longer justifies a roster spot.

Awards

Offensive MVP: Dez Bryant

Bryant is a classic example of why you draft the best available football player.  He’s going to be one of the league’s top players for years and a Hall of Famer.  Yeah, I said it.

Defensive MVP:  DeMarcus Ware

Despite recent flack, Ware has again been the Cowboys’ rock on defense.  He’s on pace for 14 sacks and makes everyone around him better.

Breakout Player:  Bryan McCann

Dez Bryant is the obvious choice but we knew he’s be sensational.  McCann was stupidly released by Dallas in training camp, and they’re extremely lucky to have him back.  He can compete for a spot in nickel packages next year.

Top Disappointment:  Mike Jenkins

Felix Jones, Marc Colombo, Anthony Spencer, and Alan Ball are all close runner-ups.  Like I said above, Jenkins hasn’t been that bad, but the fastest way to alienate a fan base is to give up.  He’s the biggest disappointment to me because of his lack of effort and high preseason expectations (Jones, Colombo, and Ball were never expected to be Pro Bowl players).

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6 Responses to 2010 Dallas Cowboys Player Grades, Awards Through Week 11

  1. JJ says:

    Jonathan- anytime grades go up it’s a chance for debate. Frankly, I think you are very solid in assessment. Initially, I thought Ratliff’s grade was too high but I cannot contradict myself (which I cannot fathom why more people don’t bring this up) about how poor our DEs are…really, they cannot put pressure on QB and leave Brooking and James to do so much of the tackling. To me, this is as high of priority as OLine and Safety.

    I probably would rate Spencer lower and Roy Williams higher just because he has not dropped as much and kept a great attitude.

    If anyone deserves a solid A, it’s McBriar. I’m not as down on Buehler…not to say he’s great but I think he still has something and, if not for him, we may have at least 4 more touchdowns scored on the kick-coverage if not for his tackles.

    I think it’s clear that the Cowboys need a replacement for Colombo, Brooking, Igor, Spears and Ball with Davis, Senasbaugh, Kosier not far behind. And, what of the sensation in Ogletree? Not a peep.

  2. Josh says:

    The thing i think about buehler that keeps him around is his unnatural athleticism for a kicker. His kickoffs havent been spectacular, and i think that its because of unneeded directional kicking. However, i have seen buehler make way too many tackles for a kicker on kickoff. Without him, i think atleast 2 more kickoffs would result in a TD for the opposing team. He is not a horrible kicker, and he has a tremendous upside.

    As for the Offensive line, i think its time for sam young or *gasp* alex barron again. And the first rounder should easily be a lineman or a safety. Preferably a Lineman

  3. john coleman says:

    I would agree almost across the board. I still think Davis is bad, especially if you consider his salary. Columbo is done! Surely we can manage a replacement before next season. That is if Sam young is not the guy. I could see us letting go of Barron and Columbo and picking up a Gabe Carimi in the early to mid 2nd rd. For the record I see only two LTs(Sherrod and Castonzo) in the upcoming draft. That’s why I have Carimi in the 2nd. He seems to be projecting as a RT. He is a beast in the run game and adequate in pass pro. Back to the article. I like the thinking on Scandrick and his being better outside. Also Newman may be ready for the move to FS. Allowing McCann to be the slot guy and Ball to be the 4th CB. Ansah would be the Backup at FS. Sensabaugh has been lackluster in a contract year, so I don’t expect any improvement. That paves the way for Church and McCray. BTW, I will again agree with Witten falling off. I’m not saying he is terrible but his play has me wondering if he is 100%. Could it simply be that the soft camp and Wade’s way have caused some of these guys to lose their edge. Another thought along those lines is has the passrush or lack of caused the CB’s to look worse than usual. I also love the way you graded Kitna and McCann as what they are and not what they are projected to be. Kitna is as good as any backup in the league and McCann has been stellar as a rookie udfa, who needs time to develop as a CB in the NFL. I agree with the Buehler experiment also. He has lost all of his boom on Kickoffs. Couple that with the anxiety on every FG/PA attempt and wow. I will say the end result on FG’s has been as good or better than I hoped for. I’m not saying waste a draft pick on a kicker though.

  4. JJ says:

    John,

    Interesting you mention Newman to FS. He certainly has the ballhawking skills but it seems overtime a Cowboys CB hits someone you hold your breath for injury. To be honest, I’d like to see the Cowboys draft a solid CB to compete for a starting spot and let the chips fall where they may. i still think both safety spots need upgrade.

    Interestingly, reading some of Todd Archer’s comments today you would think he likes the DEs. I think the DEs are average and are hurting the ability for Ratliff to receive a single team. Imagine even one dominant DE next to Ratliff…

  5. Vince Grey says:

    Pretty solid grades and reviews overall. Can’t disagree with much at all. You and I may be the only people I know who see that Witten is declining before our eyes. Sad, because he’s been a truly great player. Still better than average, but no longer great.

    While I have to say that Mike Jenkins is playing a little better since Garrett took over, I also agree that his lack of effort is bad. And contagious, which is the worst part. Once a quitter, always a quitter. I still say he’s trouble and needs to go.

    Did I mention I despise quitters?

  6. JJ–The play of the DEs certainly factored into my grade for Ratliff. He’s gotten doubled a lot this year. I do think I could have given McBriar a solid ‘A’, and you’re right about Buehler’s tackles. Tough to factor in tackling as a component of a kicker’s grade haha.

    Josh– I couldn’t agree more with the directional kicking. It makes absolutely no sense to me. And I’d love to see Young in there are RT. Barron. . .not so much.

    John–I haven’t had as much time to look at the upcoming draft as you, but I do know it is CB heavy. If the Cowboys do secure a top 10 pick and no solid OL is available, it could be a corner. A guy like Peterson or Amukamara could probably start immediately, with Newman moving to FS. I’m not normally a big fan of position changes but I agree with you that Newman can make that switch. He’s good in run support for a CB, can put on some size, and seems to track the ball better when in zone as compared to man. I actually think he could be BETTER at FS. Scandrick would also then be able to compete for a starting gig but not forced into it. Perhaps a rookie could move into the slot in nickel situations, with Scandrick outside…do you know the slot abilities of Peterson/Amukamara/J. Jenkins/etc? I think Jenkins would be outstanding there.

    Vince–We have a few other people here who have witnessed Witten’s decline, but the general population won’t accept it for awhile. And I hate quitters too, but we will probably never see eye to eye on Jenkins. I hate to say some players have different rules than others, but it’s true. Not that it would ever happen, but do you think Peyton Manning would get cut for a DUI? Not a chance. An undrafted rookie? You bet. It’s unfair, but it’s reality. The Cowboys can’t afford to cut Jenkins.

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