The DC Times

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By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Skill Position Grades Through Week 7

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Jonathan Bales

I completed quarter-season grades for the secondary, front seven, and offensive line, but I never got to the Cowboys’ skill position players.  Let’s take a look at their play through seven weeks of the 2011 season. . .

Quarterback

  • Tony Romo

Outside of a couple late-game miscues on which everyone in the media will judge his overall performance, Romo has been his usual self in 2011.  He’s on pace for nearly 5,000 yards passing despite just 166 last week.  While it is fun for a lot of people to pick fun at Romo’s game-to-game inconsistency, take a look at his career passer ratings to learn more about his season-to-season consistency–the lowest (91.4) is just slightly below the highest (97.6).  Of course, he will again be judged on his ability to get Dallas to the playoffs and win some games once there, and at this point, that’s how it should be.

Running Back

  • Felix Jones

In the initial part of the season, Jones failed to display the burst which was apparent in the preseason.  He averaged only 4.0 yards-per-carry and had only one game where he ran for more than 3.6 yards-per-rush.  A lot of that has to do with the incapability of the offensive line through the first quarter of the season, but Jones deserves some blame too.  His pass blocking has improved considerably, though, as he’s been in pass protection on 38 snaps, giving up no sacks and two pressures.

  • DeMarco Murray

Murray is averaging 3.6 YAC/rush, 0.8 yards better than Jones.  For a player whose primary knock was an inability to overpower defenders, that’s a good sign.  He was effective on Sunday because he showed that, unlike Jones, he doesn’t always try to run around defenders, instead opting to lower his shoulder at times.  My overall grade of Murray is going to be a little surprising to some people, but let’s not forget he didn’t particularly stand out prior to Sunday’s game against the Rams, and his 6.5 yards-per-carry on the season drops to 4.8 without his 91-yard touchdown.

  • Tashard Choice

Choice has been really poor thus far in 2011, and it just looks like he doesn’t want to be in Dallas anymore.  He’s averaging only 2.7 yards-per-rush, and only 1.9 after contact.  He’s made defenders miss just one time (3.6% of his runs), compared to seven for DeMarco Murray (13.7%) and 11 for Felix Jones (17.5%).

Wide Receiver

  • Miles Austin

It’s amazing how much we forget about Austin’s presence and what it means to Dallas.  He’s not the first person you think of when you imagine the Cowboys’ offense, but maybe he should be.  While Austin’s only had one huge game this season, you saw the Cowboys’ offense take on a different persona with Austin injured.  He’s averaging only 4.4 YAC/reception and has dropped three passes, but his value to Dallas is unquestioned.

  • Dez Bryant

Bryant has made defenders miss six times, good for 31.6% of the time he catches the football.  He’s averaging a ridiculous 7.7 YAC/reception.  67.2% of his snaps are pass plays.  I’m really not sure why Jason Garrett has him back on returns, as he’s option 1B in the offense at this point.

  • Laurent Robinson

Robinson has caught 70% of the passes thrown his way and has the same 7.7 YAC/reception as Bryant.  A lot of that is due to defenses giving him single-coverage, but you don’t see Kevin Ogletree taking advantage of it like Robinson.

  • Kevin Ogletree

Two of Romo’s interceptions have been intended for Ogletree, despite the fact that the receiver has only nine catches all season.  He’s not a great blocker, isn’t overwhelming on special teams, and he’s been shown up by Robinson in recent weeks.

Tight End

  • Jason Witten

I’m going to get some crap for this but here goes. . .Witten hasn’t been a very good blocker all season.  I have said for the last two years that Bennett is superior to Witten in the run game, and it is particularly true this season.  He’s slow to react and, although he uses good body position, he gets beat by quicker defenders.  It is worth noting that Romo has a passer rating of over 112 when throwing to Witten on the left side of the field, but just under 78 in the middle of the field.

  • Martellus Bennett

I realize Bennett offers next to nothing as a receiver and that can hurt Dallas, but he really is an elite run blocker.  The Cowboys are averaging 6.4 yards-per-rush when running behind Bennett this season.

  • John Phillips

Phillips is having a really poor season.  He’s caught seven of the eight balls which have come his way, but he’s averaging only 6.0 yards-per-reception.  He’s also been horrific as a blocker, struggling in the run game and yielding three pressures and a sack in only 29 snaps in pass protection.

Overall Grades

A few notes before looking at my grades:

  • Romo’s grade is weighted 3:1 in terms of passing to leadership, the running back grades are 3:1:1 in terms of running to receiving to pass protection, the receivers are 3:1 in terms of receiving to blocking, and the tight ends are 3:2 in terms of receiving to blocking.

Tony Romo

  • Passing: B+
  • Leadership: C

Overall: B (86.3)

Felix Jones

  • Running: C+
  • Receiving: C+
  • Pass Protection: A-

Overall: B- (82.0)

DeMarco Murray

  • Running: B+
  • Receiving: B
  • Pass Protection: C

Overall: B (86.0)

Tashard Choice

  • Running: D
  • Receiving: C
  • Pass Protection: B

Overall: C- (71.0)

Miles Austin

  • Receiving: B
  • Blocking: B

Overall: B (85.0)

Dez Bryant

  • Receiving: B+
  • Blocking: B

Overall: B+ (88.8)

Laurent Robinson

  • Receiving: B-
  • Blocking: C

Overall: C+ (78.8)

Kevin Ogletree

  • Receiving: C-
  • Blocking: C-

Overall: C- (70.0)

Jason Witten

  • Receiving: A-
  • Blocking: C

Overall: B (84.0)

Martellus Bennett

  • Receiving: D
  • Blocking: A

Overall: C (77.0)

John Phillips

  • Receiving: C
  • Blocking: D-

Overall: D+ (69.0)

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6 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Skill Position Grades Through Week 7

  1. bW says:

    what makes you give Romo a C in leadership?

    me personally…that seems like a grade that should not be on there anyway because its not really a tangible thing you can grade, at least not clearly (since we aren’t there in practice or locker room or huddle/field) where as blocking and receiving for the other players you can grade out with tangible evidence.

  2. bW says:

    I think T Choice got off easy on your running grade….He should have gotten an F. Not doing much with his limited reps is one thing…fumbling on those limited reps is just a horrible sin.

  3. john coleman says:

    For me the jury is still out on Murray. I love his speed and actually believe he is faster than Jones. He also does seem to be more powerful. I’m reluctant to give him a B in either receiving or running. I think the limited touches until Sunday have been only acceptable. Sunday was great but, I need to see some consistancy. Where did the B+ receiving come from? I don’t recall any stats. I am encouraged with his gamebreaking speed and his college numbers indicate an explosive player.

    I agree with both Choice and Ogletree. My early prediction is that neither are Cowboys next year. Choice is a lock to be gone and Ogletree must show some real improvement by next years training camp. The lack of ST contributions will hurt both.

    The missing link- Once again Tanner shined. The guy simply makes the most of his opportunities. 6 for 34= 5.67, I believe. A long run of 17 and a 6yd TD, not bad. Those numbers a very similar to his preseason. He has also been around the ball on ST’s. He is the reason I’m predicting Choice’s departure.

  4. moses says:

    It is too bad that Bennett has not contributed as a receiver. He has had opportunities but has not been consistent. I think that it is what is expected from Bennett. You notice any drops or miscues from Bennett because you are expecting them and it confirms your preconceptions.

    Bennett is a very good blocker. No question there.

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