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Running the Numbers: Cowboys’ 5 Most Underrated Players

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Jonathan Bales

I’m starting a “Top 5” series at DallasCowboys.com, and today’s first installment takes a look at the Cowboys’ five most underrated players. Here’s a clip:

5. Jason Hatcher

Hatcher broke out just a bit in 2011 with a career-high 4.5 sacks and 28 total tackles. Some of that success was the result of receiving the most snaps he’s ever gotten in any of his six NFL seasons, but Hatcher was also quite efficient. Defensive ends in 3-4 defenses aren’t generally expected to produce big numbers, but Hatcher racked up a pressure on 5.2 percent of the snaps on which he rushed the passer. That rate was superior to all other Cowboys’ defensive linemen, including nose tackle Jay Ratliff.

4. Sean Lissemore

Lissemore played only one-quarter of the team’s defensive snaps in 2011, but he was as efficient as just about any defender not named DeMarcus Ware. He tackled the ball-carrier on 6.4 percent of his snaps, despite playing 58.0 percent of them against the pass. That rate was well ahead of the Cowboys’ other defensive ends, including run-stopper Kenyon Coleman, who played only 47.3 percent of his snaps against the pass.

In addition, Lissemore generated 13 total pressures in 2011. The only defensive end to exceed Lissemore’s total pressures was Hatcher, even though Hatcher, Coleman and Marcus Spears all played far more snaps than Lissemore.

3. Anthony Spencer

A lot of fans view Spencer as a run-stopping outside linebacker who struggles reaching the quarterback. While Spencer’s sack totals aren’t necessarily where both he and the team might like, he probably generates more pressure than you think.

My choices for numbers two and one shouldn’t surprise you too much if you’ve followed my stuff over the years. Other candidates for my list that didn’t quite make the cut were Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, and Gerald Sensabaugh.

Who are your top five underrated Cowboys?

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4 Responses to Running the Numbers: Cowboys’ 5 Most Underrated Players

  1. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Excellent article. I hope you don’t mind but I posted a link to this in Blogging the Boys. In fact, I often refer to your stuff.

    Keep up the great stats work, my brotha!

  2. Tyrone..thanks! Of course I don’t mind, and I appreciate the support.

  3. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Point of order I thought I’d mention…

    Your article mentions that since 2009, the average sack totals of the top 15 OLBs is 9, while Spencer’s sack average is 7. I thought Spencer’s sack total for the past 3 years was 6, 5, and 6?

  4. Hey Tyrone…saw a bunch of people comment on this..I keep track of sacks on my own. I have Spencer with 7, 6, and 7 sacks over the past three years (6.7 per). It’s basically a matter of half sacks..assigning sacks when two or more players reach the passer at once. I don’t assign half sacks.

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