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dallas cowboys grades | The DC Times - Part 2

The DC Times

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

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Cowboys News and Notes: 5/21/10 (Felix Jones, Tony Romo, Orlando Scandrick)

The final 2009 grades we provided those players were as follows:

Thus, we agree with Archer on everyone except Scandrick.  Don’t forget that Scandrick has received a ton of bonus money from the NFL based on playing time.  We believe Scandrick will ultimately improve to the point where he can be labeled as ‘underpaid,’ perhaps as soon as this season.

While we agree that the actual starter isn’t a huge deal, there is a problem if Jones doesn’t receive the majority of carries in 2010.  He has shown explosiveness and play-making ability which is far superior to that of Marion Barber and even Tashard Choice.  Our “A-” overall grade for Jones is proof of that.  He averaged 10.0 yards-per-carry on 22 counter runs, 3.3 yards-per-rush after contact, and was surprisingly solid in pass protection.

It is more surprising to fans than those within the league, we presume.  We saw enough bad tape on Adams in 2009 to know that, should Dallas release him, he may have trouble finding work.  Remember that, even with a solid grade in run blocking, we gave Adams a “C-” overall grade.

Tony Romo after advancing in U.S. Open qualifier

The Cowboys don’t run nearly as many zone blitzes as some other squads, but whenever you see nose tackle Jay Ratliff in coverage (which does happen a handful of times a season), that means coach Wade Phillips has dialed up a zone blitz.

Interestingly, they believe RB Marion Barber “cost” the Cowboys 13.5 points last season.  In a future article, we will compare their statistics and methodologies with our own.

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Dallas Cowboys Times’ Final 2009 Offense Grades, Player Rankings

About a week ago, we published our final Cowboys defensive player rankings for the 2009 season.  A few surprises were included, such as Keith Brooking being rated higher than Jay Ratliff, and Victor Butler ahead of Gerald Sensabaugh (don’t forget our ratings are not for overall production, but rather efficiency).

Now, we have concluded our “Grading the ‘Boys” Series, with the final offensive player rankings below.  You can find each individual offensive position study here: quarterback, running backs, tight ends, wide receivers, offensive line (run blocking), offensive line (pass protection). We will post overall player rankings (both offense and defense) in the near future.

A few notes before reading:

  • This is not a comprehensive list of everyone who played offense last season, but rather those players who participated in enough plays to gather statistically significant results.
  • It is also not a ranking of the best offensive players, but rather a list of the most important players to the team (as we see it) in 2009.
  • Lastly, players listed in blue are those we expect to improve in 2010.  We anticipate a decline in production from those players listed in red, and neither a vast improvement or deterioration in play from those listed in black.

1.  QB Tony Romo:  94.0 (A)

Threw only six interceptions over final 14 regular season games

T2.  TE Jason Witten:  93.0 (A-)

Team averaged nearly two full yards-per-attempt better when he was in route (9.3 yards) versus blocking (7.4)

T2.  WR Miles Austin:  93.0 (A-)

Dropped only 2.2% of balls and tallied an incredible 10.4 yards-per-attempt

T2. RG Leonard Davis:  93.0 (A-)

Average of 4.57 yards-per-carry when at point-of-attack is outstanding for guard; also gave up lowest negative run percentage

5.  C Andre Gurode:  91.0 (A-)

Solid in the run game and yielded least pressures and hits of any lineman–could be most crucial component of line in 2010

6. RB Felix Jones:  89.8 (A-)

Surprisingly the team’s top runner after contact (3.3 yards-after contact per run); averaged an incredible 10.0 yards-per-carry on 22 counter runs

7. RB Tashard Choice:  87.3 (B+)

Team-high 31.8% of runs up the middle and 5.8 yards-per-carry in that area could make him the 2010 short-yardage RB

8.  LG Kyle Kosier:  85.4 (B)

Perhaps offense’s most underrated player–led offensive line with just one sack yielded in 2009

9.  RT Doug Free:  80.6 (B-)

Will utilize athleticism at left tackle, but 4.54 yards-per-rush behind him last season much too low for right tackle

10.  TE Martellus Bennett:  80.0 (B-)

Quietly one of the team’s better blockers, but needs to increase his 51.7% completion percentage on balls thrown his way

11.  RT Marc Colombo:  79.4 (B-)

Gave up highest percentage of quarterback hits (by far) and largest percentage of negative runs (by far)

12.  TE John Phillips:  78.0 (C+)

Nice rookie season, but must improve as a blocker, particularly out of fullback position (only 3.7 yards-per-rush when in game)

13. RB Marion Barber:  77.2 (C+)

Name in red due to projected lack of production, not efficiency in 2010–should improve with less touches

14.  WR Patrick Crayton:  77.0 (C+)

Reliable player who lacks explosiveness–could be on another team in 2010

15.  LT Flozell Adams:  73.4 (C-)

Still a good run blocker, but led team in sacks, pressures, and penalties

16.  WR Roy Williams:  67.4 (D+)

Only 46.2% of targets ended in completion, but he will improve in 2010

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Dallas Cowboys Times’ Final 2009 Defense Grades, Player Rankings

As we close in on completing our 2009 “Grading the ‘Boys” Series (we have just the tight ends and Tony Romo left to grade), we can begin to piece together a list of player rankings.  Today comes the defense.

You can find each individual defensive position study here: defensive linemen, inside linebackers, outside linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties. In-depth statistics for each player can be found in the gallery at the bottom of the article.

A few notes before reading:

  • This is not a comprehensive list of everyone who played defense last season, but rather those players who participated in enough plays to gather statistically significant results.
  • It is also not a ranking of the best defensive players, but rather a list of the most important players to the team (as we see it) in 2009.  For example, we don’t think Jay Ratliff is less talented than Keith Brooking, but we do think Brooking’s play and leadership were comparable to Ratliff’s in 2009.
  • Lastly, players listed in blue are those we expect to improve in 2010.  We anticipate a decline in production from those players listed in red, and neither a vast improvement or deterioration in play from those listed in black.

1.  Demarcus Ware:  94.0 (A)

Tallied a ridiculous 56 quarterback pressures last season–20 more than any other outside linebacker in the NFL

2.  Anthony Spencer:  92.0 (A-)

Racked up 28 more tackles and 1.77 times the hits-per-rush as Ware

3. Mike Jenkins: 89.8 (A-)

Allowed just 49.1 percent completion rate and led all cornerbacks in yards-per-attempt, deflections, and interceptions

4. Terence Newman: 88.2 (B+)

Thrown at less than any cornerback in 2009 (9.49 percent of all snaps) and a supremely underrated tackler (65 tackles, 8.5 percent missed tackle rate)

5.  Keith Brooking:  87.6 (B+)

Solid numbers against both the run and pass (led all inside linebackers in tackles, tackle rate, and yards-per-attempt against), but most important grade was ‘A’ in leadership

6.  Jay Ratliff  87.0 (B+)

Led all linemen with a .82 percent sack rate from the nose tackle position

7.  Igor Olshansky 85.0 (B)

Probably higher on this list than others would like, but acquired a solid 33 tackles last season–11 more than Spears

8.  Bradie James:  84.1 (B)

Missed only three tackles (3.4 percent) all season

9. Ken Hamlin: 82.3 (B-)

Missed just four tackles all season to record lowest missed tackle-percentage in secondary

T10.  Jason Hatcher 80.2 (B-)

Could see greatest leap forward in production in 2010 as he garnered 17 quarterback pressures last season despite recording only one sack

T10.  Marcus Spears 80.2 (B-)

Run-stuffer who will likely be out of Dallas in 2011

12.  Stephen Bowen 79.8 (C+)

Led all ends in sack and quarterback hit rate

13. Alan Ball: 78.3 (C+)

Solid against the pass, but missed nearly one-fourth of all tackles attempted

14. Orlando Scandrick: 76.6 (C)

One of the most-targeted cornerbacks in the league (13.91 percent of snaps), will improve vastly in 2010

15.  Victor Butler:  76.0 (C)

Showed flashes but must drastically improve run defense to become a more complete player

16. Gerald Sensabaugh: 75.7 (C)

Missed twice as many tackles as Hamlin and allowed 67.4 percent completion percentage

17.  Junior Siavii 71.0 (C-)

Recorded zero sacks or quarterback hits in limited action

18.  Bobby Carpenter:  69.4 (D+)

Horrible 18.4 missed tackle percentage was 5.4 times that of James


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Grading the ‘Boys, Part VIII: Defensive Line

We were going to analyze the film and statistics of the outside linebackers for this installation of “Grading the ‘Boys,” but the recent trade rumors surrounding Marcus Spears pushed us to do the defensive line instead.  We wanted to determine how effective Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher were in 2009, giving us a better sense of why Dallas may have been interested in unloading Spears.

Grading defensive linemen is difficult due to the variety of roles that each player can fill.  The statistics among players at other positions are generally comparable due to the equality of their on-field duties.  For example, whether the Cowboys have Alan Ball or Michael Hamlin in the game at free safety, their duties will likely be the same.

The rotation that is employed amongst defensive linemen, however, creates more situational roles for each player.  Defensive ends Igor Olshanksy and Marcus Spears, for example, are on the field a lot more during run downs than pass downs.  Thus, their statistics are not necessarily 100 percent compatible with those of Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen.

To combat this potential problem, we will weight each player’s overall grade to more properly reflect their personal contributions and duties.  The run and pass defense grades for both nose tackles (Jay Ratliff and Junior Siavii) will be weighted equally in determining their final grades.  For defensive ends Spears and Olshansky, it will be 3:2 run-to-pass, and for Hatcher and Bowen it will be 3:2 pass-to-run.

As always, the charts below display the best statistics within a particular group circled in blue, and the worst in red.

Grades

Nose Tackles

  • Jay Ratliff

Run Defense:  B+

We really don’t need statistics to tell us how dominant of a player Jay Ratliff can be on the football field.  Due to the nature of the position, nose tackles generally have a tough time racking up statistics.  Their primary goal is to eat up blocks and allow the linebackers to make plays.

Ratliff is so dominant, though, that he is able to overcome these limitations.  He is very “undersized” for a nose tackle, but uses his speed and athleticism to gain an advantage on blockers.  Pass-rushers gain glory through acquiring sacks, but Ratliff is just as solid against the run.

Pass Defense:  B+

As you can see, Ratliff’s sack rate of .82 percent was the highest of any Cowboys’ defensive lineman in 2009 (including the ends).  We know he would like to improve upon both that number and his total quarterback hits and pressures, but he is no longer an unknown commodity.  Opposing coordinators game-plan for him, meaning his statistics are even more impressive when you take into account the constant double-teams he faces.

Note:  If you are wondering why Ratliff didn’t receive an “A” in either category, it is because he committed eight penalties.  Expect that number to decrease in 2010.

  • Junior Siavii

Run Defense:  C+

Siavii’s snaps were certainly limited in 2009 (just 184 all season).  Still, he was able to tally 12 tackles, or one on 6.52 percent of all plays.  That is the best number of any Cowboys’ lineman, but it is important to remember that Siavii’s limited snaps mean he is always fresh and at full energy.

Pass Defense:  D

Siavii really struggled against the pass last season.  He was unable to record any sacks or quarterback hits, and just two quarterback pressures.  The Cowboys could really be in trouble if Jay Ratliff gets injured for a significant period of time.  The major drop-off from Ratliff to Siavii was probably a factor in the Cowboys drafting DE/DT Sean Lissemore.

Snaps: Spears-535, Bowen-478, Olshansky-648, Hatcher-386

Defensive Ends

  • Marcus Spears

Run Defense:  B

Soon after drafting Spears, it was apparent that his forte is stuffing the run.  His run defense is far superior to his pass-rushing ability, leaving some to label him as a ‘bust.’  It is the ability to stop the run, though, that allows guys like Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer to tee off on quarterbacks and rack up the sacks.

Spears’ tackle rate of 4.11 percent is solid, and he committed zero penalties all season.

Pass Defense:  C-

Spears is out of the game in a lot of pass-rushing situations, so we would expect his pass defense numbers to be a bit down.  Still, we would love to see him pressure the quarterback on more than 1.87 percent of all plays.

  • Stephen Bowen

Run Defense:  C

Before watching the film, we thought Bowen was more stout against the run than what we ended up seeing.  Bowen recorded just 13 tackles all year (only Hatcher’s tackle percentage was worse).

Pass Defense:  B-

Bowen’s pass-rushing skills surprised us.  His sack and quarterback hit percentages led all defensive ends, and he wasn’t far behind in quarterback pressures.  He is a better rusher than Spears–perhaps one of the reasons the Cowboys were interested in trading Spears.

  • Igor Olshansky

Run Defense:  A-

Olshansky was brought into Dallas to stop the run, and he did just that in 2009.  He quietly was one of the Cowboys’ better free agent acquisitions in recent years.  His 33 tackles are outstanding for a defensive end.  We can count on one hand the number of times Olshansky got beat at the point-of-attack, meaning he often paved the way for the linebackers to make plays (in addition to his own).

Pass Defense:  C-

There is no doubt that Olshansky is a run-stuffing specialist.  His .62 quarterback hit percentage was the worst among defensive ends.  Still, Olshansky isn’t on the field during passing situations, meaning whatever he lacks in pass-rushing skills he makes up for in his ability to stop the run.

  • Jason Hatcher

Run Defense:  C-

We were quite disappointed with Hatcher’s 2009 performance against the run.  Hatcher’s seven total tackles was worst among defensive ends and his 1.81 tackle percentage was by far the worst among all defensive linemen.  Hatcher is a talented player, so we would expect these numbers to improve in 2010.

Pass Defense:  B

We always say that quarterback pressures are more indicative of a pass-rusher’s success than sacks (as evidenced by Spencer’s long sack drought).  Hatcher recorded only one sack last season, but he led the entire defensive line in quarterback pressures and quarterback pressure percentage.  Simple regression to the mean tells us that if Hatcher gets 17 quarterback pressures again in 2010, he will undoubtedly acquire more than one sack.

Final Defensive Line Grades

1.  Jay Ratliff  B+ (87.0)

2.  Igor Olshansky B (85.0)

T3.  Jason Hatcher B- (80.2)

T3.  Marcus Spears B- (80.2)

5.  Stephen Bowen C+ (79.8)

6.  Junior Siavii C- (71.0)

Overall, the Cowboys’ defensive line is adequate but not stellar.  Nose tackle Jay Ratliff is an All-Pro player and nearly stoppable inside.  With the attention he draws, you would hope the results of the defensive ends would be a bit better than what we observe.

Having said that, it is important for people to realize that 3-4 defensive ends are never going to put up big numbers.  They are the offensive guards and centers of the defense–they are quite important, yet gain little respect.

The Cowboys addressed the defensive end spot in the seventh round with Sean Lissemore out of William & Mary.  He is a high-motor guy who members within the organization are describing as “Ratliff-like.”  If that is even close to being true, the Cowboys found a gem.

Lissemore should be able to contribute at all the defensive line spots.  He could eventually become the primary backup to Ratliff inside.

With Spears, Bowen, and Hatcher all restricted free agents, expect defensive end to top the Cowboys’ list of needs for the 2011 draft.