To take a page from Dennis Green’s book, “The Cowboys are who we thought they were.”
Since this current group of players came to Dallas, the only consistent trait about the team has been their inconsistency.
They are a Jekyll and Hyde team, and it doesn’t seem as if this identity is going away anytime soon. Underachieving is a trait embedded in the team psyche.
There have been bright spots, no doubt, but overall, there has been very little improvement from last season’s .500 ballclub.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the Cowboys’ first-quarter report card.
Tony Romo: C-
Romo would have earned a B- had he not failed his last exam of the quarter.
Romo has consistently been the team’s pulse. He is exceptionally good at moving in and out of the pocket, extending plays long after pass protection has broken down.
One problem is that this is the only time big plays happen in the offense. There is very little production from the Cowboys offense when Romo has to stand in the pocket for 2.5 seconds and throw the football.
Monday night against Chicago was a complete disaster for Romo and the Cowboys. Of his five interceptions, three could be blamed on the quarterback. He hit Kevin Ogletree in the chest on a pass that bounced straight up and was picked off. Another of his interceptions was on a hot adjustment that Dez Bryant didn’t pick up.
Without Tony Romo, this would be a 1-3 or 0-4 football team, so it is hard to give him a below average grade, but with five touchdowns and eight interceptions, even a C- seems generous.
Kyle Orton: B+ (graded on a backup curve)
Orton played well in clean up duty on Monday night. He did what Cowboys fans and personnel hoped to see when he was signed to be Romo’s backup.
No, Kyle Orton should not start, and his grade carries as much weight as a homework assignment in the final assessment.
Position Grade: C-
DeMarco Murray: C-
Murray is a tough, explosive running back. He catches the ball well out of the backfield, and has done some great things when given the chance to get going.
The problem lies in the blocking up front. The Cowboys have had far too many negative plays in the running game. They have failed to move the line of scrimmage, and Murray’s carry and yard totals reflect that.
Felix Jones: D-
Jones’ season has been a nightmare thus far. He really doesn’t even look like the same player.
The former first rounder’s fumble on the opening kickoff in Seattle cost the team dearly. He’s dropped numerous balls in the passing game and has not generated any plays returning kicks.
It’s never a good thing when a player is only noticed for mistakes on the field.
Position Grade: C-
Dez Bryant: D
There have been some good moments for Bryant this season, but there have also been far too many bad ones.
The 105-yard performance—a career best—against Chicago was mired with three drops, a penalty and a miscommunication with Romo that cost Dallas six points.
There is not much else to say about Dez. He has tons of potential but a pound of production.
Miles Austin: B
Miles Austin has been one constant for Romo this season. He has played better than every skill player on the team, and his 300 yards and three touchdowns are team highs.
He has made the most of his opportunities, and his touchdown against the Giants won the Cowboys the game. It was Austin making a play for his quarterback. Romo only wishes his other targets would do the same.
Kevin Ogletree: C+
Given the Cowboys had no idea who would play their third receiver spot, Ogletree has played pretty well.
He is on pace to gain over 800 yards and eight scores. Any Dallas fan would have been overjoyed if they were told that prior to the start of the season.
Ogletree did have a big drop in the red zone that was intercepted by Chicago on Monday.
Position Grade: C-
Jason Witten: C+
Witten struggled more in the first three weeks of the season than he has in his entire career.
He couldn’t catch the football. He struggled blocking and was called for numerous penalties.
The man is playing with a lacerated spleen, though.
This can’t be overlooked.
Witten did play exceptionally well against Chicago, going over the 100-yard mark for the first time this season. The other tight ends on the roster have been nonexistent.
Position Grade: C
In Week 4, the line actually played its best game of the season. Romo had a clean pocket for a nice portion of the night, and the unit did not commit a single penalty.
This does not overshadow the fact that the group played some of the worst football in the league through the first three weeks.
The offensive line was the most penalized group in the league. Romo was sacked eight times (nine, now) and took far too many vicious hits.
Murray has had no room to run, either, as the big men continually get blown back at the point of attack. The team is averaging a mere 3.4 yards per carry.
This unit has been the team’s Achilles' heel for years.
Position Grade: F
Jay Ratliff, the team’s best defensive lineman, has yet to get on the field this season. His presence has been missed on the Dallas defense.
Sean Lissemore has played pretty well in his absence.
Marcus Spears, Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher have done fair jobs as well.
The only really poor outing for the front was against Seattle, and getting Ratliff back will be a huge boost.
Position Grade: C+
DeMarcus Ware: A
Ware is the best pass-rusher in the league, and he continues to prove it week in and week out. If there is one player the team can count on to show up, it is Ware.
Offenses double him, chip him and shift protections towards him, but he still finds a way to get to the quarterback.
Sean Lee: A-
Sean Lee is a stud. When many fans were skeptical about the linebacker when he was drafted out of Penn State, Dallas insisted that he should have been a first-round pick.
Now, everyone can see why. He is a tackling machine, who currently leads the league with 46, and he always finds his way to the football.
Though there is obviously a different tier where the Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis-level players reside, Lee is developing into one of the best linebackers in the league.
Bruce Carter: B-
Carter has yet to make any big plays, but he has also yet to make any bad ones.
He is good in coverage and possesses the type of speed the Dallas linebacker corps has lacked.
Obviously, he is still adjusting to the NFL game, but this is only is second year in the league.
Anthony Spencer: B+
The Dallas defense dearly missed Spencer on Monday night. Victor Butler is a good pass-rusher, but he doesn’t make the play when he gets there.
The same has been said about Spencer, whose lack of sacks has probably been the determining factor in Dallas not signing him long term.
Spencer excels at what he does. He is a run-stopping strong-side linebacker who can occasionally get to the passer. Unless Dallas uses a first-round pick next year, they will not find a better player for the strong side of the defense.
Position Grade: B+
Brandon Carr: B
The $50 million man has played pretty well for the Cowboys. He's probably not lived up to the expectations of the fans because he has yet to force a turnover. Carr has allowed the defensive coordinator to open up his defense because of his ability to press receivers and play man coverage. His versatility to fill in at safety also has been a bonus for Dallas.
Morris Claiborne: B+
Bears receiver Devin Hester took Claiborne to school on a double move on Monday night.
Before Claiborne realized what happened, Hester had separated and was chasing down a 34-yard throw.
This was only one snap, though. Besides that one snap, Claiborne has played exceptionally well for a rookie. He shut down every receiver he faced for the first three games, and when he did allow a reception, he made the tackle and limited yards after the catch.
Though he hasn’t caused a turnover either, he was close on Monday, stripping the football from Alshon Jeffery. The play was reversed upon further review.
Mike Jenkins: B
Given that Jenkins didn’t participate in training camp, missed the first game of the season and has taken on an entirely different role, he has done his job.
Jenkins has played cornerback and safety for Dallas this season, and the team’s decision not to trade him has really paid off.
Orlando Scandrick: B-
Scandrick has been himself. Good but not great. Close but not there.
Overall, he’s played fair, and his role in the slot is an important one for any defense.
Gerald Sensabaugh: B-
Sensabaugh is another player who is important to the defense but does not consistently make plays. He doesn’t commit too many mistakes, but he doesn’t stand out in any way either. With Sensabaugh's counterpart at safety Barry Church out for the season, it will be key for Sensabaugh and whichever cornerback Ryan plays at safety.
Position Grade: B
Special Teams: C+
The block against Seattle killed Dallas. The team has not had any great special teams plays outside of one Bryant punt return and a couple of downed punts inside the 10-yard line.
Dan Bailey: A-
He has made every kick he’s attempted. When it comes to a kicker, that is all a team can ask for. He does, however, leave something to be desired on kickoffs.
Chris Jones and Brian Moorman: B+
Moorman’s good play on Monday pushed this grade up to a B+. Jones has also played well, but the block against Seattle really put the game away early.
Team Grade: C-
The Cowboys are an underachieving, average football team.
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