Rams vs. Cowboys: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Dallas

Jonathan BalesAnalyst ISeptember 22, 2013

Rams vs. Cowboys: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Dallas

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    The Dallas Cowboys looked like a revitalized team in their Week 3 victory over the St. Louis Rams, running all over the field on their way to a 24-point win. Quarterback Tony Romo threw for only 210 yards, but that’s really because the Cowboys didn’t need to do much passing. Running back DeMarco Murray had all kinds of room to run right out of the gate, ultimately totaling 175 yards on 26 carries—6.7 yards per carry.

    Defensively, the Cowboys played their best game of the season by far. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware had two sacks and three tackles for loss, leading a Dallas defense that yielded only 35 rushing yards all day. The pass defense was highly efficient as well, holding quarterback Sam Bradford to only 240 yards.

    The difference between Bradford and Romo, however, is that Bradford threw the ball 48 times—exactly twice as much as Romo.

    Dallas got some major help around the division, too, since the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles lost this week. The ‘Boys now own a one-game lead over Philly and a two-game lead over both New York and Washington.

Quarterback

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    1. Tony Romo

    2. Kyle Orton

    Romo didn’t light it up from a pure bulk stat standpoint, but he was very efficient on his limited throws. Airing it out just 24 times, Romo averaged 8.8 yards per attempt. His 17 completions were distributed among seven different receivers, none of whom had more than tight end Jason Witten’s 67 yards.

    With three touchdowns and no picks, Romo’s final passer rating was 137.2. He increased his 2013 YPA from 6.17 prior to the game to 6.70 after it.

    Grade: A

Running Backs

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    1. DeMarco Murray

    2. Lance Dunbar

    3. Phillip Tanner

    Running backs Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner combined for eight carries, so this was really the Murray show all day. Murray ran for 175 yards on 26 carries. Even if you take out his longest run of 41 yards, Murray still totaled 134 yards on 25 carries—5.36 YPC.

    Murray also added three receptions for 28 yards, giving him 16 receptions on the year. If he keeps up his current pace, Murray will total 85 catches this year. It’s unlikely he’ll reach that mark, but 65 receptions isn’t out of the question just because, with defenses playing wide receiver Dez Bryant the way they are, the underneath stuff will be open for Murray out of the backfield.

    Grade: A

Wide Receivers

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    1. Dez Bryant

    2. Miles Austin

    3. Terrance Williams

    4. Dwayne Harris

    5. Cole Beasley

    Despite the outstanding performance from Romo, this wasn’t a very productive day for the receivers. Bryant led all of them with only 38 yards. Together, Bryant, Miles Austin, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley combined for only eight receptions and 91 yards—43.3 percent of their quarterback’s total output.

    Austin got injured during the contest, but you’d like to see him step up when defenses are doubling Bryant. The Rams did everything they could to throw different looks at Bryant, almost always with two defenders, and Austin didn’t really capitalize when he was in there.

    Dwayne Harris muffed a punt early in the game, but he redeemed himself later with a 24-yard touchdown grab.

    Grade: C-

Tight Ends

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    1. Jason Witten

    2. Gavin Escobar

    3. James Hanna

    Tight end Jason Witten had a moderately productive day with five catches for 67 yards, although he failed to get into the end zone. His receiving total was more impressive when you consider that Romo threw just 24 passes. That equates to 2.79 yards per throw for Witten, compared to just 1.60 yards per throw in all of 2012.

    Nonetheless, Witten is on pace for only 795 receiving yards through three weeks. That would be his lowest total since 2006.

    Tight end Gavin Escobar found his way into the end zone for the first time in his career on a 24-yard strike from Romo. The Cowboys went to Escobar on a third-down fade from inside the Rams’ 2-yard line earlier in the game, but the tight end was unable to catch the ball and stay in bounds.

    Grade: C+

Offensive Line

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    LT Tyron Smith

    LG Ron Leary

    C Travis Frederick

    C/G Phil Costa

    RG Brian Waters

    RG Mackenzy Bernadeau

    RT Doug Free

    RT Jermey Parnell

    The offensive line was outstanding for the majority of the day, opening huge running lanes for Murray and allowing just one sack on Romo. As much as Murray’s skill set suggests he has elite potential, the majority of his yards against the Rams came courtesy of the offensive line. Whether he ran inside or out, there was often five yards of space before anyone made contact.

    Although it’s a small sample of plays, the Cowboys line has looked far better with veteran guard Brian Waters in the lineup. He got flagged once for holding but overall looks like a natural fit on the inside.

    Both offensive tackles played outstanding football, limiting the splash plays from defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn. St. Louis has one of the most underrated pass-rushing duos in the league, so Tyron Smith and Doug Free should be proud of the way they played.

    Grade: A

Defensive Line

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    DE DeMarcus Ware

    DE George Selvie

    DE Kyle Wilber

    DE Edgar Jones

    DT Jason Hatcher

    DT Nick Hayden

    DT Jerome Long

    The Cowboys’ defensive line was absolutely dominant on Sunday, registering five of the defense’s six sacks. In addition to Ware’s pair of sacks, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and defensive ends George Selvie and Kyle Wilber each added one.

    With the way Selvie in particular is playing, it’s worth wondering how much playing time defensive end Anthony Spencer should receive when he returns. Either way, it appears rather likely that this is Spencer’s final year in Dallas.

    The defensive ends tallied 13 tackles on the day—one week removed from the group totaling only eight tackles. Hatcher and Nick Hayden added just three more tackles on the inside, although St. Louis rarely ran the ball up the middle.

    Grade: A-

Linebackers

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    Sean Lee

    Bruce Carter

    Justin Durant

    DeVonte Holloman

    Kyle Bosworth

    Middle linebacker Sean Lee had a quiet first two games with only nine total tackles. He nearly matched that against the Rams with seven, helping to make sure that St. Louis couldn’t get anything going on the ground. The Rams’ longest rush on the day was only 11 yards, and that actually represented just under one-third of their rushing total.

    Outside linebacker Justin Durant was right behind Lee with six total tackles, perhaps playing an even better game. All six of Durant’s tackles were of the solo variety, compared to just four for Lee and three for outside linebacker Bruce Carter.

    Grade: B+

Cornerbacks

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    Brandon Carr

    Morris Claiborne

    Orlando Scandrick

    B.W. Webb

    The Cowboys cornerbacks held the outside receivers to 78 yards all day. Wide receiver Chris Givens had 54 of them. Dallas might have done an even better job on the inside, holding shift rookie slot receiver Tavon Austin to only 30 yards on his six catches.

    Altogether, the Rams wide receivers accounted for only 46.3 percent of the team’s receiving yards. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick really deserves a lot of credit for his play through three weeks. On Sunday, he kept Austin in check while also recording a sack, quarterback hit and tackle for loss as a rusher.

    Grade: A

Safeties

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    Barry Church

    J.J. Wilcox

    Will Allen

    Danny McCray

    Jeff Heath

    Safety Barry Church really set the tone for the Dallas defense with two big hits early in the contest. He ended up with three of the Cowboys’ five pass deflections on the day, showing how much he’s improved in coverage since coming into the league.

    Rookie J.J. Wilcox drew the first start of his young NFL career. His one standout play—an interception of a Bradford overthrow—was called back because of an "illegal hands to the face" penalty. He deserves some credit for keeping St. Louis from hitting on anything downfield throughout the game.

    Grade: B+

Specialists

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    K Dan Bailey

    P Chris Jones

    LS L.P. Ladouceur

    Shockingly, kicker Dan bailey missed a chip-shot field goal. It’s the first miss of the season for a kicker who has been one of the best in the NFL during his short career. Punter Chris Jones wasn’t called on often but averaged 48.8 yards on his four punts, including two inside the 20.

    Grade: C-