Is The Dallas Cowboys Offense Being Under Appreciated?
By Tyrone Starr
As I found myself perusing the customary football related websites over the weekend, I happened to come across an interesting nugget on the Pro Football Focus page.
Recently, they have not only provided an update on all 32 teams’ depth charts but they have also taken the time to rate every player at each position. Players can be rated as anything from the lofty title of “elite” to the not so envious title of “poor” with four other distinctions in between.
In an effort to be completely thorough, they lump all rookies into the same boat, discerning only between rookie and undrafted free agent. For those who have been in the league for at least a year, but might not have enough game action under their belts, those players get grouped in the “not enough info” box.
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The irony is that I am pretty sure thirty-two NFL head coaches have a lot better things to do with their time than to submit an accurate depth chart to the good people at Pro Football Focus. Do accurate depth charts even exist in the beginning of June? Clearly, these are all best guesses in an effort to fill in the dead space of a NFL summer.
That being said, since Sunday I focused on the defense, let’s take a look at how they have the Cowboys offense.
Supposedly, the Cowboys have only one elite player in wide receiver Dez Bryant. Since he’s currently waiting for his big pay day to come, maybe he can use that as an assist in his negotiations.
The next step down from elite is labeled high quality and features three offensive linemen, the tight end and the quarterback. Only right tackle Doug Free is referred to a “good,” while receiver Cole Beasley and left guard Ronald Leary are considered “average.”
Everyone else is considered either below average or poor.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s too easy to get me bothered by these types of blanket assessments but I’m pretty sure that the offense is being grossly shorted on their abilities.
I was less bothered by quarterback Tony Romo‘s lack of an elite grade after I noticed that both current Colts quarterback Andrew Luck as well as former Colts, now Broncos signal caller Peyton Manning were also listed as a merely high quality starters. If that’s the company Romo keeps, I can accept that.
I can even understand that there is not enough evidence to vault left guard Zack Martin into the pantheon of elite offensive linemen, even though he did make the first team All-Pro squad as a rookie.
How tight end Jason Witten and left tackle Tyron Smith aren’t considered elite though is beyond me. The only knock you can put on Witten is that he does not score a lot of touchdowns. There’s a reason for that. When the Cowboys get near the goal line, he’s their third option at best.
Witten’s worth in the passing game comes from extending drives and being the secondary option most times unless it happens to be third down. Unfortunately for a lot of people, statistics are the be all and end all of what a player brings to the table. Go find me a more complete tight end than Witten. Someone who not only makes big catches, but springs long runs due to his blocking prowess while generating enough attention to make other guys around him better.
Five years after he retires, I guarantee you’ll see how elite he is when he’s being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
As for Smith, I guess being a two-time Pro-Bowler, a first team All-Pro and missing just one game in four years, all before the age of 25 isn’t good enough to be considered “elite.” Whatever.
The last exception I am going to take with the Pro Football Focus rating system happens to be related to the other wide receiver, Terrance Williams. The PFF people have him listed as below average starter. As a barometer, let’s play a game of guess who…
Both of the following players were drafted in 2013. Player A made 40 catches for 587 yards and 3 TD’s in his rookie year. He backed that up by improving all three areas in his sophomore year catching 65 balls for 699 yards and 5 TD’s.
Player B had 44 catches in his rookie year for 736 yards and 5 TD’s, following that up with 37 catches for 621 yards and 8 TD’s.
I think a fair assessment would be to call both players even, although Player B has more yards and more touchdowns, which if you do remember from the Witten discussion, must mean a whole lot.
Player A is Buffalo Bills wide receiver Robert Woods. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, Pro Football Focus labels him as “good.” Player B is Williams, drafted the round after Woods.
Obviously their system is flawed. While it’s fun to read about these player assessments in the long, hot days of summer, it’s also fun to dissect them and expose the flaws. This Cowboys offense is without question one of the best in all of football.
Hopefully their opponents in 2015 underestimate them too.
Next: Dallas Cowboys And The Running Back Committee (A Tale of Two Seasons)