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

Jonathan BalesAnalyst INovember 25, 2013

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

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    After giving up a lead late in the fourth quarter, the Dallas Cowboys drove down the field in a tie ballgame, kicking a game-winning field goal as time expired to take down the New York Giants in Week 12.

    The win was a massive one for Dallas. It propelled the Cowboys back into first in the NFC East while simultaneously crushing the Giants' playoff chances. Sitting at 6-5, the Cowboys now hold a two-game lead over the Giants with the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning the Giants' hopes of reaching the playoffs are all but gone.

    Through a combination of traditional stats, advanced stats and film study, I'll assign a grade to each position for Dallas. The majority of the grade will be dictated by how much each position helped the Cowboys' cause in terms of both expected points added and win probability added from Advanced NFL Stats.

Quarterback

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    1. Tony Romo

    2. Kyle Orton

    In terms of the typical stats that predict success, quarterback Tony Romo wasn't highly efficient against the Giants. He totaled only 250 yards on 38 attempts, giving him 6.58 yards per attempt on the day. It was good enough to win this contest, but if Romo were to continually post that mark, Dallas wouldn't win many games.

    There are other factors to consider, of course, including the fact that Romo threw two touchdowns to only one pick. That interception was a drop by wide receiver Dez Bryant, so Romo was safe with the football.

    Plus, Romo came up big on the final drive, throwing darts to lead the Cowboys to the win.

    Still, only 45.7 percent of Romo's plays increased the Cowboys' chances of scoring, thus making this performance a difficult one to grade. Romo wasn't efficient, but he was good enough when it mattered.

    Grade: B-

Running Back

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    1. DeMarco Murray

    2. Lance Dunbar 

    3. Joseph Randle

    4. Phillip Tanner

    The Cowboys were helped out by the fact that they ran the ball well in this game, totaling 106 yards on 17 carries by the running backs. Running back DeMarco Murray had 86 of those yards on 14 carries (6.14 YPC), and he also added 40 yards on three receptions.

    It was good to see running back Lance Dunbar get some touches. He had three carries and two receptions for 46 total yards.

    On a per-play basis, both Murray and Dunbar were highly efficient. Murray totaled 5.5 expected points added (EPA), and 44.4 percent of his touches increased the Cowboys' probability of scoring. Dunbar was even better with 2.6 EPA on only five touches, meaning each of his touches was worth around 0.5 points to Dallas. 

    Grade: A-

Wide Receiver

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    1 - Jason Witten

    2 - James Hanna

    3 - Gavin Escobar

    Although he had only four receptions for 37 yards, tight end Jason Witten was able to take two of his catches into the end zone for scores. The touchdowns aren't that surprising when you consider the New York Giants have historically played Cover 2 against the Cowboys in an effort to limit the impact of the outside receivers. That's left the middle of the field, particularly up the seam, open for Witten.

    Witten totaled 3.5 EPA on the night, the second-most for any player in Dallas behind Murray. Witten wasn't efficient on a per-target basis with only 5.3 yards per attempt, but a lot can be forgiven when you score two touchdowns.

    Grade: B-

Tight End

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    1 - Jason Witten

    2 - James Hanna

    3 - Gavin Escobar

    After giving up a lead late in the fourth quarter, the Dallas Cowboys drove down the field in a tie ballgame, kicking a game-winning field goal as time expired to take down the New York Giants in Week 12. 

    The win was a massive one for Dallas, as it propelled them back into first in the NFC East while simultaneously crushing the Giants' playoff chances. Sitting at 6-5, the Cowboys now hold a two-game lead over the Giants with the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning the Giants' hopes of reaching the playoffs are all but gone.

    Through a combination of traditional stats, advanced stats , and film study, I'll assign a grade to each position for Dallas. The majority of the grade will be dictated by how much each position helped the Cowboys' cause in terms of both expected points added and win probability added from Advanced NFL Stats.

Offensive Line

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    LT Tyron Smith

    LG Ronald Leary

    C Travis Frederick

    C Phil Costa

    RG Mackenzy Bernadeau

    RT Doug Free

    RT Jermey Parnell

    Running backs DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar ran well, but they also had some massive holes through which to run. The offensive line did an outstanding job in blocking for an average of 6.26 yards per carry. 

    The line was neither outstanding nor horrific in pass protection. It allowed four sacks, although that wasn't necessarily representative of the time it gave Romo. The Cowboys called for a whole bunch of play-action passes, which clearly helped Dallas but also led to a couple sacks.

    The line also allowed five quarterback hits and four tackles for loss.

    Grade: B

Defensive Tackle

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    1. Jason Hatcher

    1. Nick Hayden

    2. Drake Nevis

    2. Corvey Irvin

    While the other three defensive tackles combined for just two tackles, Jason Hatcher was outstanding with two huge sacks of quarterback Eli Manning. Three of Hatcher's plays were considered "successful" for Dallas in that they decreased the Giants' win probability. Hatcher totaled 3.5 EPA for Dallas.

    Grade: B

Defensive End

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    1. DeMarcus Ware

    1. George Selvie

    2. Kyle Wilber

    2. Jarius Wynn

    3. Everette Brown

    It was a horribly unproductive night for the Cowboys' defensive ends, with DeMarcus Ware and George Selvie totaling three tackles and no sacks. The Cowboys should consider themselves lucky that they were able to sneak out a win in which they had no sacks from their defensive ends and only two quarterback hits from the entire defense.

    The Cowboys' top defensive end on the night, by far, was Kyle Wilber. Although Wilber didn't have any sacks, he had seven tackles that came in really clutch situations. He totaled an incredible 11.5 EPA, which led all defenders in the game.

    Grade: D

Linebacker

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    1. Bruce Carter

    1. Ernie Sims

    1. Kyle Bosworth

    2. Orie Lemon

    Bruce Carter and Ernie Sims were the only linebackers to record tackles for Dallas, with seven and 10 respectively. Although Carter had fewer tackles than Sims, his were more important to Dallas, increasing the Cowboys' chances of winning by 14 percentage points. Still, Sims was really impressive.

    Carter made a boneheaded mistake when he gave up a catch to Giants tight end Brandon Myers but didn't touch down the tight end after he made the catch and went to the ground. Myers got up and ran in for the easy score.

    The Cowboys desperately need the return of veteran Sean Lee, who has an outside chance of playing on Thanksgiving, according to ESPN Dallas. He should help a Dallas linebacker corps that was a big part of the problem in the Giants running for 202 yards.

    Grade: C

Cornerback

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    1. Brandon Carr

    1. Orlando Scandrick

    2. Morris Claiborne

    2. B.W. Webb

    The cornerbacks looked really good against the Giants, allowing only 174 passing yards to quarterback Eli Manning. Cornerback Morris Claiborne was impressive, appearing to play with far more confidence than in past weeks.

    The player of the game might have been Orlando Scandrick, though.

    He doesn't get much attention, but Scandrick has played elite football this year. He shut down wide receiver Victor Cruz to the tune of two catches for 27 yards.

    Scandrick also stripped Cruz on a play the Cowboys returned for a touchdown that ended up being the difference in the game. Because of that play, Scandrick checked in at 9.1 EPA.

    Grade: A-

Safety

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    1. Barry Church

    1. Jeff Heath

    2. J.J. Wilcox

    2. Danny McCray

    Once again, safety Barry Church led the Cowboys in tackles.

    With 13 tackles, Church is now on pace for an unreal 154 tackles on the year. Part of that is due to Church's ability, but part of it is also because the Cowboys haven't been able to stop the run. That was the case on Sunday, and Church was one of the recipients.

    Safety Jeff Heath added six more tackles, and he also returned a fumble for a touchdown. He was in the right place at the right time on that particular play, but Heath still did well to not allow any big passes in the game.

    Grade: B

Specialists

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    K Dan Bailey

    P Chris Jones 

    LS L.P. Ladouceur

     

    Kicker Dan Bailey made the only field goal he attempted, which was the short 35-yarder to win the game. He had a few strange kickoffs, although it looked like the coaches told him to kick a "squib" when kicking off into the wind.

    Punter Chris Jones did a nice job, averaging 44.7 yards per punt in harsh winds.

    Grade: A

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