The Dallas Cowboys received a lot of criticism for choosing to trade back and select center Travis Frederick in the first round of April’s NFL Draft.
However, through the first six weeks, the Cowboys are looking pretty wise.
Frederick stepped in as a starter, anchoring the Dallas offensive line from Day One. Although he struggled early in the season, the 31st overall pick has played well the last four weeks. In fact, the former Wisconsin standout has been so impressive that the folks at Pro Football Focus have given him the fourth-highest grade among 2013 first-round picks through the first six weeks.
New York Jets 3-4 defensive end Sheldon Richardson, Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and San Diego Chargers right tackle D.J. Fluker are the only rookies to grade higher than Frederick, who is ranked seventh among NFL centers and first when it comes to run blocking efficiency.
According to the PFF grade book, Cowboys starting offensive linemen received the four highest grades on the offensive side of the ball against Washington. Right tackle Doug Free led the way with Frederick second, left guard Ron Leary third and right guard Brian Waters fourth. Left tackle Tyron Smith was 11th among the team’s offensive players.
Other offensive grades …
Tony Romo received the Cowboys’ lowest individual grade and his worst of the season for his performance against Washington. Romo completed 18 of 30 passes for 170 yards, one touchdown and one interception. PFF has Romo currently ranked seventh among quarterbacks, trailing Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford.
Dez Bryant is ninth among receivers. Terrance Williams is 77th and Miles Austin is 84th.
Doug Free remains No. 1 among all offensive tackles. Tyron Smith is 22nd. Brian Waters is 11th among guards and Ron Leary is 33rd.
Dan Bailey is third among kickers and Dwayne Harris is seventh among kick returners.
Over to the defense …
Second-year Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III received his worst grade of his NFL career on Sunday. Griffin only received one negative grade during his standout rookie season. He has received three negative grades already this year.
According to PFF, DeMarcus Ware is second among 4-3 defensive ends, trailing only St. Louis’ Robert Quinn. George Slevie is 20th.
Ware is first in run stop percentage and fourth in pass rush productivity.
Jason Hatcher, who received his highest grade of the season on Sunday, is fourth among defensive tackles. Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy, New York Jets’ Damon Harrison and Seattle’s Brandon Mebane are ahead of him.
Sean Lee has moved up to seventh among inside linebackers. Carolina’s Luke Kuechly holds the top spot.
Lee is second in tackling efficiency but 22nd in pass coverage.
J.J. Wilcox has climbed ahead of Barry Church in the safety rankings. Wilcox is up to 15th and Church, who was in the top five a couple of weeks ago, has fallen to 23rd.
Brandon Carr is 14th among corners. Orlando Scandrick is 65th and Morris Claiborne is 95th. Former Cowboy Terence Newman — now in Cincinnati — is 12th.
Scandrick is fifth when the grades focus just on slot coverage.
Carr was thrown at 12 times Sunday, allowing only four catches for 55 yards. Pierre Garcon was targeted 15 times Sunday and Carr was defending on 10 of them. Garcon caught two of those passes for 29 yards.
Know the opponent …
With the Cowboys playing in Philadelphia Sunday, here’s a look at a few Eagles grades.
Left guard Evan Mathis is the highest graded offensive linemen in the NFL and running back LeSean McCoy is the league’s highest-graded running back.
Philadelphia’s top five defensive players: Defensive end Fletcher Cox, defensive end Cedric Thornton, outside linebacker Trent Cole, defensive lineman Vinny Curry and cornerback Brandon Boykin.
Bonus stat …
The Cowboys are at their best defensively when their line is causing problems for the opposing quarterback. Of Dallas’ 17 sacks this season, 12 have come in the team’s three victories and four of the other five came in the one-point loss in Kansas City.
Here’s the breakdown: Week 1 vs. Giants, a 36-31 win: 3 sacks. Week 2 at Chiefs, a 17-16 loss: 4 sacks. Week 3 vs. Rams, a 31-7 win: 6 sacks. Week 4 at Chargers, a 30-21 loss: 1 sack. Week 5 vs. Broncos, a 51-48 loss: 0 sacks. Week 6 vs. Redskins, a 31-16 win: 3 sacks.