Dallas Cowboys Score High On Bye Week Report Card

After six furious battles without flinching, the Dallas Cowboys have earned a much-needed weekend off to rest and nurse their wounds. We take the opportunity to grade their play so far.

October 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and players celebrate after a defensive stop during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi

Six games down and the Dallas Cowboys will now regroup during an off weekend.

After half a dozen furious battles without flinching, an extra week to rest and recover came at an ideal time.

No one could’ve predicted Dallas would be 5-1 heading into the down period.

If only Terrance Williams would’ve headed out of bounds at the Giants 45, the Cowboys may be undefeated now.

A 62-yard game winning field goal was far from a long shot for kicker Dan Bailey. After all he’s the NFL’s all-time leader in accuracy (90.1%).

Crying over spilled milk is useless as this team has demolished modest expectations.

The off week is a good time to grade position performance. Doing so will also take into account injuries and expectations.

Oct 16, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) greets Former Green Day Packers quarterback Brett Favre (R) after being introduced to the Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Matthews/Wisconsin via USA TODAY Sports

QUARTERBACKS  [A+]

Losing star QB Tony Romo and chief back-up Kellen Moore to injury before September appeared to be a death blow before the season ever started.

KEY PLAYER: Dak Prescott
DAK’S PASSING: 125 – 182 (68.7%), 1,486 yards, 7 TD’s, 1 INT, 103.9 QBR
KEY INJURIES: Tony Romo, Kellen Moore

Middle round rookie Prescott has been sensational in every phase of the position.

Dak’s 10 total touchdowns (7 passing, 3 rushing) greatly outweigh the 3 turnovers (1 INT, 2 fumbles).

Five wins and 5th in QBR after six games is legendary for a fourth round rookie.

Prescott’s first 176 passes without an INT shattered Tom Brady’s record (162).

Oct 16, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) carries the ball as Green Bay Packers linebacker Julius Peppers (56) defends in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

RUNNING BACKS  [A+]

The Cowboys running game has returned with a vengeance.

Rookie Ezekiel Elliot gets the glory, though the overall group effort has been elite.

KEY PLAYERS: Ezekiel Elliot, Alfred Morris, Keith Smith (FB)
ZEKE’S RUSHING: 137 attempts, 703 yards, 5.1 ypc, 5 TD’s, 1 fumble lost
KEY INJURIES: Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar

Dallas entered the season without a single healthy rusher returning from 2015.

Thanks to smart drafting (Elliott) and a solid free agent pickup (Morris), the unit sports the most dangerous 1-2 punch in football.

Rookie phenom Elliott leads the league in rushing by 116 yards.

He’s now the only rookie in history to rush for 134 yards in four consecutive games.

Morris has been solid in relief with 3.9 ypc and 2 TD’s.

While converted linebacker Smith has proven a worthy lead blocker at fullback.

Oct 16, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

RECEIVERS  [A]

No Dez, no problem. The Cowboys supporting receivers are playing lights out.

KEY PLAYERS: Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten, Brice Butler
RECEIVING STATS: 125 catches, 1,486 yards, 11.9 avg, 7 TD’s
KEY INJURIES: Dez Bryant (missed last 3 games)

Without Dez the group effort has ignited. Beasley (390 yards) is unstoppable.

Williams (311 yards) exploded with 277 yards during games 3-6 when Dez fell.

The old war horse Witten (274 yards) has 14 catches for 132 yards since Week 3.

Butler is chipping in big plays with 2 TD’s.

Even second TE Geoff Swaim’s blocking has made injured James Hanna a forgotten man.

Jan 4, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA;
Dallas Cowboys tackle Jermey Parnell (78) and guard Zack Martin (70) and center Travis Frederick (72) and guard Ronald Leary (65) and tackle Tyron Smith (77) on the field before the game against the Detroit Lions in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium. Dallas beat Detroit 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

OFFENSIVE LINE  [A+]

A mediocre performance against New York should lower the grade.

Yet overcoming two key injuries negates any demotion.

KEY PLAYERS: Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Doug Free
TEAM RUSHING: 202 attempts, 967 yards, 161.2 ypg, 11 TD’s
KEY INJURIES: La’el Collins, Tyron Smith (2 games)

Leary has done a stellar job filling in for Collins at left guard.

Back-up Chaz Green is also to be praised for his injury relief performances.

Ever since Week 1 the group has been absolutely dominant in all phases.

They rank second in rushing average (161.2) and 5th in sacks allowed (9).

The best line in football is back living up to the hype and then some.

Oct 16, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Maliek Collins (96) and linebacker Sean Lee (50) tackle Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) during the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

DEFENSIVE LINE  [C-]

With Lawrence sidelined four games, the line was made up of no-names.

KEY PLAYERS: Terrell McClain, Tyrone Crawford
DEF STATS: 17.8 ppg (7th), 92.2 rush avg. (10th), 2 rush TD’s (3rd)
KEY INJURIES: Demarcus Lawrence (4-game suspension)

There were hopes, but few expected much from this bunch without Lawrence.

While it hasn’t been pretty with QB pressure (11 sacks), there are bright spots.

McClain brought pass rush to the interior and leads all linemen with 20 tackles.

Crawford’s switch to end added 2 sacks and 13 tackles. While rookie Maliek Collins is playing well starting in relief on the inside.

Lawrence has yet to see heavy snaps since his return, but explosive signs are there.

Sep 25, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Zach Miller (86) makes a catch against Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee (50) in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

LINEBACKERS  [C]

Like defensive line this was another unsung group that made fans nervous.

KEY PLAYERS: Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, Justin Durant
SEAN LEE STATS: 57 tackles, 1 pass deflection, no injuries
KEY INJURIES: Kyle Wilber (1.5 games)

This group is all Lee. The oft-injured veteran is playing up to his Pro Bowl status.

With Hitchens struggling early and Wilber dealing with injuries, the second level should’ve become a weak spot.

Instead Justin Durant, Damien Wilson, and Andrew Gachkar have stepped in and sealed wounds with appropriate pressure.

To compliment Lee’s maniacal play, the supporting cast has risen to the occasion.

Oct 16, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys safety Byron Jones (31) knocks away a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (18 ) in the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

CORNERBACKS  [B-]

An afflicted veteran and unsung rookie turned potential disaster into delight.

KEY PLAYERS: Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, Anthony Brown
CORNER STATS: 75 tackles, 10 pass deflections, 2 INT’s, 2 fumbles
KEY INJURIES: Orlando Scandrick

With Scandrick clearly not healthy, the corners should’ve been in dire straits.

Carr has always been inconsistent. Claiborne has been even worse. And an unheralded rookie like Brown is never a good idea to man the slot.

Low and behold all three players have stepped up and held their own with several dangerous receiving units.

Claiborne has been a man possessed and 6th round rookie Brown is impressive.

The whole unit is tackling aggressively and battling every route with tenacity.

Sep 25, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys free safety Byron Jones (31) reacts to breaking up a pass in the third quarter against the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

SAFETIES [B-]

With all players set in their natural positions, safety has become a solid unit.

KEY PLAYERS: Byron Jones, Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox
SAFETY STATS: 74 tackles, 9 pass deflections, 2 INT’s, 3 fumbles
KEY INJURIES: None

By Jones solidifying the deep end, Church and Wilcox have greatly elevated their play.

Now able to play close in smaller areas, the two box safeties are attacking the ball.

It’s been years since Dallas had a long range free safety who allowed the vicious hitters to focus on short coverage and delivering punishment.

The dividends are paying off in droves and it’ll only get better as they gel further.

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