Pro Football Focus uses a complex system to analyze every NFL player involved in every snap in every game and assigns a grade based on how he performed on that play, with each position having its own set of grading guidelines. Plus/minus scores are given in 0.5 increments and a small normalization factor is applied to make 0.0 the average grade for a game or season. To learn more, visit www.profootballfocus.com.
Three statistical takeaways from the Cowboys’ season to date:
1. The Cowboys statistically are much better than their 4-8 record would indicate. In PFF’s team rankings, Dallas ranks 16th with an overall grade of +30.3. By comparison, the Packers rank 10th with a grade of +88.7; the Patriots (+222.8) and Panthers (+210.6) are the only teams with grades above 200. The Cowboys’ grade ranks them ahead of several teams with better records, including the Bills (6-6 record, -19.5 grade), Jets (7-5, -20.5) and Buccaneers (6-6, -62.3).
2. Dez Bryant’s return from a foot injury has injected some life into the Cowboys’ passing game. Bryant (+2.0) has helped take some pressure off Terrance Williams, who has struggled (-2.2) while being asked to handle No. 1 receiver duties for much of this season. Tight end Jason Witten (-13.3) has the lowest grade of any Cowboys pass catcher, but much of that is due to his deficiencies in run blocking (a team-worst -8.7).
3. On defense, linebacker Sean Lee is having an excellent season (+15.6 overall grade, +12 in pass coverage, both team highs). Cornerback Morris Claiborne (-11.2 overall, -6.7 in pass coverage, both team worsts) and linebacker Anthony Hitchens (-10.3 overall, team-worst -9.2 in run defense) have been disappointments.