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October 10, 2012

Just CHILL: Cowboys Report Card after four games is disappointingly mediocre like the team's record

Clarence Hill

Just CHILL: Cowboys Report Card after 4 Games

Rush offense: F--  It’s hard to fault DeMarco Murray for the problems in the running game. He is still the same back who has the all the tools to run inside, outside and take it to the house. He just has not gotten any help up front. He not only runs into darkness because there are no holes but he often gets hit in the backfield before can even get started. Murray averages 59.2 yards per game, ranking 24th in the league. It’s a number buoyed by the fact that he had 131 yards in the season opener. He has gained just 44, 38 and 24 in the three games since.

Pass offense: D --  I still think this grade is a little high considering that quarterback Tony Romo has five touchdowns to eight interceptions. He had a great season opener and then followed with three games of 75.0 or below quarterback ratings for the first time in his career. Romo has 10 turnovers this season himself. Again, it’s not all his fault as the offensive line has been an abomination. He gets hit too much and has to run for his life to avoid sacks. Romo has not been helped by his receivers as Jason Witten and Dez Bryant have dropped nine passes. There has also been too many times Romo and his receivers weren’t on the same page, not to mention busted routes. Can you believe that Dez Bryant has zero touchdown receptions from Tony Romo?

Rush defense: B – Even though the Cowboys were gashed by Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch and allowed some leakage by Bears running back Matt Forte, the run defense has been solid overall. The Cowboys are allowing 3.8 yards per carry, good for 11th in the league. They did this without their best defensive lineman in nose tackle Jay Ratliff who missed the first four games with a high ankle sprain. Defensive end Kenyon Coleman missed two games with a hyperextended knee and strong side linebacker Anthony Spencer missed the Bears game with a strained pectoral muscle. Sean Lee is a machine at inside linebacker with a whopping 63 tackles in four games.

Pass defense: A – What else can be said about a unit that leads the league in pass defense, allowing just 169.5 yards per game. Certainly facing less than stellar passers in Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman helped those stats. But the Cowboys held up very strong in the opener against two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning. The Cowboys are much improved in the secondary with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne manning the cornerback positions.  DeMarcus Ware has a team-high five sacks and three forced fumbles. The Cowboys should be even better after the bye when nose tackle Jay Ratliff returns from injury to help Ware as a pass rusher.

Special teams: C -- Dan Bailey has yet to miss a field goal dating back to the preseason. He is still perfect. Punter Chris Jones had been solid before suffering a sprained knee after nearly getting a kick blocked against Tampa Bay. It was unacceptable for the punt unit considering he had one blocked a week earlier against the Seahawks. Jones missed the Bears game and will likely miss the Ravens. Veteran Brian Moorman is the stop gap replacement and is adequate at best. The Cowboys have been good in kick coverage but the return game leaves a lot to be desired. Felix Jones has been a huge disappointment on kickoff returns. He has made poor decisions bringing the ball out from too deep in the end zone. He barely gets past the 20-yard line. And he had a fumble that led to a touchdown against the Seahawks.

 Coaching: C –  Again, here is another grade that may be too high considering that owner Jerry Jones admits the Cowboys are fortunate to be 2-2 the way they played the past three games. An offense with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray ranks 30th in the league in scoring. How is that possible? Jason Garrett is the head coach and offensive coordinator. The offensive woes are on him. It starts at the top with his play calls as well as the guys he puts on the field. It’s easy to blame the offensive line. It has been awful. But Garrett also has decided not to replace anyone up front for poor play. So if they are not to be held accountable, he should be held accountable. Rob Ryan’s defense has played winning football as the unit finally understands his system and he has players that fit his scheme, namely cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. 



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