NYJ-DAL grades: Cowboys' QB play a disaster in loss
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Jets’ 19-16 victory over the Cowboys:
–The Cowboys’ limitations at the quarterback position behind Tony Romo were laid out for all to see Saturday night, as both Matt Cassel (-2.8) and Kellen Moore (-4.4) turned in performances and noteworthy plays to regret. Cassel started but was hooked after impressively managing to be flagged for intentional grounding on a play on which he was intercepted, before surrendering 19 yards on a sack, as Calvin Pace spotted the roll-out early on. In his place, Moore threw a pair of poor interceptions over the middle of the field and redeeming moments were fleeting for him. The lack of a viable backup behind Romo has destroyed the Cowboys this season, and regardless of Romo’s long-term future, the Cowboys should be heavily involved in the quarterback market this spring.
–As harrowing as Saturday night was for the Cowboys at quarterback, it served was a positive statement regarding the quality of their defensive end rotation. Starters DeMarcus Lawrence (+5.7) and Greg Hardy (+4.2) turned in spectacular games against the run while adding four pressures apiece in the passing game. Meanwhile, off the bench, second-round pick Randy Gregory (+1.5) racked up a season-high five pressures (two hits, three hurries) playing in more than 40 percent of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps for the second week in a row, having not done so up to that point. With Lawrence and Gregory in town, regardless of Hardy’s long-term future, things are looking bright on the defensive line for the Cowboys.
–After a down week in Green Bay last week (-3.2), linebacker Sean Lee was back to some of his best form of the season last night (+2.2) in another active display that saw him rack up five stops to take his season total to 50. At its best this defense revolves around funneling ball-carriers to Lee and Barry Church, but while the Jets were able to manage Church’s impact on the game (-2.2), Lee was able to find the ball-carrier consistently. Only Lawrence (six stops) topped Lee’s total for the game.
DE DeMarcus Lawrence (+5.7)
DE Greg Hardy (+4.2)
RT Doug Free (+3.5)
CB Terrance Mitchell (+2.6)
LB Sean Lee (+1.7)
New York Jets
–Last night’s game offered us a titanic battle between one of the league’s best centers (Travis Frederick, -1.2) and one of the league’s best nose tackles (Damon Harrison, +3.2); and in this instance the defender came out on top. Harrison led the Jets defense last night with five stops as he continued his resurgent form in the second half of the season, earning an overall grade of +1.5 grade or better for the seventh straight game. Since Week 9 no interior defender has a higher run-defense grade than Harrison (+23.2).
–One ugly interception aside, this was another solid display from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has rebounded in the last month after a string of poor performances against Jacksonville, Buffalo and Houston. Pressured on 15 of his 43 dropbacks Saturday night, Fitzpatrick was able to pick up big plays regardless, completing seven of his 12 pass attempts under pressure for 140 yards, most notably the 43-yard completion down the right sideline to Kenbrell Thompkins to set up Randy Bullock’s game-winning field goal.
–A rough season for tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson (-4.0) continued last night, as he earned negative grades as both a run blocker and in pass protection. Ferguson hasn’t been at his best since 2012, but he has fallen away from solid to subpar this season, only earning a positive grade in three of his 14 games so far in 2015. Ferguson surrendered six pressures last night (one hit, five hurries), the fifth time he has surrendered five or more pressures this season; Ferguson only reached that mark six times in the last two seasons combined.
NT Damon Harrison (+3.2)
S Marcus Gilchrist (+1.8)
LG James Carpenter (+1.4)
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (+1.4)
RG Brian Winters (+1.1)