In this Cowboys Chat, we’ll discuss the Cowboys receivers, specifically addressing their individual weaknesses.
The Dallas Cowboys passing game took a hit last season, underperforming across the board and casting doubt on the future of Dallas’ top-three receivers.
We’re focusing on their individual weakness here in this Cowboys Chat:
Q: Dez Bryant was disappointing in 2017, to say the least. It looked like his skills eroded to the point he’s no longer a No.1 WR in this league and may have even played his last game with the Cowboys. Is that an accurate assessment?
A: I don’t believe it is. Dez is now 29 so to say his skills are eroding is scientifically correct to some degree but I don’t think it’s what led to his disappointing 2017 season. The number one thing that hurt Dez Bryant in 2017 was Dez Bryant’s attitude. That sounds like an oversimplification but let me explain…
As we all saw last season, the routes by Cowboys receivers were pretty predictable. It allowed opposing cornerbacks to sit on them and contest virtually every reception. Combine that with Dak Prescott’s less-than-accurate throws and you have a very frustrating situation for Dez.
Dez Bryant, arguably the most emotional player in the NFL, let that get to him. You could see it, not only on the sideline, but in the way he played. He pouted and mailed it in far too many times. Bob Strum collected film on all of his drops and highlighted how little effort Dez gave to some balls. Dez Bryant of 2015 wouldn’t have done that.
He’s never been a burner so he’s always relied on other skills to create separation. And through the NFL’s next gen stats, we can see he created separation again in 2017 (on par with the rest of the NFL’s top receivers). His jump ball skills were also top-notch in 2017. It just seemed if the ball wasn’t in the endzone Dez didn’t try as hard.
I think Dez has been humbled. Now the question is does he respond the right way. If Dez gives his best effort, I believe he’ll be a true No 1 receiver. If he continues to let frustration rule his play, we’ll see a repeat performance.
Q: It seems Cole Beasley was exposed last season and now everyone knows how to eliminate him from the passing game.
A: Once again, I think the Dallas coaching staff was exposed for being too predictable. Beasley’s routes were even more predictable than Bryant’s. Teams essentially doubled Bease all season (pinching him with zone sometimes as well) and focused on taking away the out routes. See below for his dominance in 2016:
Out-breaking routes are Beasley’s specialty and it’s something I highlighted before the season began. Clearly other teams saw this as well and game-planned accordingly. The Cowboys coaching staff never adapted and Beasley was neutralized.
Beasley can be a force in 2018 if he works the middle and seam a little more. The Cowboys never let him operate up field so DBs never need to worry. Bease doesn’t have the size or skill set to play outside at the X or Z but he can be used down field more. That’s the secret to his success in 2018 because it will open up things underneath.
Q: Terrance Williams was a bust last year. Is it time to get rid of him?
A: Williams had a terrible year, there’s no question about that. But he’s relatively affordable and will be given one more chance to prove himself in 2018. Besides, If the Cowboys cut him this year, they’ll suffer a $7.25M cap hit. That makes zero sense.
If Dez’s biggest issue was effort, Williams ‘ biggest issue was consistency. Watching him run routes is frustrating because you never know if Williams is going to do it well or mail it in. I think he relaxed last season and it showed. If Dallas brings in competition for Williams at the Z, it could really light a fire and produce excellent results.