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What Does Cowboys WR Cole Beasley Bring To The Table?

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Cole Beasley has always been a fringe player in the NFL. What does he bring to the Dallas Cowboys that keeps him on the team?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Beasley did not have a good game against Jacksonville, (to be fair, no wide receiver not named Dez Bryant did). But in breaking down his tape you can see why the coaches like him so much. He's a consummate professional; he runs clean routes, he does his best to block downfield, he's not afraid to go over the middle. One play stands out, on Dez Bryant's second touchdown catch every Dallas player stops and watches after Dez catches the ball, even Jason Witten. Every player but one. Cole Beasley sees the catch, and chases Dez down the field, trying to get in front to block. And when Dez scores, Beasley is right there to celebrate with him. A good teammate does the little things right, those are the trademarks of a "glue guy", the type of player every NFL team needs to fill out it's roster. But "the Bease" is more than that, he brings some fairly unique talents onto the field that affect the game even when he's not catching a ton of balls.

Blitz Buster:

After the Washington game a question on the mind of many Cowboy's fans is "how will we beat the blitz"? What can we do to make teams pay for bringing extra pressure? On back-to-back plays against the Jaguars, Cole Beasley provides the answer. Let's look at the tape.

1.

blitz buster 1 (1)

Late in the second quarter Dallas is in its two-minute offense with Beasley lined up in the slot (yellow circle). The Jags counter, showing two blitzes, a DB off the right edge, and a linebacker up the "A" gap, (red circle).

blitz buster 1 (2)

A little bit of trickery from the Jags. They do bring two blitzers, but the DB comes from the offense's left end (red circle), the nickel back who should be covering Cole Beasley. Romo (blue circle) initially looks his way (yellow circle), and it seems like an easy completion.

blitz buster 1 (3)

Not sure what Romo was thinking. Beasley is wide open (yellow circle), but Romo goes away from him and instead focuses on his longtime safety outlet Jason Witten (blue circle/dashed line) who is well covered. Meanwhile the nickel back has a clear shot at Romo (red circle).

blitz buster 1 (4)

Beasley is so open it's sad, and he's got a blocker in front of him (yellow circle). But Romo (blue circle) has already moved through his progressions across the field, and, feeling pressure (red circle), scrambles to his left and ends up throwing the ball away.

2.

blitz buster 2 (1)

Very next play and an almost identical setup. Dallas is in its three-wide formation with Beasley in the slot (yellow circle), and the Jags are showing blitz up the middle (red circle) and off the offenses right edge.

blitz buster 2 (2)

And again, Jacksonville instead blitzes the nickel back covering Beasley (red circle). This time Romo is locked onto the hobbit (blue line), who, instead of running an out route, cuts towards the middle of the field (yellow circle).

blitz buster 2 (3)

It turns into an easy pitch and catch for the first down (yellow circle). Now many of you will point out that Beasley fumbles on this play, and that's true. But the fumble was the fluke; what is fairly common is Beasley winning one-on-one battles and finding the soft spot in zones; he is the perfect player for hot routes to bust the blitz.

Running out of Three Wide Receiver sets:

Cole Beasley is not the most physically dominant player, I don't think that's a secret to anyone. But he's a surprisingly tenacious blocker and makes good use of technique to set up defenders. Dallas is a big fan of the 12 formation, because defenses can't key on the run or pass. Being able to run out of three wide gives Dallas the same advantage.

1.

blocking 1 (1)

This is the first play of Dallas's scoring drive after the Jags fumble a punt. Again we see Beasley in the slot (yellow circle).

block 1 (2)

I mentioned above that Beasley uses technique to set up the defender. We see that here, look at Beasley's feet (yellow arrow). He's chopping them, as if he's about to make a cut out of a route, it does not look like he's getting ready to block. And the DB buys it, you can see he's not moving towards the run like every other defender, he's locked onto Beasley and is squatting low ready to mirror Cole's cut (red arrow). It's not a block, but it effectively keeps the defender out of the play for a few seconds.

block 1 (3)

But it's not all trickery, Beasley isn't afraid to get down and dirty. Look at where he is in this picture compared to above, through a combination of blocking and technique he has moved the DB back off the line a good five yards (yellow circle).

block 1 (5)

This might be my favorite picture from the game, and it does a great job of highlighting why the coaches love Beasley. The play is over, and the linemen are already helping up fallen players. But there's Bease (yellow circle), still fighting and scrapping.

2.

blocking 2 (1)

This play occurs a few drives later. Again we see Beasley in the slot (yellow circle) with Dez outside (red circle).

block 2 (2)

This time Beasley goes straight into his block (yellow circle). He's got fairly good technique, his playside arm is outside the DB. Also, look at his head, he's watching the play, waiting for a chance to peel off this block and go block downfield.

block 2 (3)

Here is where we see Beasley's physical limitations. The DB is able to get off the block and is running across the field towards the play (yellow circle). But Beasley doesn't give up on his block and is keeping his hand on the DB, making sure he's at least a body in the way.

block 2 (4)

This is a play that coaches have to hate to love. Beasley is beat. the DB is just faster and runs by him. But the Hobbit never gives up on the play and is still running after him, and still has a hand on him yellow circle). And the play is over, you can see two of our linemen highlighted with the red arrows just walking around. Beasley's tenacity and doggedness will cover up a lot of physical shortcomings.

He's Always Open:

More than anything else, this is the unique skill that will keep Cole Beasley employed. He cuts in and out of his routes so quickly and cleanly that he really is always going to be open at some point.

1.

open 1 (1)

Beasley lined up in his normal slot position against zone coverage (yellow circle).

open 1 (2)

And that's how you beat the zone. The outside WR runs off the cornerback, while Beasley in the slot runs an out underneath. Look at the cushion the DB gives him (yellow circle). That's not because of Beasley's speed; but because if the DB plays him too close Beasley can beat him upfield with a cut. So that's an easy five yard completion. Not a sexy play, but it will move the chains.

open

Now on this particular play Romo has a better option as Dez runs a great route, (red circle). But that's beside the point. When it's needed Beasley is almost always going to win on this route (yellow circle), providing a great safety blanket to Romo.

2.

open 2 (1)

We can see something similar later in the game. Again, Bease in the slot (yellow circle) with Dez outside (red circle), this time against man coverage.

open 2 (2)

What we're going to see on this play is how good play design will nearly always beat coverage. We've got three Dallas players, Escobar, (blue circle), Beasley, (yellow circle), and Dez, (red red circle), against five Jaguars, playing a combination of man, (the corners) and zone, (the linebackers and safety).

open 2 (3)

Dez is running hard upfield, taking the corner with him (red arrow). Beasley looks like he's running an out route, and he's got his man beat (yellow arrow), Romo could complete the pass right now if needed. Escobar is crossing across the middle (blue arrow) and he's got three Jag's reacting to him, he's behind one linebacker, another is coming over, and the safety is coming up.

open 2 (4)

The linebackers blow their coverage and Escobar is wide open in the middle of the field (blue circle). Meanwhile Dez is now cutting back inside and behind the safety who has cheated up, he's got his corner beat (red arrow). And Beasley makes a really nifty move to cut upfield, he's also got his defender beat (yellow arrow).

open 2

Romo really can just take his choice, and decides to take the easy first down to Escobar (blue circle). But Dez has a ton of open field in front of him (red circle), and as long as he takes the corner with him Beasley has absolutely destroyed his defender with the double move, and has him beat deep (yellow circle).

Stacking:

This is something fairly new this year. We heard a lot in the offseason how the coaches wanted to see Beasley play outside so they could use Dez in the slot. This is a really interesting formation wrinkle that basically allows both players to play in the slot, and takes advantage of Beasley's quickness to free open Dez.

1.

stacking 1 (1)

The play starts with Beasley out wide (yellow circle) and Dez in the slot (red circle) against a pure cover 2 zone.

stacking 1 (2)

Beasley then goes into motion and lines up behind Dez, with both in the slot position (yellow circle). This does a few things, one it tells Romo if the defense is in man or zone coverage, next it guarantees that Beasley is going to get a free release with plenty of cushion.

stacking 3

Really simple concept. Beasley runs a very short route (yellow circle), and Dez goes deep (red arrow), forcing the CB to choose - stay with Dez until the safety picks him up and give up the completion to Beasley, or stay with Beasley and hope the safety comes up and gets Bryant? Here the CB chooses the latter, and the safety does not comply, giving Dez all kinds of space (red circle). Meanwhile the TE's (blue circles) are running a similar pattern combination, forcing the linebackers to choose to cover deep or short.

stacked 4

The linebackers do a decent job picking up the TE's but the safety just leaves Dez wide open for an easy completion (red circle). Now you may wonder what the "stacking" of the slot had to do with this. By moving Beasley inside it gives him more room to run his out route (yellow circle). If he had run an inside route the linebacker could have picked him up, freeing the CB to stay with Dez.

2.

stack 2 (1)

Here we're going to see the same thing, this time against man. Dez (red circle) starts in the slot with Beasley (yellow circle) outside. Notice the corners, they aren't pressing, but they're tight, about five yards off of scrimmage.

stack 2 (2)

Beasely motions behind Dez stacking the slot Yellow circle). Notice how the outside CB backs off (red circle)? He has to, to give the slot CB room to work. Again, guaranteed free release to Bease, plus a good 8-10 yard cushion.

stack 2 (3)

Or it gives Dez that cushion. The advantage to this stacking against man is causing confusion between the DB's,who is covering who? Here the original slot corner opts to stay with Beasley when Beasley runs his short route (yellow circle), that gives Bryant five yards of cushion and a head of steam against the remaining CB (red line). I want to point out why the 'Boys are doing this with Beasley and Bryant as opposed to another receiver and Bryant. It's all about Beasley's ability to make that quick cut. Defenses are forced to play him tight giving Bryant room to operate. If both CB's had played off coverage Beasley would kill them with five yard curls and outs all game long.

stack 2 (4)

I'm a little disappointed in Romo on this play. He wasn't under pressure, but he goes to Witten early for the easy completion (blue circle). That's fine, he could have also hit Beasley (yellow circle) for about the same amount. But if he had held the ball just a bit longer Dez was just making his move (red circles) cutting inside where he had tons of room.

The Decoy:

Perhaps Beasley's most overlooked value is how he affects coverage for other players. It doesn't show up on the stat sheet so it's easy to miss, but just by being on the field Beasley adds value to others.

1.

decoy 1 (1)

This is the "almost" touchdown to Jason Witten on the Cowboys first drive.The usual setup, Bease in the slot, (yellow circle), Dez outside, (red circle).

decoy 2

In an earlier example I showed how good route combinations allow three receivers, (Witten - blue, Beasley - yellow, Dez - red), to beat five defensive backs. This is not one of those route combinations.

decoy 1 (3)

This is a third down play, and the Jag's have done their film study. As soon as Beasley sits on his route (yellow circle) three defenders converge on him, leaving only a single high safety deep. Dez runs a comeback to occupy the corner (red circle), and suddenly Witten is alone deep (blue circle). But that shouldn't have happened if the Jaguars weren't scared of Beasley and his reputation as a third down converter, the deep linebacker should have turned and ran with Witten upfield.

decoy 1 (5)

But that doesn't happen, giving Witten a huge open space (blue circle), and Romo plenty of room to make the throw. Also, check out Dez at the bottom of the screen (red circle). For all the questions about his route running, he's killing it here, cutting so hard the defender nearly falls down trying to adjust.

2.

decoy 2 (1)

Third and eight, Dallas comes out three wide with Beasley in the slot (yellow circle) next to Dwayne Harris.

decoy 2 (2)

Here we see the basic coverage; everyone is basically singled up, with zone in the middle. Beasley (yellow circle) and Witten (red circle).

decoy 2 (3)

That changes the minute Beasley, (yellow circle) makes his cut. The linebacker who was running with Witten, (blue circle), and who should have carried Witten to the safeties, peels off early to help double team Beasley.

Decoy 2 (4)

This gives Witten a ton of space, (blue circle), the only thing that actually keeps him covered is Beasley continues his drag route, drawing coverage in front of Witten, (yellow). Meanwhile at the bottom of your screen Dez has once again run a great route, and is starting his comeback (red circle).

decoy 2 (5)

Again, Tony has a ton of options. Beasley is open coming across the middle yellow circle). He could probably fit the ball into Witten, although the linebacker trailing Beasley might have a chance of making the play. Or, he could throw to Dez, who has actually finished his comeback before the CB has even started turning around (red circle).

What's It All Mean?

It basically means that right now Cole Beasley, (much like Tyrone Crawford), is contributing much more than the stat sheet shows. On third down he's drawing coverage away from other receivers. The team is taking advantage of his unique skill set to find creative ways to get Dez Bryant open. The team is not afraid to run when he is on the field, giving them options when they go three wide. And he's also a security blanket for Romo, the perfect outlet to keep the chains moving or to beat a blitz. It might not be showing up on the stat sheet, but the film doesn't lie, Cole "The Hobbit" Beasley is an asset to this team.

What do you think BTB? Should we be looking to re-sign the Bease, or should we be looking to upgrade?