Continuing our discussion on areas in which the Cowboys may have improved, we now move on to the wide receiver depth chart to dissect further.
2014: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris, Devin Street
2015: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Devin Street, Lucky Whitehead, A.J. Jenkins
First and foremost, There are 11 receivers currently on the depth chart. However, it's not imperative to speak on all eleven because outside of the six above, we haven't heard much on any of them. If they step up the competition in camp then we will certainly re-visit. Yet, right now it seems as Lucky Whitehead is running away with a job and the others are fighting for practice squad spots.
WR1- Dez Bryant
B-E-A-S-T. Dez is now firmly entrenched in the discussion of best wide receiver in the league. Since 2010, Dez Bryant has 56 touchdowns, that's more than any other receiver in the league. His career-high of 16 touchdowns last season led the league as well. His fire, passion and knowledge for the game make him one the best competitors the NFL has ever seen. He's a dominant performer and broke more tackles than any receiver last season. Bryant not only has the physicality down but he can also make the spectacular catches. His 4th and 2 grab in the Divisional Round was one of the most amazing grabs we've seen. He's also found the perfect rhythm with quarterback Tony Romo, the back-shoulder fade has become absolutely lethal for opposing defenses. Dez is unstoppable and once his contract situation is resolved, he'll continue his dominance in 2015.
WR2- Terrance Williams
There are a lot of folks that get down on Williams for his sudden disappearing act last season, but the dude caught 11 touchdowns and was instrumental in their playoff games. No quibble if he catches with his body or his hands, just as long as he catches the ball. He's got runaway speed and seems to always be there when Tony needed him most. That toe-drag 3rd and 20 has still got Seattle Seahawks' fans crying their eyes out. Williams has become a pretty decent deep threat for Romo and has made some very monumental plays since coming to Dallas. He may not be the same-type dominating wide receiver that Dez Bryant is, but Williams has earned the number two spot and it will take a lot to wrestle it away from him.
WR3- Cole Beasley
I won't go as far as to say that Beasley has replaced Jason Witten as the "security blanket" but he's darn close to that mark. When it came to third-down conversions, Beasley was absolutely phenomenal. Out of 17 total third-down targets, Beasley hauled in 13 catches. He also had a breakout performance against the Chicago Bears where he dominated the creases, scoring twice. He had a 76.2% conversion rate which is amazing and never had a game where he didn't at least catch 50% of his targeted throws. His abilities to find mismatches and stay open are two traits that will get him very far with this offense.
WR4- Devin Street
Derek Dooley is convinced that if Street is given ample opportunity, he can have an ilike Williams. Street has seen plenty of practice reps this offseason with Dez working out his contract situation. Street definitely has a history of high production value when he was at Pitt. He actually holds the receptions record and beat out none other than Larry Fitzgerald for the honor. Last season, Street was just too lanky and needed to gain more bulk for the position. The coaches seem to be impressed with his growth and ability to pluck the ball out of the air with regularity. Street is going to have to carve a role out for himself in training camp, hopefully he can build on the added reps and create a rapport with Romo.
WR5/KR- Lucky Whitehead
When Dwayne Harris found more money in free agency, he left a huge hole in the return game for this team. Whitehead obviously sees a tremendous opportunity in front of him. Since coming to Dallas, he hasn't relinquished the stranglehold he's had on that roster spot. Where Harris relied on quickness and ability to break tackles, Whitehead is a pure-speed returner. He certainly has the pedigree for the position too. At Florida Atlantic, Whitehead average 24.6 yards per return and even broke a 73-yard score against Old Dominion. Harris unfortunately never was able to find much ability as a receiving threat, something Whitehead will try to do. Whitehead comes in with polished route-running skills and caught 76 passes for 706 yards and six touchdowns while in school. At 5'10, 163 lbs, Whitehead may need a little more muscle but the Cowboys have been pretty good at using smaller receivers. Lucky will get his opportunities in the preseason and camp to show everyone he means business.
WR6- A.J. Jenkins
The clock is ticking on the former 30th overall pick. After never finding his way in either San Francisco or Kansas City, he barely has 200 reception yards in his career and has only caught 17 passes. There really isn't much you can say about him really. Jenkins worked out for the Cowboys in May and they apparently liked what they saw. With a good coaching staff, Jenkins will get every opportunity to succeed. However, the Cowboys only kept five receivers last year as they tend to go long in the linemen department. If Jenkins is to finally find his groove, it better be quickly in camp or he may not get another opportunity.
My take: I would say that you can argue either way here, but I will go out on a limb and say yes they have improved somewhat, if Street does show improvement, and Whitehead can handle the returns. After not taking a receiver in the draft, the Cowboys worked steadfast to replace Harris' ability in the return game. Antwan Goodley, George Farmer, and others will get some opportunities in camp, but Whitehead is far ahead of them. Whitehead is a better receiver than Dwayne Harris too, so the Cowboys will thus have more opportunities for packages and things with Whitehead. At the same time, Harris was a solid blocker in the receiving and running game. If Whitehead can develop in that area at all, it would be even better for this team. I also can see a few receivers making the practice squad off this list. Jenkins has the most to prove and likely the toughest path to do so. Williams has made strides in this offseason with Street looking to find more time on the field. All in all, there is some improvement here.