In case you haven’t noticed, Cole Beasley is now the senior member of the Dallas Cowboys receiving corps. Dez Bryant is gone, and only Deonte Thompson has as many years in the league as Beasley. And Thompson obviously is new to the Cowboys. With Terrance Williams now in the middle of a situation involving a Lamborghini he may or may not have wrecked while intoxicated, and Allen Hurns also a newcomer to Dallas, something a bit unexpected has fallen to Beasley.
He should now be the leader of the wide receiver room. The question is: Will he step up and take the role?
There’s no doubt that he needs to, or to be more precise, the team needs him to. With a largely revamped group (and Williams’ future at least a bit in doubt due to the aforementioned scrape with the law), Beasley has both the experience with the staff, particularly Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan, and the pedigree as a productive receiver to take the reins. He also has no lack of chemistry with Dak Prescott, as was shown in 2016.
But last year saw something of a marked drop-off in his production. Then there is that whole rap album thing. And of course, Beasley almost had no NFL career at all, leaving training camp his rookie year and having to be talked into coming back. Some wonder if this is the kind of person you want to be the leader of such a crucial group while it is undergoing such a transition.
However, those objections really should not be too serious. First off, the entire offense had a horribly down year, and opponents saw where Beasley had excelled the prior season and took steps to keep him from being as open as he always seemed to be. The coaching staff did not come up with any real counters, at least partly because they had a hot mess on their hands across the board with the Ezekiel Elliott suspension and appeal, Tyron Smith missing games with injury, and the whole left guard mess.
The idea that having interests outside of football somehow means you cannot be a fierce and dedicated competitor is one of those old-school notions that really needs to go away. Besides, lots of successful players (and coaches) have things besides football that engage them. Jay Novacek, arguably the best tight end the Cowboys have had that did not go on to be an analyst for Monday Night Football, was an active rodeo competitor during his career, and no one said much negative about that. Usually, it was cited as evidence of his toughness as a “real cowboy”. Even Bill Belichick has a real passion for another sport, lacrosse. Being well-rounded should not be a criticism, and as Beasley himself has noted, most of his recording was done during 2016, his best season ever.
And that first training camp was an NFL lifetime ago. If anything, that moment of doubt may give Beasley the ability to help his teammates get through their own rough spots.
Now, consider what he does bring to the table. Besides the tenure and experience in the offensive system, he has one thing that really matters: Courage. At 5’8”, he is almost always going to be the smallest player on the field - for both teams, at any time during the game. Yet he has shown unblinking resolve in running his routes, making blocks, and catching the pass against those bigger opponents. Leading by example is important, and he certainly checks that box.
He also has a real opportunity to set a new tone in the room. As the “All or Nothing” series on Amazon showed, Dez Bryant was for years the dominant personality in the wide receiver room. And it wasn’t always in a good way, as he was shown to be at odds with Derek Dooley at times and vocal on the sidelines when things were not going well. Bryant brought an unquestioned passion to the game, but clearly at times did not channel it constructively. Beasley certainly does not seem to have that kind of issue, although his resemblance at times (especially when his hair was longer) to a California surfer dude may be deceptive.
Now he can be a huge influence for the better as the Cowboys go through their WR remodel. He certainly seems to be the kind of sure-handed, precise route-runner that Sanjay Lal wants in his group. And let’s be honest, his recent foray into rap is not likely going to be seen as a negative by his peers there.
With Ryan Switzer gone, the Cowboys need Beasley’s skill set. He has shown in the past that he can use his small stature to his advantage, getting a bit lost in the trees to get open. And as the tenured vet of the bunch, he should be the one the others look to first for leadership.
It’s time for him to step up. If he does, it will go a long way to fixing many of the issues that contributed to last year’s disappointing showing.