After the 2017 season ended, Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett decided to make some wholesale changes to the structure of the Dallas Cowboys to avoid another disappointment, if 9-7 can really be called a disappointment. While offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli both remained with the team, much of the staff around them has changed. This series is meant to profile each coach, including the ones who stayed, and analyze how their presence will contribute to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys. Today, we are looking at the man who’s assisted both Derek Dooley and now Sanjay Lal in coaching the receivers, Kyle Valero. Be sure to check out our other profiles below:
Kyle Valero is one of the lesser known coaches on this staff, despite the fact that he’s been the assistant wide receivers coach since 2014. There is not much information out there about him aside from his bio on the Cowboys website. That doesn’t change the fact that Valero has been very valuable to this team in his capacity.
Valero attended Florida State University and, while still a student, served as an offensive assistant to the Seminoles football team under legendary head coach Bobby Bowden and then-offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. During his two years assisting the offense, quarterback Christian Ponder became a star before flaming out in the NFL. Valero was in line to remain on the Noles staff in an elevated position when Fisher became the head coach, but instead he left for a job in the NFL.
That job was the offensive quality control position with the Detroit Lions, where he met Scott Linehan, his offensive coordinator. Valero served as the offensive quality control coach for two years, during which time he served as a team scout, watching game film of the Lions and helping to provide feedback to the coaches. In 2012, Valero was promoted to assistant wide receivers coach, and his primary focus was in working with receivers on high pointing the football. At the time, Detroit’s passing game called for a lot of passes that were placed up high and asked receivers to go up and get the ball. This worked well with Calvin Johnson, one of the best at climbing the ladder and making catches over the defensive backs. During Valero’s two seasons working with the receivers, Johnson had 3,456 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.
In 2014, Valero followed Linehan to Dallas in his same role. He was assisting Derek Dooley and Valero continued his trend of stressing the physicality of the receiver role. Dez Bryant in particular benefited, given his already dominant frame. In 2014, Bryant tallied 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns, as Valero’s ability to teach high point catching made Bryant a near-automatic red zone touchdown. Terrance Williams also took a step forward in his second year in the NFL, snaring eight touchdowns and nearly 17 yards per reception, good for fourth in the NFL. With Williams, Valero seemed to take advantage of his frame, leaping ability, and decent speed. Furthermore, Tony Romo’s pinpoint ball placement eased the issue of Williams’ body-catching style.
In 2015, with Bryant missing half the season and the likes of Matt Cassell, Brandon Weeden, and Kellen Moore throwing the ball, Williams was needed to step up again, and he did. He led the team in receiving yards with 840 and had 16.2 yards per reception, 16th best in the NFL, ahead of guys like Amari Cooper, AJ Green, and Alshon Jeffery. Cole Beasley also stepped up with 536 yards and led the team in touchdown receptions with five.
Of course, Beasley would break out in a much bigger way in 2016, when his route running and ability to get himself open made him a favorite of new quarterback Dak Prescott. Beasley led the team with 833 yards and also had five scores, while Bryant once again battled injuries but still came up with 796 yards and eight touchdowns. Williams’ numbers, though, began to decline in 2016, and one can only guess that it had something to do with the switch from a quarterback with great ball placement on jump ball passes to someone who focuses more on putting the ball in the hands of the receiver, thus revealing Williams’ biggest weakness. Still, credit to Valero for maximizing Williams’ talent with Romo and for aiding Beasley in his development.
While not much is known about Valero, he does have a penchant for focusing on the more physical aspects of catching the ball. This came in particularly handy with towers of a physical specimen like Megatron and Dez, and it also helped Williams until that style of passes were no longer being thrown frequently. As I documented in the profile of Sanjay Lal, the Cowboys likely won’t throw as many of those 50/50 passes where the receiver has to sky up in the air to catch it, and the talent at receiver doesn’t seem to have too many of those anyway. Still, Valero can continue to be a valuable coaching asset in that he can work with the bigger receivers, such as Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Noah Brown, in high-pointing the ball better so that Dallas still possesses some legitimate red zone threats in one on one situations. He might also be asked to work with tight end Rico Gathers, whose size, frame, and athleticism could lend itself to the traits Valero tends to emphasize.
Between Lal’s emphasis on route running to create separation and Valero’s emphasis on the physical aspects of the catch, this receiver group seems to be in good hands. They should be able to learn the many different facets and nuances of the position, and that should all manifest itself on the field in the form of a highly efficient, Dak-friendly offense in 2018.