One of the main things Knox believes Dallas needs to address this offseason is the wide receiver position. Who will step up at wide receiver for Dak Prescott?
The Dallas Cowboys took a step backward last season from being a 13-win team and postseason contender to a 9-7 team and a playoffs afterthought. There were a couple of reasons for the struggles. Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension certainly played a part, but don’t overlook the passing game, which was a mess. It has the potential to be even worse this season.
Dallas averaged just 196.3 yards per game through the air, which ranked 26th in the NFL. That’s before the Cowboys dumped wideout Dez Bryant and watched tight end Jason Witten retire for the broadcasting booth.
The Cowboys didn’t ignore their receiving corps in the offseason, though. They added pass-catchers like Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson. They also drafted wideout Michael Gallup and tight end Dalton Schultz in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.
Dallas needs to asses its receiving talent and identify who can be Dak Prescott’s go-to targets in 2018. If it doesn’t, it could again struggle to move the ball through the air and again fail to make the postseason.
Can Cole Beasley find his 2016 form and emerge as a WR threat?
Beasley’s 2016 season was his career-best, catching 75 passes for 833 yards. In 2017, he started facing double-coverage from opposing defenses and due to a lack of productivity from the rest of the offense, Cole’s performance took a hit, getting only 36 catches for only 314 yards.
Heading into 2018, Dallas needs #11 to step up. If Williams is eventually released or sitting on the bench, Beasley needs to prove he can be Dak’s best friend and the new “Mr. Reliable” for him.
Hopefully, the team’s plans pan out. If these receivers’ route-running abilities prove to be enough to get them open and Dak is able to spread the ball efficiently while the running game wears out defenses, Beasley will stop running into double-teams.
Fortunately, it appears that the Cowboys have hired an excellent receivers coach.
Dallas hired wide receiver coach Sanjay Lal. A former wide out himself, having played for UCLA and the University of Washington, Lal coached for the Indianapolis Colts last season. He’s also worked with the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders.
The 48-year old is probably best known for being a route running guru. And Lal has been earning rave reviews from his new Cowboy players early on. One thing many seem to point out is his attention to detail, from releasing off the line and precise route running to how to properly catch a football.
“He’s real precise on what he wants,” new receiver Tavon Austin told the Dallas Morning News. “He is always trying to help us by putting tools in our basket about how to get open … He just doesn’t tell you, he shows you. He’ll take us on every step we’re doing right or we’re doing wrong. I love him so far.”
Byron Jones one of top eight slot cornerbacks for 2018 - Eric Eager, Pro Football Focus
PFF showcases the league's top slot cornerbacks for 2018, and casual Cowboys fans might be a little surprised to see Byron Jones make the Top 8 list.
Jones is an interesting name for this list, as he has been listed as a safety on the Cowboys roster the last two seasons. However, it appears that he is changing to cornerback in Kris Richard’s new defense, and he played almost 200 snaps as slot cornerback in 2017. In those snaps, he performed terrifically, surrendering only a 51.5 passer rating into his coverage in 2017 and only a 53.1 percent completion percentage there in 2016. He’s been especially good covering tight ends, which we know offer the biggest bang for an offense’s buck in terms of Expected Points Added on targets. Hence, we like this move from a value standpoint for the Cowboys moving forward.
Epstein wrote on ten things in which we have learned from Cowboys’ OTAs so far, including a trick that Kris Richard is teaching his secondary.
5) Kris Richard teaching the secondary a new trick
Have you heard of the step-kick technique? You’ll want to catch up before watching Kris Richard’s defensive backs this fall. The technique is a detailed component of how Dallas will attempt to ruffle the line of scrimmage.
”The big thing is patience and, can I be square?” Richard said. “It’s really the main proponents of it. How patient can I be? How square can I stay and can I get my hands on the wide receiver? If we’re going to get up there and press, it’s called bump-and-run for a reason, not run-and-run.”
Cowboys cornerbacks explained to Hairopoulos how it will help after last year when “we didn’t have a set technique, it was pretty much do as you please.” No more.
A players coach? Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard, stretching with his DBs at OTAs today pic.twitter.com/h5M84UTrKL— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) May 30, 2018
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys appear to have some solid corners to build around.
On a national level, it may be a while until the Dallas Cowboys young secondary gets the credit it deserves. This relatively unknown unit was a consistent bright spot through a rough 2017 season, seeing rookie Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis contribute right away. Now, with Awuzie being joined by Byron Jones as the projected outside starters for Dallas, the pair of lengthy cornerbacks in Kris Richard’s defense have earned honors from Pro Football Focus.
In grading yards allowed per reception last season, Awuzie led the league at just seven yards a catch. When on the field, the rookie out of Colorado did everything to make Cowboys Nation forget about his nagging early-season injuries.
If Awuzie is truly able to put his six missed game from 2017 behind him and take another step forward, the sky is the limit for the CB in defending this prestigious title. Rarely giving his opposing receiver a clean release at the line, Awuzie plays with ideal physicality and ball skills. This is a second-year player with all of the traits to be a star for years to come in Dallas.
NFC East QB rankings: Eagles' Nick Foles ahead of Cowboys' Dak Prescott? - SportsDay Staff
ESPN recently ranked the NFC East quarterbacks on air. Louis Riddick ranked Prescott fourth, as did Josina Anderson.
Then, Darren Woodson stepped in to defend his fellow Cowboy.
“Dak Prescott needs to be at least at one or two [with Carson Wentz].” Woodson said. “You’re talking about two of the premiere quarterbacks in this league. ... Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott, they’ll go down in the next 10 years as the two elite quarterbacks in the NFC.”
Metrics that Matter: Players most dependent on gamescript - Scott Barrett, Pro Football Focus
Using fantasy points, Barrett dives into the gamescript information of 2017 to uncover which players did the most work when trailing or when ahead.
Quarterbacks are typically far more productive when trailing. This makes sense intuitively — when there’s more of an urgency to put points on the board, teams will run less and throw more. Last season, on average, teams passed 66 percent of the time when trailing, but only 49 percent of the time when leading.
It’s interesting to note [Dak Prescott's] production went in the opposite direction, and I think I know why. Last year, Prescott averaged 19.6 fantasy points per game when Ezekiel Elliott was on the field, but only 13.8 fantasy points per game in the six games Elliott was absent. I wonder if part of his fantasy value isn’t heavily tied to defenses selling out to stop the run (Elliott) and boosting his efficiency numbers as a result. Remember, defenses are more fearful of the run when the offense is holding a lead.
Rookie quarterback progress reports - first impressions for 13 QBs drafted in 2018 -ESPN Staff
How have the five first-rounders looked at minicamps and OTAs? Which mid- to late-rounders look promising? ESPN reporters check in on all 13, and here's Todd Archer's take and Mike White.
White is currently No. 3 on the depth chart behind Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush, but he has shown a live arm and has made good decisions. What has impressed Jason Garrett the most is the early command of the offense and the huddle. White is playing mostly with other rookies or inexperienced players, but he has picked things up quickly to where he can get people in the right spots. How he plays in the preseason games will determine whether the Cowboys carry three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, but so far, he has impressed coaches.
Five Raiders offensive linemen showed up ‘30 and 40 pounds heavier’ this offseason - Ryan Lipton, Silver And Black Pride
The Cowboys had one player showing up for OTAs out of shape, and many fans immediately went into apoplectic hissy fits. Hard to imagine what would have happened if five Cowboys offensive linemen had shown up overweight.
“We had five offensive linemen who were between 30 and 40 pounds heavier than when they left the facility last season,” Raiders strength and conditioning coach Tom Shaw told the Athletic. “They were eating whatever they wanted and were doing nothing.”
NFL offers some clarity on new helmet rule – Michael Smith, ProFootballTalk
Months after the NFL adopted the new helmet rule, the league is providing some clarity.
Most significantly, the league says players will be ejected if a hit meets the following standards: The player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet, the player delivering the blow had an unobstructed path to his opponent and the contact was clearly avoidable because the player delivering the blow had other options.
There’s still some room for interpretation here — two different officials might look at the same hit and have different ideas about whether “the player delivering the blow had other options” — but there’s at least some more clarity now than there was previously.
Darius Jackson is back! And the running back talks to our own RJ Ochoa about his return to the team that drafted him in 2016.
Darius Jackson was reunited with the Dallas Cowboys this week. Yes, really.
It must be quite the story for Darius to return to the team that drafted him just two years ago. There’s a lot to the story, and to get the skinny on it we went straight to the source.
Darius joined a special podcast-only edition of BTB’s OchoLive to discuss his return, status, faith, and much more. Give it a listen below.
Following LeBron’s 51-point performance in a loss, Davison writes on some of the best performances that resulted in defeat. Irvin makes the list.
Irvin finished the game with 192 receiving yards on 12 catches with two touchdowns. He did lose a fumble in the first quarter that led to a 49ers touchdown, but his 192 receiving yards was the fifth-most by a player in a playoff game up to then.
And nobody will forget the no-call on pass interference when Irvin appeared to be interfered with by San Francisco’s Deion Sanders.