It has been quite a trajectory for Cole Beasley’s career. After going undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft, Beasley signed on to stay in-state and play for the Dallas Cowboys. One of the more illustrious receivers in SMU history, Beasley’s biggest knock, and ultimately the knock he has dealt with his entire life, was his size. Pairing that concern with Beasley’s relatively newness to the receiver position, 32 teams passed on Beasley more than a couple of times.
During training camp of his rookie year, Beasley left the team for personal reasons. Leading up to that point, many Cowboys fans had probably only considered him as the guy who looked like “Steve the Pirate” from the movie “Dodgeball”. But regardless, there were other plans for the shifty receiver.
At the time, Dallas had a budding star at the receiver position in Dez Bryant to go along with productive veteran Miles Austin. In the 2011 season, long-time quarterback Tony Romo found a new weapon in the offense in journeyman Laurent Robinson. The former third-round pick was a capable receiver, proving his worth to the offense as a third receiver. After a career campaign where he caught 54 passes for 858 yards and (!!!) 11 touchdowns, Robinson opted to cash in and sign a five-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The departure led to a void in the Cowboys’ offense that needed to be replaced. Beasley had potential as an undersized receiver who could find ways to get open while freeing up his teammates on the outside. As each year went on, Beasley’s role continuously improved in the offense, leading to more trust from Romo which then led to more production from Beasley.
Even when the Cowboys’ franchise transitioned from the Romo era to the Dak Prescott era, Beasley’s importance and production did not falter. While Romo was a gun-slinging quarterback that was aggressive in getting the ball down the field, Prescott is a conservative signal-caller who plays with a ton of poise and has a propensity for not turning the football over. Despite differing quarterback types, Beasley was still valuable in the offense.
In fact, many thought Beasley was the perfect receiver for Prescott. When plays would break down, Beasley had the subtle moves that got him open, giving Prescott a reliable target on the inside of the field. In Prescott’s rookie year Beasley caught 75 passes for 833 yards and five touchdowns.
That level of production led to more awareness from defenses across the country. Defenses took note that to limit the Cowboys’ attack, preventing Beasley from getting open was something that needed to happen. In 2017, that happened and the offense bogged down. Dallas did not receive the production from Bryant and Terrance Williams on the outside, making things harder for Beasley in the slot. Dallas’ offensive line took a step back, leading to more unhealthy pockets for Prescott to navigate. Due to all of this, Beasley’s production plummeted.
Fast forward a year and now Beasley is the veteran receiver of the group. He will be entering his seventh season in 2018, all of which have come with the Cowboys. And while the Cowboys’ receiving group looks vastly different than it has in years past, one thing that’s for certain is that Beasley will be heavily deployed in 2018. However, in what role to be exact?
With competition for playing time at the position wide open, the Cowboys have a variety of players who can state their case. Williams has the most experience in terms of being an outside receiver in Scott Linehan’s offense, but inconsistency and a troubled offseason has opened the door for others to steal his role. Allen Hurns comes over from the Jaguars and while the talent is there, the health has not necessarily correlated. Michael Gallup was drafted in the third round and the Cowboys have high hopes for the former JUCO stud. But maybe it will be Beasley who will garner more playing time on the outside.
It is clear that the Cowboys are banking on competition to get the most production possible out of their receiving group. There is also a feeling that the Cowboys are going to use a rotation at receiver. The good news is that Dallas has a lot of players in the room and they all have differing styles of play. And from what is being reported from training camp, Dallas’ passing attack seems to be different, at least according to Beasley:
“I was actually saying I’ve never had a practice like this before. I got a little fatigued,” Beasley said. “I’m used to just doing all the quick stuff, but now they got me all over the place and running all types of routes. It’s really fun.”
A practice recap piece from DallasCowboys.com mentioned that the Cowboys have made it a point to get the football in Beasley’s hands. He has lined up all across the offense, both inside and outside, running short, intermediate, and deep routes. While the usage rate may improve for Beasley, is he ready to take that leap and become more a complete receiver?
Without a player of Bryant’s pedigree on the outside, defenses know that to keep the Cowboys at bay, they will have to take away the run game to some degree. If that is the case, can the Cowboys’ receivers step up to take away that burden?
In “All Or Nothing”, the relationship and friendship between Prescott and Beasley was a key takeaway. They sit together at team meetings, they get work in with each other before and after practice, and they look for wrinkles or advantages of opposing defensive backs.
Dallas, and their offense in particular, has questions that will need to be answered in the coming season. Perhaps none bigger than - Is Prescott for real? After such an exceptional rookie season, his progression took a step back in 2017. And with the concerns at receiver, many aren’t enamored about his 2018 prospects. But Beasley will finally be moved around in this offense.
So far in camp, Beasley has been one of the standout players. His ability to find the open area, combined with the route-running techniques being taught by Sanjay Lal are making Beasley even more dangerous. Giving him the opportunity to line up in different positions, get different release points and attack mismatches on defense should open up his full potential. Beasley will be a contributor across the field, giving Prescott a guy he has history with and can trust on the field on nearly every play in almost every situation.
During the 2018 season, he will receive opportunities to establish himself as a factor and not just in the slot. In 2016, Beasley was the de facto #1 WR in the Cowboys offense. But he was still thought of as just a slot player. When 2017 rolled around, opposing defenses shut down the slot receiver. The Cowboys never adjusted, but this year they have. If things go right during the season, Cole Beasley might just become a household name among football fans around the league.