Last season, Cole Beasley led the Dallas Cowboys in receiving. In 2017 he is a distant fourth in catches and on pace to have less than half of his overall production from 2016. Why has Beasley's role changed this year, and does it mean anything about his future with the Cowboys?
In 16 games last season, Beasley had 75 catches for 833 yards and five touchdowns. Through the first eight games of 2017, Cole has just 22 catches for 165 yards. He does have four touchdowns, so no damage to that side of his game. But clearly, the other two production areas are way down.
Not only are the total catches and yards down but so are the efficiency measures. Last year, Beasley's production came on 98 targets. That means 77% of the passes thrown his way were completions. He averaged 11.1 yards per reception.
In 2017, Beasley is only getting catches on 59% of his 37 targets. His average per-catch has dropped to just 7.5 yards. So not only is Cole getting the ball less, but it's been less effective for the Cowboys offense when he does get it.
To be clear, none of this is a criticism of Cole Beasley. These stats are pure factual data, so what we're looking at is why this change has occurred.
There's a little bit of "chicken and the egg" to this conversation. The decline in efficiency may be why we've seen fewer balls coming Beasley's way. On the other hand, maybe he's not getting the ball enough to put up better numbers. Much like some running backs need a certain amount of carries to find rhythm and be effective, other offensive players need touches to get into the flow of a game.
One thing that isn't the issue is the overall production from the Cowboys' passing game. Dak Prescott is on pace for about the same yardage and slightly more completions than last season. The same number of receptions, if not a little more, are out there for the receivers.
Let's look at those other receivers. Dez Bryant's role has increased as he's healthier and had his first full offseason with Dak Prescott at QB. He already has 38 catches after just 50 all of last season. The same uptick is seen in Terrance Williams; already with 30 catches after just 44 in all of 2016.
One reason for this is that Beasley established his threat level last year and defenses have adjusted. He is seeing some double teams and, at the least, more attention than he used to. Teams are willing to force Prescott to look elsewhere by taking away such a reliable target as Beasley, who not only highly efficient last year but has some proved ability to break off a big play when he gets the ball in space.
Another reason for this shift in targets from Beasley to the wideouts is the development of Dak Prescott. Last year we called Beasley another "security blanket" for Prescott, and we saw many times that Cole got the ball on those clutch 3rd-down plays that Tony Romo used to always send Jason Witten's way. For Prescott last year, Beasley's ability to get open in short yardage was a welcome sight as he tried to safely manage the game.
Now Dak Prescott is trying to be more aggressive, which so far hasn't been bad for the Cowboys offense. He already has 16 touchdowns this season compared to just 23 all of last year. Dallas' points-per-game is up from about 26 to 28 from last year, and the passing offense is ranked 17th instead of 23rd.
What's more, increased utilization of big-play threats has opened up more opportunities for Dak to pick up yards with his feet. He already 195 rushing yards, averaging 7.5 yards-per-carry, over just 282 yards and a 4.9 average in 2016. Because teams have to respect Dez and Terrance more, there's less clutter closer to the line of scrimmage and Prescott has openings.
One guy that isn't a factor is rookie Ryan Switzer, who many look at as a Beasley clone and eventual replacement. Switzer has barely been seen on offense, having just two catches on as many targets. One of those plays came when Cole Beasley left the Washington game with a concussion.
Switzer isn't hurting Cole's role now, but what about next year? Does his presence, and the decreasing use of Beasley in the offense, mean trouble for Cole's job security in 2018?
2018 will be the final year of Beasley's contract. He will count $4.25 million against the salary cap with only $1 million in dead money if released. Dallas can create $3.25 million in cap space by releasing him in the offseason.
The Cowboys have some major financial concerns ahead. They want to get Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin re-signed and also have breakout star DeMarcus Lawrence on an expiring contract. They will likely be giving David Irving the first-round tender for Restricted Free Agents, which should be about $4 million.
Cutting Cole Beasley after 2017 isn't something any of us want to think about, but it may be a cold reality of the Cowboys salary cap situation. Given where he is right now in the offensive scheme, and the presence of Ryan Switzer behind him, it's a possibility that can't be ignored.
BREAKING: Ezekiel Elliott Handcuffed After Incident with Security Guard
TMZ has released footage of Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott being handcuffed and escorted by police after an altercation with security at a Las Vegas music festival over the weekend.
Elliott was not arrested and no charges have been filed.
Ezekiel Elliott handcuffed but not charged after incident at Las Vegas music festival https://t.co/NJQ6csGgnv
The video shows Zeke engaged in what appears to be an argument with a female companion. Elliott is seen following her through the crowd, and then security starts to get involved after Zeke moves his body to block her from walking away.
One of the security guards says something that attracts Elliott's attention, causing him to move in closer. The guard falls backward from minimal contact. It as soon after that police get involved.
There isn't much here that would cause trouble for the average player, but that's hardly Elliott's situation. He's one of the most prolific stars in the NFL and already has history with the league for domestic violence and personal conduct issues.
Remember, no charges were filed when the NFL gave Elliott a six-game suspension in 2017 after accusations from an ex-girlfriend of domestic violence.
We will have to wait and see how Roger Goodell chooses to treat this latest issue.
Ezekiel Elliott ‘Excited’ About Dallas Cowboys ‘Promise’ in 2019
There's a lot to look forward to as the team gears up for offseason training activities and minicamp. The 2019 Dallas Cowboys look like a potential contender in the NFC after making it to the divisional round of the playoffs before falling to the NFC representative Los Angeles Rams by a score.
The offseason additions the team has made in addition to the draft have many in Cowboys Nation excited about the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2019 season. That includes Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.
Ezekiel Elliott: "I'm just excited about the group of guys we have. I'm excited about the talent we have on this team. I'm excited about the leadership group we have. I think we have a lot of the right pieces. I think we have a lot of promise for this season.
I think the Cowboys are right to be optimistic about their team heading into the season. They had one of the top 10 defenses in the NFL and an offense that was trending in the right direction over the last half of 2018.
On both the offensive and defensive side of the football the Dallas Cowboys have gotten better as a team.
The offense sees the return of Travis Frederick to the middle of the offensive line and though Joe Looney was good, he's no Travis Frederick. Frederick's return will improve communication along the offensive line and improve their run blocking up the middle; an area where the Cowboys struggled with consistency in 2018.
Another veteran returning to the Cowboys for 2019 is Tight End Jason Witten. Though he's slowed down some at 38 years old, having his leadership and veteran presence on a team attempting to make a deep playoff run is very important. Witten's as steady a player as has been in the NFL and should still be able to make plays in the run and pass game.
The additions of Randall Cobb and Tony Pollard give the Dallas Cowboys a more versatile group of players for new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore to toy with. This versatility will allow them to keep teams off balance. With Randall Cobb, the Cowboys will be able to move Amari Cooper around the formation in order to find favorable matchups in the passing game. Tony Pollard gives the Cowboys a durable gadget option and big-play threat in the run and pass game. Pollard's ability as a returner could help the Cowboys get more favorable field position in 2019.
Ezekiel Elliott himself stands to benefit a great deal from the additions and changes the Cowboys made to the offense. Pollard is an upgrade as a running back to Rod Smith, so the Cowboys can cut Ezekiel Elliott's workload a little and keep him fresh by expanding on the two series a game the coaching staff used to give Smith.
On defense, they added Robert Quinn to a defensive line that already boasts one All-Pro pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence. Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Trysten Hill provide depth to an interior that struggled against the Rams in the playoffs and the Indianapolis Colts during the regular season. The defensive line.
In addition to all that, the Cowboys will get to see what kind of progress their 2018 rookie standouts make in year two.
Leighton Vander Esch was a second-team All-Pro in 2018 and should have won defensive rookie of the year with his play. Connor Williams looks to have gained the necessary size and strength to play left guard in the NFL. A second offseason at guard should help him to improve at his new position. Michael Gallup was a revelation in the third round of the draft last year. After slowly being worked into the lineup over the first half of the season, he emerged as the Dallas Cowboys second wide receiver.
The NFC East and the NFC is a tough place to play. Every year, it's an uphill climb to win enough games to win the division or make the playoffs, but the Cowboys have put themselves in a fantastic position to do just that. Though no team has been a repeat winner of the NFC East since the early 2000s, the Dallas Cowboys have built a team that will be able to compete with any team in the NFL.
From the roster to the coaching staff, the Dallas Cowboys have built a squad that should get anyone excited. Are there questions as the team heads to training camp? Of course. But every team has questions at one position or another. The Cowboys have done an excellent job to minimize those questions through free agency and the draft and have one of the best teams in the NFL on paper.
The excitement that Ezekiel Elliott feels is warranted. The Dallas Cowboys do have a lot of promise as we look ahead. Now as they get ready to start ramping up practices, it's time for Elliott and the rest of the team to go prove it.
And I have a feeling they'll live up to that "promise."
DT Leonard Williams May be Available, Should the Cowboys Explore a Trade?
Per a report by Rich Cimini of ESPN, the New York Jets may be exploring a trade for their star defensive lineman Leonard Williams. With Williams set to hit free agency in 2020, the theory is the Jets may not be interested in locking up Williams long-term after just drafting Quinnen Williams with their top five selection in 2019.
Here's what Cimini had to say in his report:
"There's already talk in league circles that Gase could be looking to move on from Williams, who will be a free agent after the season. He's due to make a guaranteed $14.2 million in the final year of his contract. Gase hasn't said anything about Williams that would spark speculation, but it's not hard to connect the dots when examining the defensive line situation."
Rich Cimini - ESPN.com
Williams has been a really good player for the New York Jets who has played 3-4 defensive end and some defensive tackle for the Jets in his four-year career. A former sixth overall pick has had as many as seven sacks and as few as two sacks a season, but he's played in all 64 games in his career, starting 63. He's stayed healthy and been productive on a Jets defense that hasn't been very good over the last few years.
For the Cowboys defense, he would project as a 3-technique with the ability to be the Cowboys 1-technique in passing situations. Among interior defensive lineman, Leonard Williams finished 21st in run stops per Pro Football Focus and sixth in total pressures with 53. Williams was third among interior players in QB hits with 16 ahead of Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Lineman Chris Jones and Seattle Seahawks Defensive Tackle Jarran Reed. For reference, DeMarcus Lawrence had 63 total pressures and 11 QB hits in 2018, while Tyrone Crawford had only 37 total pressures.
The Dallas Cowboys have been working to reinforce their defensive line this offseason after struggling in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams when the Cowboys gave up over 200 yards rushing. Though they like Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins, they obviously weren't satisfied with the going into 2019 with just those two in the Dallas interior.
In free agency, the Cowboys added Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder and then drafted Trysten Hill with their second-round pick. They also added Daniel Wise, a player that was seen as a fourth or fifth rounder in most people's minds as an undrafted free agent and will compete for a roster spot.
As intriguing as Covington, Hyder, Hill, and Wise are in addition to Maliek Collins and Woods, Williams would be an immediate upgrade at 3-tech and the Dallas Cowboys should explore it, even if they don't plan on resigning him beyond 2019.
The Cowboys could swap expiring contracts by sending Maliek Collins to New York and a draft pick. Collins is unlikely to be resigned by the team in the 2020 offseason as they have plans for Hill as their 3-tech of the future.
The Dallas Cowboys showed with the trade for Robert Quinn that they're alright going after the one-year rental player. Leonard Williams would make their defense better for 2019 and while they have high hopes for Trysten Hill, Williams is a known asset right now and wouldn't prevent you from giving Hill snaps at 3-tech.
For a team hoping to make a Super Bowl run, adding a player like Leonard Williams makes a lot of sense. He's another disruptive player that would immediately improve your pass rush and also helps your run defense. The Dallas Cowboys have a team ready to win now, so now's the time to go get players that help you do so.
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