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Dak Prescott, Allen Hurns Must Find Quick Chemistry

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Allen Hurns

The Dallas Cowboys signed free agent Allen Hurns during the offseason and made him the highest-paid receiver on the team. With that comes expectations of team-leading performance, but the Week 1 loss showed no signs of chemistry yet between Hurns and quarterback Dak Prescott.

If the Cowboys are going to get the offense going this year, Dak and Allen will need to produce more than one catch per game. Ideally, Hurns would replace the production that Dez Bryant had been giving the offense in recent years.

The key term there is "recent years." Nobody expects Hurns to put the franchise WR numbers that Dez did in his prime. But at the very least, we need to something reminiscent of the 2016 season.

Here's a quick reminder of the Cowboys receiving leaders that year, Prescott's rookie season, when the team went 13-3 and looked like a Super Bowl contender:

  1. Cole Beasley - 75 rec, 833 yds, 5 TDs (15 games)
  2. Jason Witten - 69 rec, 673 yds, 3 TDs (16 games)
  3. Dez Bryant - 50 rec, 796 yds, 8 TDs (13 games)
  4. Terrance Williams - 44 rec, 594 yds, 4 TDs (16 games)

If he'd played the full season, Bryant would've likely led the team in yards and touchdowns. But Prescott relied most on his security blanket players, Beasley and Witten, and that was largely due to their ability to consistently find space and earn quick confidence from Dak.

We saw that in last week's game. Beasley led the team with seven catches, still his QB's favorite target. And there's nothing wrong with that in terms of the Cowboys having success this season.

But with Witten and Bryant gone, some combination of Hurns, Michael Gallup, Deonte Thompson, Terrance Williams, and one of these young tight ends is going to have to pick up the slack. And it's Hurns, at $6 million per year, who carries the highest burden of responsibility.

Allen Hurns

Dallas Cowboys WR Allen Hurns

When Dallas signed Hurns last March, the scouting report told us he was a strong route runner who could create separation in single coverage. That's the kind receiver any QB likes, but especially one who tries to play conservatively like Dak Prescott.

Following the Panthers loss, Jerry Jones told the media that Dallas' receivers were open but the ball wasn't getting to them. Whether or not Hurns was one of those missed guys is unknown, but it stands to reason that Prescott probably wasn't looking his way as much as he should.

One of Dak's biggest issues the last two years has been not trusting his guys to make plays on contested balls. It's why he and Dez Bryant were never going to thrive; Dez needed a QB who is willing to throw it up and let him do something special.

We saw what happened when Dak started trying to force things to Bryant in 2017. Prescott went from just four interceptions as a rookie to 13 last season. His discomfort in the offense was amply evident.

Nobody is suggesting that Dak needs to try to make Allen Hurns a Pro Bowler, something he never was in Jacksonville. But as 2016 showed, this offense can excel without one receiver producing jaw-dropping numbers.

At bare minimum, Prescott has to find one more guy who he can lean on other than Beasley. Last year, defenses keyed in on this and took Cole right out of the games. That's what led to the forced, unnatural attempts to Bryant and the increased turnovers.

Hurns should be that guy. He has the skills to do it, and he is getting paid to be one of the offensive leaders. Dallas signed him and released Dez Bryant because they thought they could get the same production for about a third of the cost.

It's only been one game, on the road, and against a very strong defense. We'll what Dak, Hurns, and the rest of the offense can do Sunday night with the Giants coming to town. It's going to have to be better, or else this season is headed downhill in a hurry.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka

Jess Haynie

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George Iloka

The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.

He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc

This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.

However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.

Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.

We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.



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What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019

John Williams

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Amari Cooper

In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.

Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.

The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?

Let's take a look.

Outside Receivers

As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.

Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.

As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.

Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.

Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.

There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.

Slot Receiver

Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.

While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.

Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.

In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.

Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.

With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.



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Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka

John Williams

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Why Cowboys Should Acquire Recently Released S George Iloka

As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.

It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.

The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.

Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.

Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.

Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.



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