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Dallas Cowboys Deserve Credit for Mid-Season Rebuild at Wide Receiver

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Deserve Credit for Mid-Season Rebuild at Wide Receiver

The Dallas Cowboys offseason approach at wide receiver was doubted by just about everyone outside of The Star, forcing Cowboys fans to turn down outside noise and once again trust the direction this front office was going. Releasing Dez Bryant, signing Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson (who was released last week), and waiting until the third round to draft a receiver were all questionable moves for a team entering an all-important year three under Quarterback Dak Prescott.

It took a mid-season trade to free Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders for the Cowboys to establish any threat at wide receiver, but with Cooper realizing his first win in Dallas on Sunday night at the Eagles, the Cowboys deserve plenty of credit for this cast of pass catchers.

Cooper has been the key to unlocking rookie Michael Gallup as a second option for Prescott. Gallup attacks the football and runs routes like a number one target, but at this point just nine games into his career lacks the refinement to play at the 'X' position every snap.

Gallup will benefit the most from Cooper stepping into this role for the Cowboys offense. His 25-yard catch and run on a screen pass to set up the Cowboys score before the half was a fine example of how the Cowboys passing game should operate for the rest of the season.

With an emphasis on getting the ball out of Prescott's hands to his home run hitters on the outside, the Cowboys not only have their starters at WR but plenty of depth options below.

It's no secret this team has shied away from the top-tier of free agency in recent years, using the signing period much more for depth players. This should have been the expectation for Allen Hurns coming over from the Jaguars, elevated to starter status out of necessity during training camp.

Dallas Cowboys Deserve Credit for Mid-Season Rebuild at Wide Receiver 1

Dallas Cowboys WR Allen Hurns

Hurns has settled in to a rotational role behind both Gallup and Cooper. Like a change-of-pace running back, Hurns is a big and physical target the Cowboys have used to catch defenses off guard. On the same touchdown drive as Gallup's big gain, Hurns was on the receiving end of Prescott's best throw of the night.

Sliding in behind the Eagles coverage, Hurns caught a dime from Prescott and went down a yard short of the end zone, setting up Dak's rushing score on the very next play. In the fourth quarter, with the Cowboys driving for the winning touchdown, Hurns converted a third and long beating Rasul Douglas on a slant.

Douglas was easily beat across the face on a violent move from Hurns to the inside, squaring his front shoulder to Prescott who made a simple pitch for the 23-yard catch and run.

The one thing the Cowboys didn't improve on from their loss to the Titans before this week was getting Cole Beasley involved, as he was targeted just five times. Catching four of these attempts in the win, Beasley understands his role as a team player better than most, and knows his importance in the top three of the Cowboys new depth chart at WR.

The Cowboys trusted themselves enough to enter this season with uncertainty at wide receiver and come out winners in Philadelphia by week ten thanks to a drastically improved corps. Just how much trust the Cowboys deserve with ensuing decisions because of this is a slippery slope.

If recent history is any indicator, a patched leak at WR is only going to spring one in an unexpected place when the Cowboys next take the field.

The most pressing decision for the Cowboys coming up is on the future of Head Coach Jason Garrett and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. Thanks to his play calling on Sunday night, Linehan earned high praise from Jerry Jones. The Cowboys GM even backtracked to dispute a report that Linehan's job was on the line through the Cowboys bye week.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Jerry Jones said on @1053thefan that it was "never a thought" to discuss possibly replacing offensive coordinator Scott Linehan during the bye week. "We've never even contemplated the idea of Scott not calling plays.

Whether or not such confidence will come back to burn the Cowboys as they return to the site of the "Burning of Atlanta" could be determined as early as Sunday. I believe another loss in Atlanta would have to come in embarrassing fashion for an immediate coaching change, but the Cowboys offense has shown more than enough to be evaluated from this point on.

The Cowboys played in the Georgia Dome with Alfred Morris, Terrance Williams, and Dez Bryant as starters in last year's beginning-of-the-end 27-7 loss. If Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup aren't upgrades enough for Dallas to earn a win against Atlanta, returning home off a loss in Cleveland, another look in the mirror may be needed for the Cowboys.

Gone are the days of Prescott throwing interceptions off the hands of Deonte Thompson or forcing red zone fades to Allen Hurns. With it, the expectation that the Cowboys should win arrived with Amari Cooper, whose been worth a first round draft pick in every way.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Deserve Credit for Mid-Season Rebuild at Wide Receiver" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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1 Comment
  • Tony Hill

    We didn’t get the receivers we wanted early in free agency for cost reasoning. So had to take what were left behind. I am glad we let Deontae Thompson go so we can put back up our 4th round comp pick. Didn’t see any reason for bring back Butler and glad we final got someone who can help us Amari Cooper. His talent will help the QB and the run game plus open thing for other receivers and just maybe the tight ends as well. Going forward. I hope 6’3″ Cedrick Wilson become a playmate next season to go with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup and Coles Beasley plus Tavon Austin and a mid round draft pick.

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Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018

Jess Haynie

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Amari Cooper

For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote

As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.

Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.

Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.

His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!



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Cowboys Playoff Scenarios: Week 15 Impact Games

Jess Haynie

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Making Sense of the "Garrett Guys" Behind Cowboys Dez Bryant Release

It's hard to believe that we're looking at the Dallas Cowboys potentially clinching the NFC East this week, but that's how dramatic the turnaround has been over the last five games. Week 15 could lock Dallas into the playoffs and give them a lot of freedom over their final two games.

If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:

  1. New Orleans Saints (11-2)
  2. Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
  3. Chicago Bears (9-4)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)
    ----------------------------------
  7. Carolina Panthers (6-7)
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
  9. Washington Redskins (6-7)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Cowboys lost to Seattle earlier this year, but still remain the 4th seed as a division winner over a wild card team.
  • The Panthers are ahead of the Eagles thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker.
  • The Eagles are ahead of the Redskins thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker. They play each other again in Week 17.
  • The Redskins beat the Panthers earlier this year, but their loss to Philadelphia within their own division negates that tiebreaker.

In truth, there's not much intrigue left for the Cowboys in this regular season. One win gives them the NFC East, and it would take the Saints or Rams dropping all three of their remaining games for Dallas to have a shot at a top-two seed.

So, barring the nearly impossible, Dallas is locked into either the 3rd or 4th seed. They will host one of the Wild Card teams in the first round of the playoffs.

The biggest thing to watch now is how the seeding shakes among the bottom four playoff teams. The Seahawks seem a cut above the likes of Minnesota, Carolina, or one of our NFC East friends, so avoiding them in the first round would be lovely.

Here are this week's games involving the NFC playoff contenders:

Dallas Cowboys @ Indianapolis Colts

We've already discussed what the Cowboys need to do, so let's talk about the Colts. Not only do they have home field advantage this week, but they are fighting for their playoff lives.

Indianapolis is one of four teams with a 7-6 record battling for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC playoffs. The Broncos are also in the mix at 6-7, giving none of these teams any cushion for losing.

Dallas has its own incentive to win, though. If they want to avoid Seattle in the first round, they probably need to take the #3 seed from the Chicago Bears. They need to keep winning and hope for the Bears to drop a game or two.

Ultimately, getting into the playoffs and starting at home is a huge reward. But anything that can help make the road a little easier is worth pursuing. It's no time to rest on your laurels.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

As we just discussed, we'd like to see Chicago drop a few games to give Dallas a shot at the #3 seed. This week isn't the worst opportunity, with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay still not completely eliminated from playoff contention.

Expecting much from the Packers here is unwise. They've had a coaching change and appear to be in a state of organizational disarray. But they still have Rodgers, and crazy things always happens in rivalry games.

So while these are two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions, you never know what could happen given the variable elements. By all means, root for the Cheeseheads.

Miami Dolphins @ Minnesota Vikings

Your rooting interest here comes down to a simple question; who do you prefer to play among that last bunch of Wild Card teams? Who does Dallas match up best against between the Vikings, Panthers, and Eagles?

I think we'd all agree that we don't want to see the Eagles a third time. Beating a team three times in one year is tough to do, and especially given how close last week's meeting was.

The Panthers beat Dallas in the season opener, but that was in Carolina and well before the Cowboys were playing at a high level. A second meeting could go very differently, especially with the recent slumping by the Panthers.

Both Carolina and Minnesota are struggling, with one on a five-game losing streak and the latter having lost their last two. The Vikings just fired their offensive coordinator, so neither of these teams appear to be going into the postseason with any real momentum.

At this point, I'd say it's a toss-up between the Panthers and Vikings. Both are much preferable to seeing the Eagles again, so I would just keep rooting for both to win. In either case, they knock out Philadelphia.

We'll reassess the threat level of Carolina and Minnesota as playoff opponents in a few weeks.

Washington Redskins @ Jacksonville Jaguars

I didn't mention the Redskins among those last three teams because they may not win another game this year. Their QB situation is so bad that even the Jaguars look good by comparison.

Granted, Jacksonville is lousy right now. Washington might be able to go down there and get a win, but neither team has anything to play for now. This one may come down to whether or not the Jaguars have gone into tank mode.

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

Seattle just walloped the Niners 43-16 a couple of weeks ago, and changing venues is unlikely to make that much difference. The Seahawks are a legit NFC contender and San Francisco is already thinking about the offseason. A Seattle loss would be great, but it ain't happening this week.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams

While catching the Rams and getting a top-two seed would be great, it's barely plausible. The far more concrete benefit here is seeing the Eagles lose and getting them further away from a possible Wild Card spot.

In fact, an Eagles' loss this week would give Dallas the NFC East even if the Cowboys fall in  Indianapolis. That's not the way we want to win the division, but you take what you can get.

With the breaking news that Carson Wentz is unlikely to play this week with a back injury, you'd generally think this suits the Cowboys' interests. But Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is still the backup in Philadelphia, so is anything really for certain?

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers

We have every reason to root for Carolina here. For one, it helps the Panthers stay ahead of the Eagles in the Wild Card race. Also, it brings the Saints one loss closer to possibly being caught by Dallas. A Saints win doesn't really benefit us all.



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Ezekiel Elliott has Huge Day vs Eagles Thanks to Receiving Prowess

John Williams

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Ezekiel Elliott has Huge Day vs Eagles Thanks to Receiving Prowess

The Dallas Cowboys came away with a huge win against their division rival Philadelphia Eagles, putting them in a commanding position in the NFC East. They're up two games in the division and one of the more underrated story lines from the victory is Ezekiel Elliott's game. He had a huge day that no one is talking about.

Elliott had 28 carries for 113 yards and then caught 12 passes on 13 targets en route to his big performance in the 29-23 win over the Eagles. That's probably the quietest 40 touch, 192 total yard game you'll ever hear about. And yet, that's where we are. Please read that stat line again, because in all of our talk about Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and the defense, Ezekiel Elliott's stat line is absolutely ridiculous.

The receiving element that Elliott is providing the biggest difference to the offense this season. He's been a huge asset to Dak Prescott in the passing game as both a primary target and a check down option in the short part of the field. If Elliott isn't showing that he's the best running back in the league, with what he's doing with a broke down offensive line, then people will never give him the credit he's due.

For the last three years, the Dallas Cowboys and their fan base has known what an elite player the Cowboys have in Elliott. He's easily one of the best runners in the NFL, but if you talk to the general NFL fanbase or analysts around the league, Elliott doesn't get the same kind of love as players like Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell receive from the national media. The knock against Elliott has been that he doesn't bring the same value as a receiver. With what he has done over the last six weeks, and really all season long, it's safe to say, that won't be a knock against the Cowboys All-Pro running back.

Among running backs this season, Ezekiel Elliott ranks sixth in targets (77), fifth in receptions (65). seventh in yards (502), and is tied for 12th in receiving touchdowns with three. Elliott is the seventh highest rated running back when targeted among running backs with at least 50 targets this season.

Over the last six weeks, since the Amari Cooper trade, only Christian McCaffrey has more targets, receptions, and yards than Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott's previous career high was in 2016 when he caught 32 passes on 39 targets. With three games left in the season, Elliott has more than doubled his previous career high from that season. Over the last six weeks, he's caught 40 passes with an average of 6.7 receptions per game.

Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his best total yardage season in the NFL. If he continues at his current per game averages, Elliott would finish the season with 330 carries for 1,553 rushing yards, 80 catches on 100 targets for 618 yards and 10 total touchdowns. He's been great this year, but he's been even better over the last six games. At his per game averages for the last six games, over a 16 game season, Elliott's numbers would look like this; 363 carries for 1,715 yards rushing, 107 receptions on 120 targets for 872 yards, and 13 total touchdowns.

It's rare that Ezekiel Elliott has a game like he did on Sunday and it goes largely unnoticed by Cowboys Nation, but that's just how tremendous Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper were. In a game where the Cowboys got big games and big plays through the passing game, it was Elliott's steadiness that held things together and helped sustain drives like the fourth and one conversion in overtime. Even with Amari Cooper elevating his game since coming to the Cowboys, there's no question that Ezekiel Elliott is the Cowboys best skill position player. Expect more big games for Elliott as the Cowboys continue to "Feed Zeke."



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