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Cowboys Need Butler’s Deep Threat Ability

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Brice Butler has Earned a Snap Increase

The Dallas Cowboys have a really good offense. They can do a lot of things and have a lot of players that can help you win games. In the early part of the 2017 NFL season they found the one thing missing for a dominant offense: the deep threat. Enter Brice Butler.

Staff Writer Brian Martin touched on this earlier in the week with 5 Bye Week Decisions the Cowboys Hopefully Made.

Brice Butler's time with the Cowboys has been marked with inconsistency and drops in crucial times of crucial games. Butler's flipped the script in the 2017 season, and has started to put it together as the team's field stretcher.

In a limited role that has him playing only 32% of snaps--roughly 22 snaps a game--Butler has turned his 11 targets into eight catches for 207 yards (averaging 24.7 YPR) and two touchdowns.

If you were to project those numbers over a full season at a full complement of snaps, it would look a lot like a typical DeSean Jackson season.

If you project Butler's snaps to that of Dez Bryant through the first five games, it projects at 27 targets for 22 receptions, 500 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Over a full season, Butler would be on pace for 70 receptions, 1,600 yards, and 16 touchdowns.

That's DeSean Jackson.

That's how explosive and productive Butler's been in the early stages of the 2017 season.

In fact, no player with 12 receptions or more has a better yards per reception number than Brice Butler's 25.9. Carolina Panthers Tight End Ed Dickson leads all qualified receivers with 20.5 yards per reception.

Here's another one for you. No player with two or more catches has a better YPR rate than Butler in 2017.

He's been absolutely great when given the opportunity.

If there's an area where Dallas can improve, getting Butler and his down-field ability in the game more often is it.

Really, it would help everyone on the team. Dez would be able to run more routes that compliment his physical yards-after-catch style. That, as opposed to the fly or go routes that put him in more 50/50 situations. Someone who can stretch the field vertically--like Brice Butler--would open routes up underneath for Jason Witten and Cole Beasley.

Are you concerned about the 8 and 9-man fronts Ezekiel Elliott often faces? Then get Brice "The Afterburner" Butler on the field more to prevent safeties cheating into the box.

Now, in order for me to get my way, which is going to happen since this is my post, Jason Garrett and the offensive coaches have to make some changes.

Witten, Beasley, and Bryant aren't coming off the field.

Witten's played nearly 100% of the snaps this season. Beasley is one of the better slot receivers in the league, and Dez is Dez; he does Dez things.

Sorry, I've been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss lately.

Linehan: "Butler Has Had a Good Camp", But Will He Stay?

Dallas Cowboys WR Brice Butler (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Where Can Dallas Find More Snaps for Brice Butler?

First, Terrance Williams will have to take one for the team.

Williams is a solid, rather unspectacular player, and what he does in the run game is valuable. However, he doesn't stretch the field like Butler does. Williams doesn't have the impact with his 65% of snaps that Brice has had with his 32%.

When the Cowboys want to go 11-personnel, they should get Butler on the field more.

Secondly, run more 10-personnel.

Put Butler and Williams on the outside and Beasley and Dez in the slot. With Elliott in the backfield there are opportunities galore for Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan and Quarterback Dak Prescott to exploit mismatches.

Third, when going with an empty backfield, use Butler as the fifth receiver.

That's counting Witten as a receiver since he doesn't come off the field, and it would be more effective than motioning out the running back. I get why they spread it out and then empty the backfield. It's all based on what the defense shows them. But if you're going to go empty, which it seems they do more often than not when lined up in a four wide receiver look, then just go empty and get Butler's speed on the field.

Dak Prescott is showing his willingness to push the ball down the field in his second season. He needs someone who can get behind a defense and, so far, that person has been Brice Butler.

Butler may not be a perfect player, he will make mistakes, but what Cowboy hasn't. What Butler does that nobody else on the team can do is use his speed to stress opposing defenses. To me the boom of Butler is worth getting him on the field more.

Coming out of the bye week, let's hope the Dallas Cowboys agree.



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Randy Martin

    October 19, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Looks like you are drinking the Butler kool-aid too. You cannot extrapolate Butler’s 8 for 11 for 206 and 2 TD’s and come up with those gaudy numbers. Butler will NEVER have numbers that approach that I don’t care how many snaps you give him. This is a 5th year receiver that is not going to find his in inner All-Star. Is he becoming a more reliable player that can do damage in certain situations? Possibly he is. But if you give him that kind of usage defenses will be keenly aware. It works now because he is just one of the players on the field they have to worry about. If he becomes THE player they have to worry about…well he ain’t a #1 receiver. I certainly think it’s worth an experiment to get him some of T-Will’s snaps but let’s be realistic here.

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      October 20, 2017 at 1:22 am

      Totally. Can’t say this is what he’s done this is what he will do.

      Was more trying to provide context for how productive Brice has been in limited playing time.

  2. oneputter

    October 19, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    i’m sure using butler over ksmith when they go 5 wide is a much better idea.

    how do they think having a FB lined up as a WR creates any mis-matches?

    just foolish!!

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      October 20, 2017 at 1:25 am

      What happens, and we’ve seen Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy do similar things, is a team sees the Cowboys go into the huddle with 2 WRs 1 TE and 1 FB and think, base personnel, then line up 5 five wide and make LBs cover in space.

      It’s the same reason why they will line up in 11 personnel, split Witten into the slot and then motion Zeke out of the backfield to go empty, make LBs cover in space.

      But if you come out with 5 WRs, the Defense can send out 5 DBs to matchup.

      It’s playing chess instead of checkers and While I like the idea of it, sometimes thinking too much can get you into trouble too.

  3. Travis Diggs

    October 19, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    I like the idea of more Brice Butler but the personnel decisions so far this season have been a little questionable. At season start I was thinking about 5 wr sets, with combos of Switzer and Beasley, Butler and Dez, etc. Scott linehan is too attached to HIS guys, and not who fits the play call. When paired against legit defenses the receiving corps have not fared well. And wat ever happened to Noah Brown??? This offense is driven well by Prescott but the personnel decisions for certain downs just kill me Wheres the creativity, not just for the playbook but for the personnel

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      October 20, 2017 at 1:27 am

      The problem is that there just aren’t enough snaps for everyone to get on the field regularly.

      Taking Williams off the field affects the run game.

      Taking Witten off the field is taking off one of the more reliable receivers in the NFL.

      So it makes it difficult to go five wide with Butler, Bease, Switz, Dez and TWill.

      And they want to try and make linebackers cover in space, which is why they motion Elliott out of the backfield so much.

  4. Cris de Campos

    October 20, 2017 at 1:38 am

    It’s crazy. But that’s why this team is doing so bad, they make bone-headed decisions. He’ll go somewhere next year and be a #1-2 borderline, and Dallas keeps him on the bench.

  5. Russ_Te

    October 20, 2017 at 5:06 am

    Butler is ready to start, Williams has been underwhelming and it’s clear Dez needs an opposite-side threat to liberate his game.

    I think the Butler promotion is about to happen, and that it will be pretty transformative for the offense. After Butler notches a catch downfield single-up, you’ll have to spend the FS on him on most downs. That should enable Dez to roll at short/medium depth. It effectively makes Dez your possession receiver, but it may be the right stage in his career right now to put that role on him.

    Last year and before his injury this year, even Odell Beckham was being heavily used in the short passing game. And as you mentioned John there’s no better way to get the 8th defender out of the box than a downfield threat. If the FS has to go with Butler to stop 6 points, then you probably have to stay in 2-deep on early downs.

    Additionally a Butler start would perfectly compliment the other adjustment that the Cowboys are possibly about to make on offense – that of passing to set up the run. I think it’s a good idea right now because teams are playing run first & the Cowboys are weak at LG. Let Dak throw with less pressure on him on 1st down, it’s pretty high %, and now the defense has to back the hell off of Elliott.

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Star Blog

2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones

Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.

Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.

Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.

The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.

Pro Football Focus on Twitter

Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas

Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.

Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.

The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.

Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Time to Stop Making Excuses for QB Dak Prescott?

Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.

Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.

Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Pues en Dallas, hoy dos  jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.

Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.

Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.

Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.

Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

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Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 2

Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.

The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.

The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.

Lock Down the Big Guns

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

@Randy81MossRetires, via Twitter

Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.

Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.

As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.

Adding New Talent

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 1

@brkicks, via Twitter

One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.

Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.

If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.

Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.

Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.

The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.

As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.

Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.



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