That player is Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant. And luckily for the Cowboys, that player announced that he is ready to go after the bye for their divisional showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now that the Cowboys have won three straight games with Bryant absent, some have had the audacity to call for a trade or even the permanent benching of Dez. Some have called him "cancerous" to the locker room, or have even accused the Cowboys of trying to work outside their offense to force the ball to him when he is healthy.
The fact of the matter is, the accusations are absurd and completely false.
Dez Bryant does not require you to work outside the offense, he takes your offense to an entirely new level.
The Cowboys ran the ball 508 times in 2014, and yet Dez still found a way to score a career high 16 touchdowns. This is because Dez is a special player, a team player, who while he wants so badly to contribute and make plays, what he wants even worse is for the Cowboys to win games.
Since Dez Bryant entered the league in 2010 he has caught 60 touchdowns, second only to the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski. When we last saw him fully healthy this season, he went for over 100 yards on 7 catches against a Washington secondary which spent millions of dollars on a number one cornerback.
As good as the Cowboys offense has looked this season, you can still tell they are missing a key piece. The combination of Terrance Williams and Brice Butler has worked nicely for Dallas trying to pick up the slack which Bryant leaves behind, but they are still not Dez.
Cole Beasley is having a career year and playing better than any of us had expected, but his production should only theoretically increase with the return of Bryant. He will be able to work on one in the slot even more often when Dez is lined up outside, due to the threat Bryant gives of taking the top off of the defense.
And, no matter who the quarterback is, Dez can catch the deep ball this team has been missing.
Some have criticized Dak Prescott for "Daking and dunking" the ball down the field to guys like Beasley and Jason Witten. They say that while his conservative throwing style protects against the big mistake, it may also hold back the offense as a whole when they face teams like the Minnesota Vikings or Seattle Seahawks.
First off, Dak is second in the NFL in yards per attempt with 8.2, so I think those critics are wrong in more ways than one. But, Dak has also shown the ability to be very accurate with the deep ball both in the preseason and regular season.
Sure, his longest pass so far this year was a 47 yard completion but Dak has the arm strength to make the throws if guys are able to get open down the field. Last week we saw Brice Butler beat one on one coverage deep in their own territory, only to drop what would have been a huge reception. If they try to cover Dez one on one in those situations, not only will he win, but he will also come down with the catch and make the defense pay.
Dez Bryant creates match up issues which no one else on this roster can. When you move him around like the Cowboys did in week 2 against Washington, he is able to exploit lesser defenders in the slot with ease.
In that week 2 game, the Redskins refused to move their $70 million man early in the game. With him being kept on one side, the Cowboys moved Dez around to face Bashaud Breeland, who he exposed. While Beasley has been very effective this year, he cannot move around the field to create those mismatches like Dez Bryant can.
Dez's run blocking is also dearly missed.
Too many times this season we have seen Ezekiel Elliott break through the first level of the defense untouched, move through the linebackers with ease, but get tackled by a cornerback or safety who he wasn't able to see.
Why does this happen?
Because Williams and Butler simply haven't been able to block as well as Dez Bryant can. I am not trying to knock those guys, they have been fantastic for the Cowboys this season, but they just aren't as good as one of the best in the league is.
Dez will lock onto smaller, weaker cornerbacks in the third level of the defense and give Elliott even more room to move and cut. This should result in even more big plays in the running game, which there certainly has not been a lack of so far this year.
The return of Dez Bryant is absolutely crucial to this offense and to this team as a whole. Sure, they have been "fine" without him over these past three weeks, but if they hope to continue to improve and be good enough to make a serious run at a championship, they will need Dez to be the healthy beast that we all know he can be.
So, stop with your bad takes and stop screaming to trade Dez Bryant. He is the best receiver on this team and one-third of the new-looked triplets in Dallas. We are extremely lucky to be able to call him a Dallas Cowboy.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
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