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Reel Talk: Why Dez Bryant Needs To Be The Best WR On The Field Against Washington

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Reel Talk: Why Dez Bryant Needs To Be The Best WR On The Field Against Washington

Who's ready for some Thanksgiving football? The rivalry between the Cowboys and Redskins is back, and two hungry teams with explosive offenses will go at it to decide the future of the NFC East.

For the Cowboys' rookie-led offense, you've heard all about RB Ezekiel Elliott and QB Dak Prescott. There has also been plenty of talk about Dez Bryant - through some rough stretches and, more recently, dominant performances.

Bryant's most clutch performance of the season came back in week 2, as the Cowboys won their first of nine straight (!!!) in Washington against these Redskins. As we'll soon take a look at with some film, Scott Linehan helped his young QB with play calling that allowed Bryant to run wild for 7 catches and 102 yards.

I also studied Bryant's most recent performance against Baltimore, where a similar game plan saw #88 haul in 6 passes for 80 yards and two decisive touchdowns.

The team with the most points wins today's anything-can-happen NFC East showdown. I expect the winning point total to be a high one, and for Dez Bryant to have plenty to say about this.

Before you enjoy eating on Thanksgiving, let's see how Dez Bryant has been able to eat opposing defenses:

 

This first clip is a perfect example of how dangerous Bryant can be as a weapon all over the field. Often used simply to get the Cowboys into favorable running formations, this play shows Bryant motioning across the field to line up on the inside of a trips set against DeAngelo Hall. With no safety help, and the Redskins linebackers scrambling to drop into the middle of the field, Jason Witten clears a path for Bryant to run free along with Cole Beasley exiting to the flat.

Prescott delivers a strike for an easy first down. We'll need to see more of this in what projects to be a high-scoring affair later today.

 

Dez Bryant has a physical advantage against any defensive back he lines up against, and Dallas has been able to do a better job at consistently recognizing this and getting him his targets.

Working on an island against Breeland here, all Prescott has to do is make a simple read of the safety that jumps in front of Witten - and deliver a strike to Breeland where Bryant can catch it over a recovering Breeland.

When we get to the tape from the Raven's game, we'll see a lot more of this with Bryant capitalizing on single coverage.

 

As mentioned, Bryant is often used in the Cowboys' offense to set up the rushing attack, leading to even better opportunities for him in the play-action game. As Prescott fakes the ball to Alfred Morris, who also had his best game with his new team here against the Redskins, Bryant's defender gets caught looking into the backfield and loses just enough contact at the top of the route for Prescott to deliver another dime.

 

 

Above is another example of Bryant benefiting from pre-snap motion, as a creative design sees Ezekiel Elliott split far out wide from the backfield. All the rookie has to do is turn towards Prescott to fake a screen pass, and he draws a Redskins defender away from Bryant, who gets an easy 6 yards.

 

 

Thankfully, the "Dak Prescott cannot get the ball to Dez Bryant" narrative has died off ahead of Dallas' second meeting with Washington, primarily because of what this combination was able to do back in week 2.

As the Redskins try to drop into coverage to slow down the Cowboys passing attack, a miscommunication allows Bryant to slip past a defender and once again control the middle of the field.

Dez Bryant Against the Ravens:

A combination of all of these elements that led to Bryant's success in the first meeting against the Redskins were also on display in the Cowboys' most recent win over the Ravens. Playing without top corner Jimmy Smith, Baltimore simply had no answers for affecting Prescott in the pocket, and ultimately stopping him from finding his top target.

 

One recurring pattern you should be noticing in all of these clips is that Bryant is thriving on in-breaking routes. Plenty of fans out there in Cowboys Nation have been quick to call out the lack of such routes being thrown to Dez, but I don't see that being a problem the rest of the way out.

With Lance Dunbar lined up inside of him in the above clip, Bryant is Prescott's second read - using his size and athleticism to create separation for a well-anticipated throw.

 

Of course, when Bryant fails to create ideal separation, he can always take advantage of single coverage by high pointing the football with some of the league's best. That is exactly what he does here, on a throw that lacked some zip from Prescott, but still found a way into the strong hands of #88.

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Welcome to defending the DAL offense 2 Rules: 1. You're not going to get to our quarterback 2. You're not going to be able to cover 88 https://t.co/cFBsEzo1iO

It is no secret that the Cowboys are built as a team around their offensive line. With that, Prescott has had the luxury of an incredibly clean pocket for most of his drop backs - something rookie quarterbacks rarely get to see. This allows him to comfortably scan the field while allowing Bryant to set up defenders - which he does here, coming up with another big reception.

Throw up the X:

We'll conclude this Reel Talk by looking at Bryant's two touchdowns against the Ravens. This first throw should fire up plenty of Cowboys fans, as Prescott finally connects with Bryant on his signature goal line fade for the score.

 

This second play is also not too bad to look at, as Bryant finds the painted rectangle on another in-breaking route, this time abusing single coverage off the slant.

 


I again expect this to be a very high-scoring game (our full Inside The Star Staff Predictions can be found here), and the only way the Cowboys will come out on top is with Dez Bryant establishing himself as the best wide receiver on the field. If he can dominate, the Cowboys offense as a whole will fire on all cylinders - keeping the ball out of Kirk Cousins' hands.

For a Washington offense that loves to throw the ball deep to the likes of DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder, and Jordan Reed, the best defense Dallas will have against this attack will be their own offense.

With all the credit in the world to Rod Marinelli, his secondary that will not feature Morris Claiborne or Barry Church (who made the play of the game in week 2 with his interception of Cousins) in this match up is best fit to be on the sidelines while the Redskins secondary searches for answers against Bryant.

You better practice throwing up the X at your Thanksgiving table, because when the lights come on and the Cowboys kick off, we'll be seeing it a few times from Dez Bryant.

Happy Thanksgiving, Cowboys Nation! Let me know what you think of this article by leaving a comment below, or email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com with any feedback! Enjoy the game!

Tell us what you think about "Reel Talk: Why Dez Bryant Needs To Be The Best WR On The Field Against Washington" 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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Michael Gallup is Primed for Breakout Sophomore Season

Matthew Lenix

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Michael Gallup is Primed for Breakout Sophomore Season 1

Heading into the 2018 season the Dallas Cowboys had big questions at the wide receiver position with the departure of Dez Bryant. They elected not to go for the flashy names like Maryland's D.J. Moore or Alabama's Calvin Ridley, but instead took Colorado State Wide Receiver, Michael Gallup 81st overall.

Even without the hype of other bigger named receivers coming out of college, Gallup's resume was enough to impress Head Coach Jason Garrett. "There's a lot to like about him. He's big, he's athletic, he plays the game the right way. He's been a productive player for them, doing a lot of different kinds of things. We feel like he has real upside, too. A lot of qualities that you want in a young receiver, in a developmental receiver. But a lot of production, too. He had opportunities there and took advantage of them throughout his career," Garrett said.

Once the season started, however, it was apparent that it would take some time to build the chemistry and trust with Quarterback Dak Prescott. The lack of a true number one receiver wasn't doing the first talent any favors as he tried to figure out his role on the team. Gallup would be targeted just 15 times in the first 5 games, only registering 6 receptions. But fortunately for the newbie, help was on the way.

During the team's bye week in October, they acquired Amari Cooper from the Raiders in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2019 draft, and it worked wonders for Gallup and his development. Weeks 11 through 14 saw him targetted 27 times. This was significant considering the Cowboys were in the midst of a 5-game winning streak after a 3-5 start. Prescott's trust and belief in Gallup were starting to come together as the team made a run at the NFC East crown and a playoff berth.

He would finish with 33 receptions for 507 yards and 2 touchdowns. Once the postseason rolled around Gallup had firmly established himself as the team's second option behind Amari Cooper.

Gallup would make his first playoff start in the divisional round against the Rams in Los Angeles. Although the Cowboys season wouldn't survive this contest, one of the positives was the play of the first year pass catcher. He finished with 6 receptions for 119 yards, and a tidal wave of momentum heading into 2019.

There's a major change coming to the Cowboys offensive philosophy this season, thanks to newly promoted Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore. The new puppet master of the offense has made it clear he's open to listening to suggestions from the players and staff on what they feel will take the offense into another orbit. "At the end of the day, work together with everyone. I think that includes the coaching staff, obviously coach Garrett and the rest of his staff. I think you also got to get some input from the players. It doesn't mean you have to go down those roads all the time, but I think it's important that when a player believes in something and they're pretty convinced on it, usually they find a way to make it work," Kellen Moore said.

With a season already under his belt with Prescott, and an open-minded first-year offensive coordinator willing to abandon the prehistoric ways of the Scott Linehan era, Gallup's development will only improve with each snap.

Unlike the beginning of his rookie season, Michael Gallup knows exactly what his role with the Cowboys is going forward. Amari Cooper is the main option, and with him drawing double teams regularly, the opportunities for Gallup to have a major impact in year two are endless. Not to mention, the added addition of Randall Cobb to the Cowboys passing game just made life even easier for him. Now teams not only have to roll coverage to Cooper, but the threat of Cobb in the slot creates a lot of one-on-ones on the outside for Gallup.

The size, speed, and athleticism are all there for this young man. Now, with a more innovative offensive scheme coming into play, and growing trust between himself and Dak Prescott, the 2019 season is shaping up to make Michael Gallup a household name.



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Is Amari Cooper the Most Important Contract for Cowboys to Finalize?

John Williams

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Amari Cooper has Final Say on Trade Compensation in Cowboys Win 3

Most of the offseason contract chatter, once DeMarcus Lawrence's contract was signed, began to focus on the next group of stars due for big-time money, most notably Quarterback Dak Prescott. For good reason as the quarterback is generally regarded as the most important player on the team. While Prescott has been important to the team's success over the last three seasons, few players made as much of an impact on the 2018 Dallas Cowboys than Amari Cooper.

The Dallas Cowboys front office is working on deals for Prescott and Cooper. Both will get new contracts at some point before they're scheduled to hit free agency in March of 2020, but one could argue that getting Amari Cooper's deal done is more important than Dak Prescott's.

Prior to the arrival of Amari Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys offense struggled and was inconsistent. In the seven games prior to the trade that brought Cooper to Dallas, the Cowboys went 3-4 and scored more than 20 points only three times. In wins over the New York Giants, Detroit Lions, and Jacksonville Jaguars they averaged 28.67 points per game, highlighted by a 40 point outburst against the Jaguars in week six. In their four losses on the season they averaged 13.5 points per game. Over the first seven games, they averaged 20 points per game.

In the nine games, the Dallas Cowboys played with Amari Cooper, the Cowboys averaged 22 points per game. They scored more than 20 points in all but three games; losses to the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts and a win over the New Orleans Saints.

If you remove the 40 point game against the Jaguars from the scoring average over the first seven games and the shutout loss to the Colts from the scoring average over the final nine games, the scoring average changes dramatically. Without the Jaguars game, the Cowboys only averaged 16.67 points per game in the other six contests, decreasing their scoring average by more than three points per game. Conversely, if you remove the shutout loss to the Colts from the scoring average over the last nine games, the Cowboys averaged 24.87 points per game. That's nearly a three-point difference.

Even if you remove the best (week 17 against the Giants) and worst (week 15 against the Colts) games of the final nine games from the scoring average, the Cowboys averaged 23.3 points per game. removing the best (week six against the Jaguars) and worst (week one against the Panthers) games from the first half of the season, the Dallas Cowboys averaged only 18.4 points per game in the other five games.

So Amari Cooper was worth between two and 4.9 points per game. That may not seem like a lot, but that's a huge difference in a league where so many games come down to a single score.

Amari Cooper has Final Say on Trade Compensation in Cowboys Win 1The impact offense as a whole is noticeable, but what about on Dak Prescott.

Dak Prescott only averaged 202 passing yards per game and had a passer rating of 87.4 with eight touchdown passes and four interceptions in the first seven games prior to Amari Cooper's arrival. Prescott only completed 62.14% of his passes in the first seven games of the season.

Over the final nine games of the season, Dak averaged 274 passing yards a game, threw for 14 touchdowns and only threw four interceptions. Prescott had a passer rating of 103 and completed 71% of his passes.

In the first half of the season, Prescott only had a passer rating over 100 two times, while he had a passer rating under 90 three times. Over the final nine games with Amari, Prescott had a passer rating over 100 six times and had only two games with a passer rating under 90.

Not only did Amari Cooper make a significant impact on the passing game, but the running game led by Ezekiel Elliott saw a dramatic increase in his production once Amari Cooper arrived.

In the first seven games of the season, Ezekiel Elliott averaged only 19 carries a game and 88.4 yards rushing per game. He was averaging 4.69 yards per carry. Through the air, Elliott caught 3.6 passes per game for only 25 yards with seven yards per reception.

After Cooper's arrival, Elliott got more opportunities and found more room to run as well. he averaged 21.5 carries per game, rushed for 101.9 yards per game. He more than doubled his receptions per game with 6.5 and averaged 49 yards receiving per game, nearly doubling his first half of the season totals.

It's no coincidence that the run and pass games saw increased production after bringing in one of the better young receivers in the NFL. The overall impact of Amari Cooper led to the Dallas Cowboys going on a 7-2 run to finish the season to win the NFC East. Prior to the trade, the team looked dead in the water. After the trade Dak Prescott looked like a completely different quarterback. The team was hitting big plays, converting on third downs, and scoring tons of points on the way to winning lots of games.

Dak Prescott is going to get his contract finalized, of that, I have no doubt. While I feel good about his upward trajectory as a player, I feel a lot better about it knowing that Amari Cooper is about to get a contract too.

Amari Cooper is an excellent talent. His route running precision makes opposing defensive backs look foolish and the separation he creates makes a quarterback's job that much easier. Cooper is like having Cole Beasley in Dez Bryant's body with sub-4.4 speed.

Just turning 25 years old, Amari Cooper is one of the bright young stars at the wide receiver position and is about to enter his prime. Unlike players like Dez Bryant, who rely on physicality and athleticism, Cooper is going to age much more gracefully as route running is one of those things that doesn't drop off near as quickly as athleticism. Just look at Jason Witten.

The Dallas Cowboys need to not mess around with Amari Cooper. Because having him for his prime and for the same timeframe that you are extending your franchise quarterback will make the next six years of their respective careers much more productive. The best way to take care of your franchise quarterback is to give him an offensive line to protect him. The second best way is to give him a wide receiver that can get open for him.

Amari Cooper is a quarterback's best friend and will be worth every penny he gets in a contract extension. In the Cowboys 2018 run to the playoffs, there were few players as important to that success as Amari Cooper. In this offseason of contract extensions and signings, few still, are as important to the Cowboys success as Amari Cooper.

Get him signed, so he can go play football.



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Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder Stand Out in Cowboys Practices

John Williams

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Why Cowboys Rookie DE Dorance Armstrong is the Pass Rusher to Watch in Carolina

With Left Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, Defensive End Taco Charlton rehabbing a shoulder and foot injury, and Right Defensive End Randy Gregory currently suspended indefinitely, there have been plenty of snaps at defensive end for other players to make a name for themselves in the offseason training activities (OTAs) and this past week's minicamp. The two players that stood out above all others on the defense were defensive ends Dorance Armstrong and Kerry Hyder.

You might be asking yourself, "what does it matter? DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn are the starters. Why should we care about a couple of backups."

First, the backup defensive ends for the Dallas Cowboys will play. After DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford, the leaders in defensive end snaps in 2018, Randy Gregory got 44% of the snaps on defense and Taco Charlton saw 39%. Dorance Armstrong, who played sparingly as a rookie, saw 26% of the snaps. The defensive ends that make the 53-man roster are going to get playing time.

Secondly, there's no guarantee that DeMarcus Lawrence will be ready for week one. Tyrone Crawford, who was the starter at right defensive end in 2018, could miss week one if the NFL deems his offseason altercation is worthy of a suspension. That leaves a whole lot of potential snaps at the left defensive end spot if either of those two guys misses week one.

Dorance Armstrong, the Dallas Cowboys fourth-round pick from 2018, caught the eye of several observers from the media and finished his offseason with a strong minicamp.

"These coaches have to be happy with what they’ve seen from Dorance Armstrong during these practices. Armstrong has been mainly filling in for DeMarcus Lawrence on the left side, but on Wednesday he switched over to the right. There were several snaps where he was a handful for Cam Fleming to handle. Armstrong started off well last season before hitting the rookie wall. He physically looks bigger and is also now equipped with the knowledge of how he has to prepare to play at a high level the entire season. Keep an eye on Armstrong to make that jump from the first to second year."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Armstrong had a really nice training camp as a rookie and as Broaddus notes, tailed off during the regular season. Reports are that he's added size this offseason -- as most players do between their first and second year -- and if all the reports are correct, could be a breakout player in the making.

Kerry Hyder is another intriguing player and one of the more underrated offseason acquisitions by the Dallas Cowboys front office.

Coming from the Detroit Lions, where they used Hyder as a nose tackle in Matt Patricia's 3-4 alignment, he was played severely out of position. In 2016, playing primarily as a defensive end, Hyder recorded eight sacks for the Lions. In 2017, he suffered a torn achilles which kept him out all of that year.

Now with the Dallas Cowboys, he gets to return to his more natural defensive end position. And he's making some noise in these offseason practices.

David Helman on Twitter

D-Linemen never get any shine during OTAs, so today is for them. With Tyron Smith & La'el Collins sitting out today, Dorance Armstrong & Kerry Hyder absolutely wrecked practice. Murdered it. I legitimately don't think Dak would've gotten a single throw out if sacks were allowed.

Of course not playing against the starting tackles in Tyron Smith and La'el Collins will allow players to shine a bit more, but let's not forget that Cam Fleming started in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots before signing with the Dallas Cowboys. Connor Williams, who has been getting snaps at tackle as well, is no slouch as a former All-American for the Texas Longhorns.

Here's what Bryan Broaddus had to say about Kerry Hyder in one of the previous OTAs his "Scout's Notebook" from May 22nd.

"I have to be careful with my love for veteran defensive linemen, but Kerry Hyder looks like a different man playing at end instead of head-up tackle. The coaching change in Detroit did him no favors last season. Having to play in a spot where he had to fight blocks all day to now working on the edge in space is a good thing for him. It appears that Hyder has his quickness back, but he also has some pass rush moves in his tool belt. I thought maybe they were going to use him as an under-tackle, but putting him back at end might be his best shot at making the roster."

Bryan Broaddus - Dallas Cowboys.com

The Cowboys found a really good player in Kerry Hyder. He's capable of playing some 3-technique defensive tackle if needed as well as on the edge. He has a good motor and is able to make plays in the running game.

With the emergence of Kerry Hyder and Dorance Armstrong this offseason, it puts Taco Charlton behind the eight ball as the team heads to Oxnard. If they continue to play well, it's a real possibility that Charlton could be a gameday inactive during the regular season, especially if Randy Gregory is reinstated.

However they end up being deployed, this group of defensive ends will cause fits for opposing offensive lines. They've been aiming for waves of pass rushers for Rod Marinelli's defense and for the first time since becoming defensive coordinator, he looks to have just that.



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