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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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Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Sean Martin

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Despite Late Push in Year One, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See the Field in 2018? 1
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.

These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.

Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.

Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton, DT Maliek Collins (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.

This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.

Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.

The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.

It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.

Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.

As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.

For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.

Tell us what you think about "Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp

Sean Martin

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Will the Dallas Cowboys "Get Lucky" at Defensive End?

The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.

From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.

Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.

They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.

Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

https://t.co/za0u3lWgaY

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract

Jess Haynie

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Which 2018 Free Agents Will The Cowboys Retain? 1
Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportwire

DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future  beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.

According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.

Jon Machota on Twitter

DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million

This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.

Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.

This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.

Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.

There is risk on both sides, of course.

Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.

Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.



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