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What Went Wrong with Cowboys’ WRs in 2017?

Brian Martin

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Could The Cowboys Keep 6 Wide Receivers?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Something went horrifically wrong for the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers in 2017. Before the season got underway it was thought to be a position of strength, but now looks more like a position of need heading into the off-season.

Dallas thought they put together one of the most talented units they've had in quite quite some time at the WR position. They not only brought back everyone who made the passing game so dangerous in 2016, but added Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown through the draft to improve depth. Unfortunately, things didn't quite pan out the way they thought they would.

It was painfully obvious nearly every Cowboys WR was having a down year. But, upon further examination, things were much worse than they seemed.

It can be argued the Cowboys top three wide receivers (Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams) ended up having the worst season of their entire careers, and I'll tell you why.

  • Dez Bryant didn't record a single 100 yard game
  • Cole Beasley didn't have more than 4 receptions in a single game
  • Terrance Williams didn't score a single touchdown

I don't know about you, but I find this completely unacceptable.

This was a unit that was pretty dominant just a season ago, but somehow completely fell apart in 2017. It makes no sense at all.

It was really strange how everything just went downhill.

The normally sure-handed Dez Bryant played a lot of the season as if he had oven mitts on his hands. He was still one of the most targeted WRs in the league, but was also near the top in dropped passes. It was extremely frustrating to say the least.

So much so, Cowboys fans are questioning Bryant's future with the organization.

Cole Beasley was one of the most productive WRs for not only the Dallas Cowboys last season, but in the entire NFL. He was a reception machine and quickly became Dak Prescott's best friend in the passing game.

But, Beasley's production dipped dramatically in 2017.

Surprisingly enough, Terrance Williams' last touchdown was the one Tony Romo threw him in the 2016 season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. This, quite frankly, hurts for two reasons: 1) The lack of production from one of the Cowboys top three WRs, and 2) Williams not living up to his long-term contract he signed in the off-season.

The sad truth is, not one of the Cowboys WRs stepped up in 2017.

This is a group that has been productive and relatively consistent in the past, but for some reason or another, performed below expectations.

What Went Wrong with the Cowboys WRs in 2017?

Undoubtably, a lot of the blame for the lack of production can be placed squarely on the receivers shoulders. It's up to them to make plays when the ball is thrown their way.

But, I don't believe they're solely responsible, despite what some may say.

There are several reasons why things went wrong for the WRs in 2017:

  • Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension hurt the production in the running game, which in turn allowed opposing defenses to sit back in coverage more instead of stacking the box.
  • Tyron Smith missed several games due to injuries, which ended up causing breakdowns in protection. With lack of trust in his protection, Prescott struggled in the passing game.
  • Scott Linehan's play calling became predictable, which caused frustration and discord between Dak Prescott and his WRs.
  • Prescott seem to regress in his second year as the Cowboys QB because of all the above reasons, which ended up hurting not only the WRs production, but the entire offense.

As you can see, there is no way of really pinpointing the exact reason why the production from the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers dipped in 2017. It's a matter of several contributing factors that led to their horrific season.

The truth of the matter is, the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff simply weren't as prepared as they should have been. They failed to change the offensive game plan once Elliott was suspended, and they didn't have a good backup plan in place at left tackle for Tyron Smith.

Hopefully, everyone is much more prepared for next season. Fortunately, they have an entire off-season to work out all of the things that went wrong in 2017. But, will they be able to do it?

What do you think went wrong with the Cowboys WRs in 2017?


Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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4 Comments
  • Guadalupe Chavarria Jr.

    We need younger, playmaking wide recievers. Draft WR – Tre’Quan Smith 6-1 210 UCF and move WR Noah Brown into Dez Bryant’s position. WR Noah Brown 6-2 225 Ohio State. Great pass catcher without the attitude!

    2018 Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft: Updated 01/03/2018

    Final Mock!

    1)DT – Da’Ron Payne 6-2 320 Alabama

    2)LB – Jerome Baker 6-1 232 Ohio State

    3)OG – Isaiah Wynn 6-2 310 Georgia

    3)WR- Tre’Quan Smith 6-1 210 UCF 4.45

    4)CB – Adonis Alexander 6-3 196 Virginia Tech

    5)SS – Damon Webb 5-11 195 Ohio State

    6)DE – Cavon Walker 6-2 285 Maryland 4.78

    7)LB – Joel Lanning 6-2 235 Iowa State

    ** CFA – TE Jordan Thomas 6-5 280 Mississippi State

    *Sign Free Agent OT – Joe Staley 6-5 315 San Francisco 34 years

    • EverybodyTalks

      I just did the Fanspeak mock draft using Matt’s Big Board. (I like that they included the compensatory draft picks) Here is my mock:

      #19) Orlando Brown OT – Oklahoma. This was a tough decision because this 1st rd pick will not have “immediate impact” – which is what you want in the 1st round.
      #136) Nick Chubb RB – Georgia. I watched him a few times and believe he will be a good replacement for Alfred Morris.

      #139) Auden Tate WR – Florida St. He is a beast. Good hands and had a great Bowl game. There were other WRs available. Marcell Ateman and Allen Lazard. Those would all be good additions to the Dallas WR squad. I just think Tate has some of those intangibles.

      #174) Jack Cichy LB – Wisconsin….and now we have 6 LBs.

      #176) Durham Smythe TE – Notre Dame. Seems like everyone thinks we need a TE. I don’t see it. We have Hanna, Swain and Witten, with Rico on IR. That is 4, but just in case, here you go.

      #197) Jaylen Samuels FB/TE/RB – North Carolina St. Interesting jack-of-all-trades for a late 6th round pick. Keith Smith FB is a restricted free agent..hmm?

      #237) Trey Marshall S – Florida St. We have 4 Safeties already. I do wish they would try Byron Jones at CB. He isn’t big enough for Safety. Byron is 6’1″, 201lbs. 4.40 time on 40, plus it is what he did in college. I think he could shine there, if given the opportunity.

  • EverybodyTalks

    There are a lot of good WRs in this draft and the 8 million we could get if we let Dez walks. That money, added to the cap, would go a long way in resigning some of our other players, who did perform this season and are now FAs.

  • ChiSoxMike

    WHy do poorly written “columns” keep showing up in this feed? Is content so hard to find?

    Why’ve did receivers struggle? SAme reason Dak did. TIME. Online wasn’t as consistent as last year. That simple.

Dallas Cowboys

REPORT: Cowboys DL David Irving’s Accuser Retracts Claims Of Domestic Violence

Kevin Brady

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David Irving

After what was a rather crazy day which resulted in reports the Frisco Police Department were investigating Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving for domestic violence, the accuser has now retracted her claims.

https://twitter.com/DCBlueStar/status/988527577915674624

This retraction comes after the mentioned reports of domestic violence claims against David Irving earlier in the day. Irving was neither arrested nor charged for the incidents, though two separate allegations were made.

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms allegations made against Cowboys player David Irving were reported on April 22nd. At two separate times: 5pm & 10pm. Allegations made by girlfriend @wfaa

Irving has claimed through his own social media account that his accuser is an ex-girlfriend looking for retaliation over a breakup. Irving has already said he has changed the locks on his house in attempt to change behavior moving forward.

Whether or not Irving abused his reported ex-girlfriend is not for me to say, but it will be interesting to see how Roger Goodell handles the matter after she retracted her claims later in the day. As we know very well, the NFL can claim violation of the personal conduct policy even if the justice system pursues no charges.

And the results of both the Frisco PD's investigation and that of the league office will be intriguing over the coming weeks and months.


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REPORT: Cowboys DE/DT David Irving Suspected of Domestic Violence

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

[4/24/18 UPDATE: Irving's accuser has since recanted with police. However, the NFL could still investigate under their domestic violence policy.]

ORIGINAL STORY

Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving is under investigation by Frisco, TX police for charges of domestic violence, according to a report by Jobin Panicker of WFAA-ABC in Dallas.

The following was tweeted from Panicker's account not long ago:

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms it is investigating serious allegations against Cowboys player David Irving. No arrests. Assault-Bodily Injury, Unlawful Restraint, & Assault-Impeding Breath and Circulation @wfaa

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms allegations made against Cowboys player David Irving were reported on April 22nd. At two separate times: 5pm & 10pm. Allegations made by girlfriend @wfaa

The veracity of the accusations are certainly not ours to judge, but other recent events on Irving's social suggest he is in the middle of a breakup with his girlfriend. Posts early this morning on his Twitter account appeared to be from an unauthorized user, and David later posted on both Twitter and Instagram that someone had hacked him.

Furthermore, Irving shared that he was already taking steps due to the volatile situation.

David Ja Rodd Irving on Twitter

@DCBlueStar Changed the locks yesterday

While personal lives should stay that way, Cowboys fans are understandably concerned after what happened last year with Ezekiel Elliott. As we saw then, Roger Goodell's "justice" system allows for just an accusation to lead to a suspension. There is no burden of proof on the accuser.

And as in that case, even if the police dismiss the allegation, the NFL can still pursue the matter under the personal conduct and domestic violence policies.

It would be nice to just say "let the process play out," but the NFL commissioner doesn't hold himself to that standard. Therefore, we have to report this as it could mean consequences for David Irving and the Dallas Cowboys no matter how legitimate the claims are.


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Player News

Jaylon Smith Practicing Without AFO Brace

John Williams

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Jaylon Smith Voted Cowboys' Ed Block Courage Award Winner 1

A lot of the talk circling the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL Draft is the need for the Cowboys to draft a linebacker as insurance to Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith's injury issues.

One of the questions, Sean Lee, will always be a question. When he's on the field, he's as good a linebacker as there is in the NFL. In 2016, he finally got in a near full season and rewarded the Dallas Cowboys with an All-Pro season that led the team to the playoffs. Talent has never been the issue with Lee. Keeping him on the field has been.

Jaylon Smith's question isn't his health as much as it is his recovery. The surgery to repair his ACL and MCL that he suffered at the end of his final season at Notre Dame was considered a success. There was a caveat, however, that there was no telling how much functionality would return because of the massive nerve injury that occurred.

Last year, Jaylon Smith actually played football games. No small step. In some games he made some plays and in other games, it was clear that he was still struggling with changing directions and running with receivers and running backs in coverage.

Time is Jaylon's biggest ally and another offseason removed from his injury should only help him get stronger and more confident in his recovering knee.

Lost in all of the Dez Bryant hoopla was a beautiful little nugget that Jaylon Smith teased Cowboys Nation with last week.

Jaylon provided a great look at his training regimen on the first day of team workouts and if you look closely, you'll see with a Clear Eye View that Jaylon Smith isn't wearing a brace, tape, or any other kind of support. On his knee or foot.

Jaylon Smith on Twitter

Focused vision, Determined belief, Earned dreams. #ClearEyeView

Remember that even after Jaylon was playing and practicing without a knee brace, he was still requiring an AFO brace to help with his foot drop.

Oh, how much one offseason can change things.

Mike Fisher, now of 247Sports.com, quoted Smith as saying, "I have more power and more flexibility now. And the dropfoot (issue) is fading. Absolutely!'' over on Scout.com, and there was this:

"As our colleague Bryan Broaddus has previously noted, it does seem that some of the testing is behind him, that the nerve is regenerating, that the repaired knee is stronger than ever and that more improvement is ahead of him. Smith's 6-2, 245-pound body is about as sculpted as is imaginable. His mind is sculpted, too, the result of his faith and his intellect and his personality and more. He suggests now that more improvement is inevitable, and that includes the medical improvement that is now, to him, simply "a matter of timing.'''

Mike Fisher - 105.3 The Fan and 247Sports.com

There is still a lot of hope around The Star and Cowboys Nation that Jaylon Smith can return to the All-American form that was projecting him as a top-five talent in the 2016 NFL Draft. If he's healthy and moving with better lateral movement and agility than he was in 2017, that's a huge step forward for Jaylon Smith and the Dallas Cowboys.

The progression of his knee and his confidence in said knee is going to be a huge determining factor in Dallas' plans to draft a linebacker. If they feel confident that he will be a more functional linebacker in 2018 than he was in 2017, then perhaps they could wait until day two or three to address the linebacker position.

We can't fully know their intentions as we get closer to draft day. How they address the linebacker position in the 2018 NFL Draft could give us an excellent indication of how they feel about Jaylon Smith's progression.

What we do know is that Jaylon Smith will never give up working toward being an elite middle linebacker. Let's hope he can realize his dreams. Everyone will be better for it.


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