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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?

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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

Should Cowboys Pursue Veteran Backup at Quarterback?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Cooper Rush
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys only have two quarterbacks under contract right now, starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. With only three years of combined experience between them, one could argue that a veteran presence would be useful. Should Dallas make a veteran QB a free-agent priority in the 2018 offseason?

Of course, there’s plenty of other QB experience on the Cowboys staff. Head Coach Jason Garrett played professionally from 1989-2004, and started his coaching career with quarterbacks.

Scott Linehan has been coaching offense with an emphasis on the passing game for 30 years.

Kellen Moore, who is taking over for the departed Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach, has played very recently and will bring a fresh perspective.

However, losing Wilson’s experience from the room, and the lack of any veteran player at QB, shouldn’t be dismissed.

Dak Prescott has said veteran Mark Sanchez — who was with Dallas in 2016 — was a major help during his whirlwind rookie season. Tony Romo enjoyed veteran advice from guys like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton throughout his playing career.

This isn’t to say Dallas would want to bring in a veteran to knock Cooper Rush down the depth chart. After a surprising preseason, Rush took the backup job from Kellen Moore and certainly has intriguing upside.

If the Cowboys were to add a veteran, that player would have to come in with the understanding he’s competing with Cooper and may not be guaranteed a job.

The good news is that it’ll be a buyer’s market for veteran quarterbacks this offseason.

Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Matt Moore could all be available. Even a player with more pedigree, such as Sam Bradford, may have trouble finding starting work with many jobs taken among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Dallas could even consider bringing back Mark Sanchez, given his previous relationship with Dak Prescott. He only had a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.

Given Prescott’s seeming durability, Dallas will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018 and for years to come. Because of that, they may be content to focus on Dak and Cooper Rush, and just get through the offseason with training camp bodies.

However, the case can certainly be made for adding another veteran player with the desire to teach to help these young quarterbacks develop. Prescott was not the same guy in 2017 that we saw as a rookie, and perhaps the absence of guys like Sanchez and Tony on the sideline had something to do with that.

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Dallas Cowboys

Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal is a Good Hire for Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal Is A Good Hire For Cowboys

Yesterday, it was announced that the Dallas Cowboys will hire Sanjay Lal to be their new wide receivers coach. Lal spent 2017 with the Indianapolis Colts in the same position, but has made multiple stops around the NFL prior to joining the Cowboys staff.

Most recently and arguably most notably, Sanjay Lal was the receivers coach for both the New York Jets (2012-2014) and the Buffalo Bills (2015-2016). This means he coached on Rex Ryan’s staff for two different teams, with two very similar offensive philosophies.

Run the football.

As seen in the video below, Sanjay Lal has experience working as the wide outs coach for an offense with a run-first philosophy. He even says himself that their offense in New York was “ground and pound,” but notes that “without a pass game there’s no pound.”

Cowboys fans became all too familiar with the truth behind that statement during the 2017 season, as even solid efforts in the run game were rendered meaningless by their lack of explosion through the air.

Jets Nation Inside Camp: Sanjay Lal Mic’d Up

Jets wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal is mic’d up during training camp, and also discusses trying to play pro football before becoming a coach in the NFL.

A lot has been made of Sanjay Lal’s lack of 1,000-yard receivers during his time as a coach. The offensive philosophies of the teams which he coached for, however, show why this criticism is flimsy.

It’s quite possible the Cowboys will once again be without a 1,000 yard pass catcher this season, but if Ezekiel Elliott and the run game are clicking, and Dak Prescott is spreading the ball to different targets, this stat won’t mean a thing.

Lal was also the coach in Buffalo when Sammy Watkins had the best years of his career, including a 1,000-yard season.

During that stint he coached Robert Woods to productive seasons as well. Now Woods is a dangerous target for the Los Angeles Rams after being coached by Lal for multiple seasons.

These were also the same years that quarterback Tyrod Taylor was at his best.

While in New York, with the Jets, Lal’s most productive receiver was Jeremy Kerley, who finished with 827 yards in 2012 and 523 in 2013. What’s important to note here is that Kerley played as a slot receiver for much of his time as a Jet.

The Cowboys lacked any type of production from the slot in 2017, but maybe Lal can change that by getting the best out of Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer, as he did with Kerley.

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Know that some believe he had a real shot to be an OC in this league one day. https://t.co/1s21w2jZGR

All indications from those “in the know” suggest Sanjay Lal is on his way to becoming an offensive coordinator soon. Many believe he has the smarts and the football IQ to command an offense himself, as soon as he gets the right opportunity.

Maybe that opportunity will come down the line in Dallas, where he can continue to coach within that “ground and pound” style, which he has done for many years while also implementing elements of his own passing game expertise.

Everyone has been critical of the Cowboys’ inability to bring in external hires, and to spark up new/creative offensive ideas. Lal has spent time among some of the smartest offensive minds in football.

Maybe he’s the man to bring in that outside creativity this offense seems to lack.

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Dallas Cowboys

Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

Sean Martin

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Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

After hiring Paul Alexander to fill their vacant OL coaching position, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing to retool their offensive staff below Scott Linehan. Sanjay Lal has been hired to coach the Cowboys’ wide receivers, replacing Derek Dooley.

Lal has experience as a WR coach with four different teams, dating back to 2009 with the Oakland Raiders. He was promoted up to this position after serving as the Raiders’ quality control coach from 2007-08.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys have reached an agreement with Sanjay Lal to become the team’s WR coach. Lal was with Indianapolis last season and replaces Derek Dooley on the staff.

Most recently, Sanjay Lal coached the receivers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He has also been with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

In this interview with the Colts, Lal mentions being very detail-oriented with a focus on the technical aspects of playing receiver.

Lal beats out former Cowboys WR Miles Austin for this position, earning the right to lead a room of receivers in desperate need of fresh talent. In an offseason that’s been about finding fresh ideas with the coaching staff so far though, the Cowboys have a new voice on offense.

Tell us what you think about “Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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