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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

Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPN

John Williams

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A Fully Focused Ezekiel Elliott can Carry the Cowboys into 2018 Playoffs 2
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN has long been considered "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," and for a long time that title was justified. If you wanted your national sports news, where did you turn to but the cable sports channel to watch that day's episode of SportsCenter. But over the last few years, it's become more and more clear that it's "The Worldwide Leader" in name only.

The ratings are dropping and the network has had to make a lot of business decisions as it relates to much of their on-air talent over the last several years. With their latest under 25 starting 22 -- ahem, troll job -- they seem to have finally come to terms that they are basically First Take. 

Noah Brown put it best in his reaction to the ESPN "Insider" voting that led to Saquon Barkley being named to the starting 22 ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. Brown, Elliott's teammate when both were at Ohio State University, came to his defense upon seeing the list.

https://twitter.com/Nb_Eight5/status/1018940752787894277

And here is the ESPN list:

SportsCenter on Twitter

43 of our NFL Insiders voted. Here's their best starting roster under the age of 25.

I'm sure there could be debates about different positions on the squad. Personally, quarterback is one where an argument could be made for Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott over DeShaun Watson, but that's for another time.

But to have a rookie, who has never played a down in the NFL ahead of the NFL's league leader in rushing for 2016, Ezekiel Elliott, is laughable.

Ridiculous.

Shameful even.

The fact that they had 43, again I use the quotations, "Insiders" vote on this and Ezekiel Elliott wasn't listed as one of the two running backs just shows you how far they've come as a network.

Let's remember that Ezekiel Elliott has averaged a touchdown a game -- receiving and rushing -- in his 25-game career. No running back has more rushing yards than Elliott does over the last two years, including 2017 league rushing leader, Todd Gurley. No running back has more rushing touchdowns than Elliott's 22 rushing TDs.

Ezekiel Elliott's yards per carry is a healthy 4.63. Todd Gurley sits at 3.93. No player with more than 1,800 rushing yards over the last two years has a better yards per attempt than Ezekiel Elliott.

I get that you'd vote Todd Gurley in there, but to not have Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the game's best running back on your Under 25 starting 22 just makes you look like Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith. Not a sports journalism entity worthy of people throwing money at for "Insider" access.

I won't say that I never or will never watch ESPN, because where else am I gonna go for Monday Night Football, Todd Archer, or the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships? When I'm at my father-in-law's, I'll watch SportsCenter first thing in the morning, because it will be on and you don't change another man's television.

"The Worldwide Leader," however, loses credibility when they promote a list like this that has such a glaring omission.

Perhaps, maybe the goal wasn't to put out an accurate list. Maybe the goal was to get us talking about their list, just like when NFL Network releases their Top 100 players list. Like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

This troll job from ESPN has certainly gotten them some publicity, or should I say, notoriety.



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Player News

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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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys, Elliott Should Keep Close Tabs on Le’Veon Bell’s Situation

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys, Elliott Should Be Keeping Close Tabs on Le'Veon's Situation
AP Photo / Don Wright

The deadline for reaching an agreement with franchise tagged players came to an end last Monday, in what turned out to be a pretty uneventful day all around the league. No agreement was reached by any of the teams with their respective players, including the Dallas Cowboys and their promising "War Daddy," DeMarcus Lawrence.

But the Cowboys' front office have something to learn in this process that doesn't involve a player of their own. Something that both the front office and Ezekiel Elliott should be keeping a close eye on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers also failed to secure their franchise tagged player: Running Back Le'Veon Bell. Really, no one expected a deal to be reached among the two parties. The 26-year old football super star is asking for too much money, which has led to the Steelers tagging him twice in consecutive years.

Bell, conscious of his abilities on the field, is asking for a lot of money from his football team. In 2018, he's set to earn over $14.5M under the tag. That's more than twice the money that Devonta Freeman averages per year - 8.25 million - who's next on the list of highest paid running backs in the league and the highest paid on a long-term contract.

Adam Schefter on Twitter

Just to clarify: Steelers' offer to Le'Veon Bell last year averaged $13.3 million per year. Steelers' offer to him this year averaged $15 million per year. But Bell does not believe he should be paid as a RB; he believes he should be paid as an elite offensive weapon.

Le'Veon, whose agent has said 2018 will likely be his last season playing as a Steeler, was reportedly offered $15M per year but that wasn't enough for him. Bell wants to get paid as an elite offensive weapon, which he is. But it turns out he's also... a running back.

It's a complicated situation and one that, if it turns out well for him in free agency next year, could revolutionize the entire running back market in the NFL. If it doesn't, he might end up regretting passing on the Steelers' offer for he won't easily find that kind of money with a team that seems to be a Super Bowl contender on a yearly basis.

The Dallas Cowboys' priorities will rely on other players during the next couple of years, but that shouldn't keep them from keeping close tabs on these events since they could be dealing with a similar scenario when Ezekiel Elliott's turn for a new deal comes around.

Jerry Jones, Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, RB Ezekiel Elliott (Joe Robbins / Getty Images)

Fairly assuming that the fifth year option on Zeke's contract will be picked up after the 2018 season, locking him up through 2020, it's a problem that will be down the road for the Cowboys. But it will have to be dealt with at some point.

When his time is up, Elliott should undoubtedly be looking to become the highest-paid in the game, but the amount of money he gets will depend on the outcome of this whole Le'Veon-Steelers thing. David Johnson and Todd Gurley will also play an important role in determining the future of the running back market.

While Elliott hasn't been used as a receiving threat during his first two seasons in the league, he's still an elite offensive weapon for the Cowboys. The team's offense is based around Zeke and the running game, so it will make sense if his demands are somewhat similar from those by Bell.

Elliott might even be franchise tagged once or twice by the Cowboys if things get complicated in the future. Unlike DeMarco Murray in 2014, surely they won't be willing to let him walk in free agency once his contract comes to an end.

For now, it won't be just the Cowboys who will be keeping close tabs on this situation, but also Ezekiel Elliott and his agent. Hopefully, both parties will manage to handle things better than what we're seeing right now in Pittsburgh.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys, Elliott Should Keep Close Tabs on Le’Veon Bell’s Situation" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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