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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

4 Comments

  1. Guadalupe Chavarria Jr.

    January 3, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    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

      January 4, 2018 at 1:35 am

      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.

  2. EverybodyTalks

    January 4, 2018 at 12:24 am

    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.

  3. ChiSoxMike

    January 4, 2018 at 12:27 am

    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.

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When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott

John Williams

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All-22 Notes: Connor Williams Stands Out in Wild Card Win

Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.

In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.

According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.

During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...

...of his offensive lineman.

During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.

As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.

It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.

With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.



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Dallas Cowboys

5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

Brian Martin

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5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season 2

I know we are all still little disappointed with the way the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season ended, but if we are completely honest with ourselves it ended a lot better than we initially thought it would. With the season officially over, it's time to start the evaluation process to see what went wrong and what right this past year.

I don't know about you, but I started the evaluation process a lot earlier this year than I have in years past. That is why today I want to share with you five of the Dallas Cowboys players who I believe had a fantastic 2018 season and five that unfortunately didn't quite live up to expectations.

Before we get started, I want to let you know that I tried to stray from pointing out the obvious, especially in the stud category. Instead I went with players who kind of came out of nowhere to have a really good season. I thought that would make it a little more enjoyable instead of pointing out the obvious. I hope you enjoy.

✭ Dallas Cowboys 2018 Studs ✭

Byron Jones

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones

CB, Byron Jones

Byron Jones completely turned around his career this season with the Dallas Cowboys after being moved from safety to cornerback, his more natural position. Many had him pegged as a first-round bust, but he definitely quieted his critics by making his first Pro Bowl and becoming a Second-team All-Pro. I would say that qualifies as stud status.

The Predator and Wolf Hunter

You can't really mention one and leave out the other, which is why you're getting a two-for-one special here with Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. This dynamic duo arguably played like the best LBs in the league, although it's Vander Esch who has received the majority of the attention and got the Pro Bowl not as a replacement. Both definitely had Pro Bowl caliber seasons and that alone speaks volumes to how they played in 2018.

C, Joe Looney

No one could've possibly predicted the kind of season Dallas Cowboys backup Guard/Center Joe Looney would have in 2018 after replacing Travis Frederick in the starting lineup. He became somewhat of an afterthought this past season, which is pretty impressive in itself considering he was replacing one of the best centers in the league. What's even more impressive is the fact he played every single snap on offense. No other Cowboys player accomplished that feat on either side of the ball.

DE, Randy Gregory

You may disagree with me here, but the way Randy Gregory played in the second half of the 2018 season earned him stud status in my opinion. If he would've played that way for the entire year he would've joined DeMarcus Lawrence with double digit quarterback sacks. His ability to turn his speed into power gave opposing left tackles fits. He ended up being among the best at pressuring the QB in the latter part of the season.

DT, Antwaun Woods

Antwaun Woods was viewed as nothing more than a camp body when the Dallas Cowboys picked him up in the offseason after being released by the Tennessee Titans, but it's not always where you start it's where you finish. He went on to earn the starting gig at the 1-tech or nose tackle this past season and was largely responsible for the success Dallas had at shutting down opposing offenses rushing attacks. Unfortunately, as well as he played all season it will probably be forgotten after the way the LA Rams completely dominated Woods and the rest of the Cowboys DL in the playoffs.

✭ Dallas Cowboys 2018 Duds ✭

Sean Lee

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

LB, Sean Lee

The Dallas Cowboys wisely drafted Leighton Vander Esch as insurance if Sean Lee couldn't remain healthy in 2018, and thank the heavens they did. Vander Esch was supposed to be Lee's backup this season, but it ended up being the other way around after #50 once again missed quite a bit of the year with injuries. It looks like the torch has already been passed, making Sean Lee's future in Dallas a mystery moving forward.

DT, David Irving

Remember last offseason when the Dallas Cowboys decided to place just a second-round tender on David Irving and we were worried some other team would snatch him up? Yeah, well it looks as if the Cowboys are the ones who paid too much to keep him around because did basically nothing in 2018 despite all the high expectations we all had for him. After he sustained a high ankle sprain he pretty much went M.I.A. and no one really knows what the heck is going on or what his future holds.

WR, Allen Hurns

The Dallas Cowboys signed Allen Hurns this past offseason to help replace some of the lost production in the passing game after they decided to release Dez Bryant. Unfortunately, he never found his footing in Dallas and finished the year with an unimpressive stat line of 20 receptions for 295 receiving yards and two touchdowns. To add insult to injury (pun intended), his gruesome leg injury might be the only thing we remember about his 2018 season.

S, Jeff Heath

I'm actually a fan of Jeff Heath's, but he didn't particularly play very well this season. He ended up grading out as one of the worst tackling safeties in the NFL this past season. I don't know if it was some kind of fluke or what, but the Dallas Cowboys will surely be looking to upgrade the safety position this offseason either through free agency or the draft, perhaps both. Regardless, his days in the starting lineup may be all but over.

RB/WR, Tavon Austin

There were a lot of high expectations for Tavon Austin when the Dallas Cowboys added him via trade with the Los Angeles Rams. Austin was supposed to provide a different dynamic to the Cowboys offense and help improve their return game as well. Unfortunately a groin injury pretty much wiped out the majority of his season, but even when he was on the field he wasn't as impactful as we'd all hoped. He did show a few flashes of his talent, but for me it wasn't enough.



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Dallas Cowboys

Report: Antwaun Woods Played with Torn Labrum in Loss to Rams

John Williams

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HOU 19, DAL 16: Cowboys Lose Tough Defensive Battle in Overtime

Late last night, Ian Rapoport from the NFL Network reported yesterday that Antwaun Woods suffered a torn labrum in the second quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Rams and proceeded to play with the injury for the rest of the game.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys DT Antwaun Woods tore his labrum during the second quarter of the #Rams game and had surgery today to repair it, source said. He played the rest of the game with the ailment. One of Dallas' young talents on the mend.

Woods is a tough player, but there's no way that it didn't affect his play. The labrum is the cartilage in the socket of your shoulder joint. It acts to protect the bones from rubbing together and allows a smooth surface for the shoulder to rotate and extend. The labrum also serves as the location where the tendons and muscles of the rotator cuff attach.

A torn labrum will effect the range of motion and will be painful to use when attempting to perform range of motion. Also, any blows to the shoulder, which is always for a defensive tackle will be painful as well, and it will limit his play strength.

https://twitter.com/AntwaunWoods_/status/1086089237785653248

Antwaun Woods responded to Rapoport's report with confirmation of the injury and surgery.

Woods was a highlight of training camp and a standout this season. His play at the 1-technique defensive tackle position helped the Dallas Cowboys become a top 10 rushing defense and gave the Cowboys something they've struggled to find for years; a penetrating 1-technique defensive tackle.

Woods finished the season with 34 total tackles (15 solo), two tackles for loss, and five quarterback hits according to Pro Football Reference. He also had 16 stops, which Pro Football Focus defines as a play that resulted in a loss for the offense, which was second on the team at defensive tackle to Tyrone Crawford.

Things are looking up for Woods as he'll likely be back with the Cowboys in 2019 and manning the nose tackle position for a defense that is on the rise in the NFL. Injuries are never a good thing, but the Cowboys and Cowboys Nation just learned how tough Antwaun Woods is and how much he's willing to give for his teammates.



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