The release of Dez Bryant earlier in the offseason created quite a bit of uncertainty heading into the 2018 season. Bryant had his flaws no doubt, but he was also one of the more passionate leaders on the team and the best red zone threat the Dallas Cowboys had on the roster. The latter is what I want to focus on today.
Who exactly will the Dallas Cowboys choose to replace Dez Bryant with as the main red zone threat? This was the area of Bryant’s game where he truly set himself apart from other WRs around the league. His ability to go up and catch the ball at the highest point is one of the reasons he accumulated so many touchdowns over the years.
Unfortunately, Dak Prescott never developed that kind of red zone chemistry with Dez Bryant, which is one of the reasons 88’s TD totals declined the past few seasons. But, it’s still a good idea to try to find someone who can provide that kind of skill set for the Cowboys offense moving forward.
Now that Bryant is gone, I wanted to share with you four players currently on the Cowboys roster who could help become the next red zone threat in Dallas. It takes a certain kind of skill set to be a consistent red zone threat, and I think all of the players I’ve listed below have a chance of doing just that.
WR Allen Hurns
I don’t know if Allen Hurns can be a threat in the red zone like Dez Bryant was throughout his career with the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve always thought that Hurns was more of a possession type of receiver during his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars. I never really thought of him as a “go to” guy in the red zone.
However, Hurns does have the size (6’3″, 215) to be a threat inside the 20 yard line. Maybe he just didn’t get the chance in Jacksonville to be a red zone threat playing second fiddle to Allen Robinson, but he should be given every opportunity to be “that” guy in Dallas.
In order for Hurns to become a red zone threat in Dallas he’s going to need to do two things first. First, he is going to have to develop a good bond/relationship with Dak Prescott in the passing game. Then, he is going to have to prove to the coaching staff he can be relied upon in that area of the field. Luckily, he has all of training camp and preseason to accomplish those tasks.
WR Michael Gallup
When studying Michael Gallup’s college game tape, one of the first things I noticed was the physicality he brings to the table. He reminds me a little bit of Dez Bryant, although a little smaller, because he plays with the same kind of mindset and physical demeanor.
One of Gallup’s best traits as a WR in college was his ability to out physical defensive backs in those contested ball situations. He has a wide catching radius and vice grip like hands to secure the catch. That could come in really handy in the red zone this season.
The bad news though is we really don’t know what to expect from him as a rookie. We all hope that he can hit the ground running, but he’s still unproven at this point in his career. I know I have high hopes for the first-year WR. In fact, I think he could end up being the leading receiver this season when all is said and done.
WR Noah Brown
At 6’2″, 220 pounds, second-year WR Noah Brown is now the biggest receiver the Cowboys currently have on the roster. He also brings a similar skill set to the Cowboys offense that Dez Bryant provided for many years.
Noah Brown’s strength is something that really pops out when watching him play. He blocks like a tight end, but plays like a WR. It’s that strength could help him pick up some of the slack in the red zone the Cowboys offense lost when Dez Bryant was released. He can use that physicality to his advantage.
Unfortunately, Brown’s strength as a blocker may keep him from getting very many targets in the receiving game once the Cowboys get inside the 20 yard line. It’s entirely possible Dallas finally leans more on Ezekiel Elliott and the running game, which means Brown may have to stay in and block instead of running routes. But, I believe the skill set is there to be a threat in the red zone if needed.
TE Blake Jarwin
Blake Jarwin may be the underdog at the Dallas Cowboys tight end position to earn a significant role, especially as the starter, but I don’t think that will last long. In fact, I think he will set himself apart from all of the other TEs on the roster and start Week 1 of the season.
Jarwin is probably the most athletic TE on the Cowboys roster not named Rico Gathers. Unfortunately, I don’t believe Gathers makes the final 53-man roster. He just hasn’t been able to develop the way the Cowboys coaching staff envisioned. But, that’s okay because Jarwin has already shown more progress in one offseason than Gathers and it’s already being noticed in practices.
Not only will Jarwin give the Cowboys offense a threat down the seam, but I think he can be a dangerous weapon in the red zone, which could come in handy with the loss of Dez Bryant. At 6’5″ and around 250 pounds, Jarwin has the height and athletic ability to go up and catch the ball at the highest point. The only thing he has to do now is gain Dak Prescott’s trust in those situations.