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Who Replaces Dez Bryant as Cowboys Red Zone Threat?

Brian Martin

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Who Replaces Dez Bryant as Cowboys Red Zone Threat?

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

Allen Hurns

Dallas Cowboys WR Allen Hurns (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

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

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys 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

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys 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

Dallas Cowboys 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.

Who do you think will be the Dallas Cowboys next red zone threat?



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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10 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    What happened to just running the ball in short yardage situations. If not Rico might be my red zone choice

    • Md Firoz

      I will watch NFL online on >>>>>>>> NFLSQTV<<<<<<<< I think it's the best NFL option

  • Derek Robinson

    That’s 4 players right there. In Will McClay I trust.

  • Gary Smith

    Zeke would be my first option..but they need to get Rico involved within the offense in red zone situations.A big huge target.

  • tony

    Anybody can! As long as dak can put the ball in the right spot!

  • winstar

    Can we stop with the defending Bryant. He sucked as a leader. Like some of the comments i’m afraid the Cowboys go away from the run game in the Red Zone where they excel.

  • Christopher Speirer

    Tavon Austin may find a role in the redzone. He’s small, but hard to track on slants. I could see him being used a lot in the red zone for misdirection with Noah Brown being used as a shield.

  • Russ_Te

    Gathers…
    ;^)

  • Russ_Te

    Because he needs an inside threat, it’s possible IMO that Dak is just going to feed Gathers the ball in camp over & over and try to lift him into the role.

    Look at it this way: If Gathers can catch a lot of balls this year and help the outside WR’s by attracting coverage, is that worth tolerating a learning curve as a blocker? For the 2018 Cowboys I think it is.

  • Matt

    Nobody will replace Dez”s redzone production. Or Witten’s. The Dak-offs will try to find a new scapegoat to blame when this offense sputters. It can’t and won’t be Dakie Pooh”s dault. The reason Dez was cut was because he was paid to much to keep around with an innacurate QB. The Hubris of the Jonses is so great that saving face is more important than the right decision. The right decision would be fins a better QB and keep the WR you have. Any other QB could find some chemistry with Dez and throw him some decent balls instead of the trash Dak threw him. But they’d have to admit to being wrong about QB. So they’d rather save face and hope cheap WR Corp allows Dak to junk ball his way to wins, which will never happen.

Star Blog

Next Day Rant: NFL is Killing Football to Protect Quarterbacks

Jess Haynie

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Next Day Rant: NFL is Killing Football to Protect Quarterbacks
Shaban Athuman/The Dallas Morning News

Over just three weeks of the 2018 season, the NFL's new rule about hitting quarterbacks has stirred up as much controversy and angst as any amount of anthem kneeling ever did. Tyrone Crawford and the Dallas Cowboys can now add themselves to the list of perplexed victims of the league's misguided legislation.

On the Seattle Seahawks' first offensive series yesterday, Crawford made what in past years would have been a clean, textbook hit on Russell Wilson just as the ball was released. But out came the flag, claiming that Tyrone didn't make enough effort to avoid putting all his weight into the quarterback as he brought him down.

This flag came on a 3rd-down play with Seattle backed up on their own 12. Instead of punting, and likely giving Dallas excellent field position for their next series, the Seahawks got to continue the drive and eventually punt it from midfield.

That consequence may not sound like a big deal, but it robbed the Cowboys of their earned opportunity to get points on the board early. It changed the tone of the game early, and who knows what ripple effect that had the rest of the way.

The real issue here, though, is that that call can even be made. The NFL has finally taken QB protection too far, to the point that defensive players are left with no logical or physically possible way to do their jobs.

Next Day Rant: NFL is Killing Football to Protect Quarterbacks 1

Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews has become the poster boy for the NFL's new hit rule.

Before the Dallas game came on, I watched as the Packers' Clay Matthews got flagged yet again for the same type of call. It was the second time in as many games that Matthews has been given a foul for a clean hit.

Matthews' frustration after he saw that flag was clear. He looked disheartened, and part of me wondered if he might just walk right out of the stadium. In fact, I almost wanted him to pull a Vontae Davis just to help make the point to the league.

The NFL wants the best of both worlds. They want these players to go max effort when the rules allow and then pull it back in very specific, split-second situations. It's more than the human mind and body can do.

You can't ask these defenders to use everything they've got to get through a blocker, and then immediately rein it in once they get their hands on the quarterback.

You can't ask them to avoid going high on the QB, and then always know when the ball has been released. They don't have eyes in the top of their heads.

You can't ask them to come full force on a blitz or rush and then cool their jets within a second or less. Forget mind and body, even the basic laws of inertia don't work that way.

The NFL is asking for the impossible; a safe form of violence. That's like asking for non-toxic poison.

5 NFL Rule Changes That Need to Happen

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

I understand the league's current global dilemma. They are looking down the barrel of rising CTE awareness, lawsuits from former players, and the diminishing participation in youth football. They're trying to save the game from extinction, or at least from falling off the throne as America's modern pastime.

But this rule isn't about that. This is about trying to keep star quarterbacks healthy so that fan engagement and TV ratings don't go down when an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady gets injured.

The NFL is in the entertainment business, so I get their concern. Quarterbacks are the lead actors of the sport. You'd be disappointed if the next Mission Impossible movie was mostly Ving Rhames.

Protecting quarterbacks, given their vulnerability at times on the field, has its place. Some of the rules make sense, even if at times they lead to frustrating penalties.

But now they're messing with the core formula of football. If the Colonel got rid of one of his eleven herbs and spices, KFC chicken might not taste the same anymore. Coca-Cola might suddenly be worse than Pepsi (hard to imagine, I know) if they started changing the syrup.

The NFL isn't tweaking here. They're changing games and putting the burden on defensive players, in the heat of battle, to try to have machine-like precision.

Again, they're asking for the impossible.

Tyrone Crawford

Dallas Cowboys DT Tyrone Crawford

Tyrone Crawford is no Vontaze Burfict. He's not a loose cannon. He's one of the genuine good guys in the NFL, who does everything the right way on and off the field.

You can only imagine his frustration right now, or that of Clay Matthews and anyone else hit with one of these penalties. Imagine what some of these guys, who aren't a Crawford or Matthews, might do if that frustration boils over.

You could hear it even in the commentary yesterday. Troy Aikman and Joe Buck were clearly disgusted by the calls, both in the Cowboys-Seahawks game and what's been happening so far this year. This was FOX's premier broadcast team openly bashing the NFL in a nationally televised game.

And if you think the players and commentators are frustrated, imagine how that translates to fan response.

The league is trying to avoid losing viewers from quarterback injuries. In the process, they may lose a lot more by damaging the game we love.

Playing football is an accepted risk. Players get it. Fans get it.

The NFL has to get it, and soon, before this conversation takes over in a way that past controversies haven't. The anthem kneeling was an overblown, media-driven story that never hit the bottom line they way they wanted you to believe. None of it mattered once the ball was kicked off.

But now the game is being damaged. Football is becoming less fun; a game of rules and penalties rather than action and intensity.

If something doesn't change, the NFL's self-preservation efforts just might lead to its demise.



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Star Blog

Seahawks’ Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar

John Williams

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Seahawks' Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar

The Seattle Seahawks are in need of a big win this weekend to stay a game or two back of the NFC West leading Los Angeles Rams. The Dallas Cowboys hope to extend their one game winning streak to two, but to do that, they'll have to win certain matchups on both sides of the football. One player that the Dallas Cowboys will have to be aware of and contain is rookie Tight End Will Dissly.

With Doug Baldwin injured in week one and out week two, other players have had to step up in their lead wide receiver's absence.

Brandon Marshall and Tyler Lockett are the names that most everyone will recognize, but Dissly, is the name that Cowboys Nation should keep an eye on come Sunday.

Dissly, drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Washington, came into the season with a reputation as a blocking back. Dane Brugler, of The Athletic, had Dissly ranked 98th overall and as the ninth ranked tight end in the draft. Just one spot behind Dallas Cowboys rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz.

Here is what Brugler had to say in his 2018 NFL Draft Guide.

"A one-year starter at Washington, Dissly spent his first two years at Washington on defense and his final two years on offense, lining up inline and wing in the Huskies’ offense. He was a blocker-first and receiver-second in college, which was a role he embraced with his hard-nosed toughness and competitive edge. Dissly uses his upper body power and base strength in unison to control the point of attack, displaying the core flexibility and length to keep defenders busy. While he flashed reliable hand/eye coordination and run power after the catch, he lacks the route-running experience or athletic deception to consistently uncover. Overall, Dissly is a project as a pass-catcher, but he will contribute early in his NFL career as an inline blocker and sixth offensive lineman."

Dane Brugler - Dane Brugler's 2018 NFL Draft Guide

To say that it comes as a surprise at Dissly's start to his rookie campaign would be a huge understatement. A Brugler notes, there was a chance he'd contribute early as a blocking specialist, but was thought to be a project in the passing game. He's been a big play threat in the first two games of the season, already taking the lead in Seattle Seahawks TE snap distribution at 65%.

Among tight ends, Dissly's is tied for 12th in the NFL in targets with 10, tied for 17th in receptions with six, fourth in the NFL in receiving yards, tied for first with 2 touchdown receptions, third in yards per reception at 24.5, third in yards after the catch with 90, is tied for fifth with five receptions for first downs, sixth in yards per route run, and hasn't dropped a pass this season. He's averaging five targets, three receptions, 73.5 yards, and a touchdown per game. He's been targeted twice out of the slot and has two receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown while playing 46% of his snaps from the slot.

When Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted his rookie tight end, he has a passer rating of 143.8.

He's been way more than they could have hoped.

Here's what SB Nation' Seattle Seahawks blog Field Gulls had to say about Will Dissly after the Seattle Seahawks week one loss to the Denver Broncos.

"Hot damn! Who saw that coming? Was that Will Dissly or a prime Jeremy Shockey? 3 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for someone drafted primarily for his blocking abilities. Seattle has a new weapon on offense, and I doubt anyone saw that coming."

Mookie Alexander - Field Gulls, SB Nation 

It's likely that nobody, including the Denver Broncos or the Chicago Bears, saw Dissly's breakout coming this soon. Now with it on tape, the Dallas Cowboys will have their eye on Will Dissly.

Russell Wilson doesn't have a ton of established -- or still good -- wide receivers at his disposal, but Will Dissly looks like a fourth round steal for the Seahawks.

The Dallas Cowboys' linebackers will be tested on Sunday.

Four of Dissly's six receptions have come against linebackers, including a 34 yard reception (19 yards after the catch) against Chicago Bears' Linebacker Danny Trevathan and a 66 yard reception (52 YAC) against Denver Broncos Outside Linebacker Bradley Chubb.

The Dallas Cowboys seem fully capable of matching up with good receiving tight ends as Jaylon Smith showed on Sunday. Smith showed an ability to run with Odell Beckham Jr. in coverage on Sunday. No small task. We know that Sean Lee is good in coverage. Leighton Vander Esch's best trait coming out of Boise State is his coverage ability. I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Dallas Cowboys matchup Xavier Woods and Anthony Brown with the athletic tight end when he's lined up in the slot.

How the Dallas Cowboys defense does in coverage against the rookie tight end could be a major key to the game. With names like Brandon Marshall, Tyler Lockett, and Rashad Penny to keep an eye on, someone like Will Dissly could be easily forgotten.

You're going to hear his name called on Sunday. Let's just hope it's more for what he did weeks one and two.



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Star Blog

Xavier Woods Among Cowboys with Something to Prove in Seattle

John Williams

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The Earl Thomas trade rumors have been relentless this offseason. We've heard about them. I've written about them, and for better or worse, they just won't stop. No doubt Dallas Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods has heard them as well.

When Woods went down with his hamstring injury and as Earl Thomas continued his hold out, the clamor for Thomas grew louder and louder.

Per reports, it looks like Woods is set to make his 2018 debut. With a good game against the Seattle Seahawks, he can put a silence to the trade rumors.

I've been a proponent of making the deal for Earl Thomas all offseason. From the time he came running down the tunnel toward the Dallas Cowboys locker room, I've been all aboard the Earl Thomas hype train. Opportunities to add All-Pro players don't come along very often and if you're hoping to win football games in the short term, like the Dallas Cowboys are, you make the move.

My opinion isn't a knock on Xavier Woods, who was good as a rookie last year. He was especially good when asked to play in the slot early in the 2017 season. It has more to do with Woods still being a bit of an unknown and Thomas being a known quantity.

Xavier Woods has shown potential to be a really good safety in this league. In college, he played a lot of single high safety and played it very well. He has a knack for making plays on the football and can be a game changer for the Dallas Cowboys.

If the Dallas Cowboys can come away with a victory in Seattle, facing the player that the Dallas Cowboys have been linked to for months, and Woods has a good game in the process, then all of this will go away.

Heading into Sunday, Xavier Woods isn't the only player on the Dallas Cowboys roster who has something to prove.

Two Wide Receivers

The Cowboys added another wide receiver this week when they resigned free agent Brice Butler. I agree with Inside The Star Staff Writer Jess Haynie that adding Butler doesn't make a ton of sense, but it definitely adds question marks to the wide receiver room, in particular wide receivers Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns.

These two wide receivers were expected to be the starters on the outside and the primary targets, aside from Wide Receiver Cole Beasley, and yet, they've failed to have much of an impact in either of the two games in the 2018 season.

Take a look at their stat lines.

  • Allen Hurns: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 29 yards, 0 touchdowns, on 55% of the team's offensive snaps.
  • Terrance Williams: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 18 yards, 0 touchdowns on 25% of the snaps.

Those two are tied for fifth in receptions through two weeks of the season. Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson has found himself as a favorite target of Quarterback Dak Prescott through the first two games and has seven receptions for 60 yards.

With now seven wide receivers on the roster, there are less snaps to go around and with the increase in playing time for Tavon Austin and Michael Gallup, Terrance Williams may have already found himself as the odd man out. Brice Butler complicates things further for Williams and may eat into Allen Hurns snap count as well.

Now it looks like Terrance Williams is facing a suspension. If the suspension comes down before Sunday, he's going to really have a hard time finding a role on this team when he comes back.

Brandon George on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys WR Terrance Williams faces suspension stemming from May arrest for public intoxication https://t.co/of11Xlb7wD via @sportsdaydfw

If he comes back. 

Defensive End Making a Comeback

Things started out really well for returning Defensive End Randy Gregory. During the preseason he flashed the tools that made him a highly coveted player before his failed drug test at the NFL Combine.

Unfortunately the start of his 2018 season was derailed due to a concussion early in the Carolina Panthers game forcing him to miss week two.

In his place, Taco Charlton emerged as an impact player on the right side of the defensive line. Charlton has played the most defensive snaps of any defensive end through the first two games of the season; DeMarcus Lawrence included. Taco went from a 73% snap share in week one to an 83% snap share in week two. It's obvious that he's earned his snaps and the coaching staff wants to get him on the field.

This doesn't even begin to mention the contributions by rookie fourth round pick Dorance Armstrong, who like Charlton, saw a 10% snap increase from week one to week two and played really well when in the game.

This is a bit of a problem for Randy Gregory. Yes, he flashed in the preseason and early in the Carolina game, but the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and Gregory hasn't done much of anything in the regular season, yet.

Coming into the Seahawks game, Gregory is going to have to earn back some of those snaps. By all accounts he has a chance to be an elite defensive end on the right side of the Dallas Cowboys defense, but he has to prove that he can stay on the field and effective when on it.

He needs to shine in week three.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Who are your players with something to prove heading into the week three matchup with the Seattle Seahawks? Let us know in the comment section. 



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