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Will Brice Butler’s Inconsistency Create More Opportunity For Young WRs?

Brian Martin

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Many of us have been anxiously awaiting to see the offensive debut of a few of the Dallas Cowboys young wide receivers. That hasn't happened as of yet, but with the inconsistency Brice Butler has been showing catching the ball, it could happen sooner rather than later.

The one term tossed around the most when discussing Brice Butler is inconsistency. It was the way he was described during his time with the Oakland Raiders and probably one of the contributing factors why they were willing to trade him to the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. And now, Cowboys Nation fully understands the frustration Raiders fans felt about Butler.

Since joining the Dallas Cowboys, a lot of us have wanted Brice Butler to overtake Terrance Williams on the depth chart. Butler possesses all of the talent he will ever need to become a starting WR in the NFL, but the only thing still holding him back is his inconsistency catching the ball.

It's absolutely infuriating at times because in one instance Brice Butler will make an outstanding acrobatic catch, and in the next he drops an easy completion that hits him right in the hands. There is nothing more frustrating for coaches and especially quarterbacks then to have a WR who they can't truly depend upon to come through when it matters.

Brice Butler's inconsistency could unfortunately or fortunately (depending on your point of view) create more opportunities for a couple of the Dallas Cowboys young wide receivers.

WR Noah Brown

WR Noah Brown

Both Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown could start seeing more playing time if Brice Butler doesn't start becoming a more consistent WR. Of course, it may already be too late for Butler, but only time will tell.

Switzer and Brown were both active in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos and could start seeing their playing time increase as the season progresses. They both have an advantage of over Butler because they play special teams and #19 doesn't. But, at this point in their careers they aren't quite as polished in the receiving game as Butler.

A lot of Cowboys fans have already been chomping at the bit to see Ryan Switzer utilized more on offense. The idea of using Switzer and Cole Beasley on the field at the same time is really intriguing and could put opposing defenses at a disadvantage. But, so far we have only seen Switzer in on a couple of offensive plays, being utilized in the return game mostly instead.

WRs Ryan Switzer, Cole Beasley, and Dez Bryant

WRs Ryan Switzer, Cole Beasley, and Dez Bryant

Switzer doesn't the size or speed like Bryce Butler, but the Cowboys other rookie WR, Noah Brown, is pretty similar. Brown is 6'2", 225 pounds, about an inch shorter and 5-10 pounds heavier than Butler. But, he doesn't have the deep speed like Butler does either. Brown does however have an intriguing skill set that could be utilized in several different areas.

Even as a rookie, Noah Brown is already arguably the best blocking WR the Dallas Cowboys have on the roster. He would be a tremendous asset in the running game, while also providing a receiving threat in the passing game. Plus, let's not forget he plays special teams as well.

I would honestly love to see Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown see more playing time on offense, but I'm not sure if the Cowboys coaching staff is ready to move on from Brice Butler just yet. But, if Butler's inconsistency catching the ball continues, we could see the rookies earn more playing time sooner rather than later.

Do you think Brice Butler's time is running out?



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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22 Comments
  • Tony Farthing

    Silly notion! The whole offense is inconsistent right now. Beasley gave zero effort to catch a very “catchable” pass on 3rd and long… there’s plenty blame to go around. From what Butler showed in pre-season and last year… He’s a keeper! We should be patient with him. He stretches the field vertically and horizontally… something the “little guys” can’t do.

    • Brian Martin

      The Cowboys coaching staff have remained patient with Butler for nearly 3 years now. His inconsistency catching ball is apparent, which is why I think we could start seeing some of the young WRs receive more playing time.

      • Assassin

        I would add that Beazley and Switzer compliment Dak’s style perfectly, short to mid-range passes. He can dink you to death and keep the change moving. I would love to see both of them in the game at the same time on a regular basis.

        • Brian Martin

          Exactly! It’s not that Bryant has lost a step, it’s more that Prescott prefers to throw the underneath routes. Those are higher percentage completions.

          • Cris de Campos

            That’s the sort of play that will end up giving you what you got this week. You simply can’t combine a run dominant scheme with a dink and dunk passing offense and expect it to work out well. This is because the defense only has to worry about covering short and intermediate zones. Which also makes it a lot easier for the defense to tee off and be extremely aggressive at the line of scrimmage. I fear that the coaching staff in Dallas is not aware of this phenomenon. There shouldn’t even be a question… Butler should be lined up opposite Dez for the simple fact that he is 6’3, runs a sub-4.4, and wins 50-50 balls. They should be taking 3-4 deep shots to Butler per game to make safeties and the defense have to respect the deep zone of the field and account for a guy that can take a WR screen or a short crossing route all the way to the house. That would open up the field for Dez and Zeke and allow a Beasley or a Switzer to contribute important chain moving conversions when necessary. Until Dak can dissect and read a defense somewhere near the level of a really good QB, 10 passes to a Beasley per game is going to typically yield you about 7 receptions for 50-70 yards. Great, but it doesn’t make the defense worry, they still just play the short and intermediate part of the field. In a system where you probably want to throw the ball around 30 times… You’re just not going to get enough production out of that kind of game plan.

          • Assassin

            Butler is a proven non-entity. Not sure why you feel he is more than that. I gave you all his numbers. The defenses simply pay him little mind. Remember Dallas went 13-3 without a speed demon stretching the D last year.

          • Assassin

            This is the way a lot of the better teams win these days. Tom Brady has been dinking folks to death for years. We’re set up pretty well for doing this right now with Dez, Beaz and Switzer. I would expect that we set our sites on a speed receiver in the 2018 draft unless they think Terrance can handle it to stretch the field as we dont have a viable option there now. I would prefer a “hands receiver” over Terrance right now though. (and I’m a Baylor guy).

      • Tony Farthing

        Last point- Butler is a “young guy”… isn’t he? Either way, I’m sure we’ll be in position to grab a stud during draft… time to consider drafting Dez’ replacement. (Hate to say).

        But, don’t see Bease being resigned or extended unless he’s a deep discount
        Was overpaid on last contract… and SwissBeats might be a little more tougher than Cole… will snag those slants crossing the field with “max effort” at a fraction of cost. 🙂

        Use some of that $$ to upgrade Butler’s spot as well.

    • Assassin

      Wow. Of all the guys on the team, Beazley is about the last one to accuse of giving zero effort.

      Butler is exactly what we thought when we got him, a deeply flawed, deeply talented WR. He has hands of stone on some easy catches and then turns around and lays out catching the ball inches off the ground. There’s only so long you can keep a mercurial receiver on the field.

  • Assassin

    Q – did you ever play football? There are about a million different variances that come into play rather than if he can dunk a basketball – or jump whatever you feel he should jump. This guy is one of last guys on the team to accuse of giving zero effort. Let me add – not a single one of them would be in the NFL if they werent giving every bit of effort they could.

    • Tony Farthing

      Yeah… I played high school and walked-on at collegiate level… I know a little something-something… and I’ve been coaching the position (along w/DBs) for quite a few years now at the 12U-14U level.

      And every athlete experience games like DALvDEN at some point.

      I invite you to look at play… Not exaggerating to belittle Bease… Just an observation that allowed me (as a diehard fan) to accept the defeat heading into 3rd quarter… LOL!

      Bease is asked to use his quickness, not range or toughness to contribute… Butler is required to do everything we expect from a possession WR… which is extremely hard to do consistently in NFL (see Julio Jones, Green, Dez, etc.).

      On the flip-side… I have seen Butler make extremely difficult catches under/into coverage… not even 2 weeks ago. No way that ability have diminished to deem him useless.

      And last note on effort… although I’m rooting for him… He may be only player on this roster who’ve quit football (recall? DannyAmedolla outworked him and he quit.).

      Fact of the matter, he won’t be resigned… we over-paid… drafted his replacement already. Hard to find value (skill vs cost) like Butler.

      • Assassin

        The reason I ask is understanding the value of players to specific teams. Butler can certainly made plays, but he’s also cost us plays, last year percentage wise, he was at the bottom of Cowboy WRs at less than 50%. Meanwhile Beaz caught more than 3 out of every 4 that came his way.

        Beazley led the NFC’s best team last season in catches. Meanwhile Butler was 7th on the team, behind TEs and RBs. Add in the fact that nobody signed Butler when he was on the free market this offseason.

        For Butler’s career, he’s right at a 50% WR. Thats near the bottom of WRs on 53 man rosters in the NFL. Beaz is about 72%. Terrance, who has an extremely small catch radius as a body catcher, is still substansially better than Butler at about 62%. Dez gets doubleteamed nearly every play over his career and he’s still about 60%.

        Butlers value to the Cowboys is marginal at best. He’s just too undependable. And throwing long is not Dak’s regular forte. Brice was signed on a one year deal and if any of the young turks had came through, he’d probably be sitting on the curb.

        And btw – Butler is anything but a “possession receiver”. A possession receiver is one that doesnt drop balls and moves the chains, especially on third. Somebody like Cole Beazley who led the Cowboy WRs last year in first downs gained…

        • Tony Farthing

          You nailed it! Same position, different role.

          If you’re evaluating how well Butler/Bease is executing their respective roles within offense… I agree Bease is definitely most productive.

          However, I’ll argue… relatively speaking… Bease have a niche role and won’t fit onto traditional NFL roster. Same as Wes Welker… he capitalize off of any defense unwilling to take a LB out of the box and go nickle/dime with the extra DBs.

          He’s not an every down WR… and won’t have any of the success he’s enjoyed as a wideout… if he’s asked to be matched up against another fast-twitch athlete like DBs.

          He’s the latest “dink & dunk” WR.

          Despite leading team in receptions… he’s not asked to run into or manipulate coverage (pushing DBs) like Butler. He’s not a primary WR beating double teams or opponents best DBs.

          For perspective, he’s no where close to being a Wayne Chrebet, Steve Smith Sr or Terry Glenn.

          He will easily be replaced… perhaps this year by a rookie. Mainly, because playing slot in this offense is “low hanging fruit”.

          Butler have a much tougher task… He actually have to “beat” the defense.

          • Tony Farthing

            “easily replaced” is subjective…

        • Tony Farthing

          Butler showing up tonight! Happy for the kid! Hope he continues!

          Zeke too! 🙂

          • Brian Martin

            Hopefully his inconsistency is a thing of the past. The Cowboys offense could definitely use his deep speed.

  • Cris de Campos

    These arguments are such nonsense. Every… WR… Has…These…Drops. What drives me nuts is that players who have been cloaked in entitlement never hear such knocks, even if they have a long list of horrible drops. The difference is that guys like Butler have a net positive effect on the offense. Even if he had one bad drop per game, even 2, if he had 8 targets opposite Dez he’d probably fall in the neighborhood of 4-7 receptions. Those receptions would be impactful though. They’ll be big plays. He can take the top off… but he can also take a short screen to the house. That makes a defense have to worry (this is what KC does that makes them so dangerous… any of the guys they keep getting the ball in the hands of can take it to the house if one defender is out of place). Nobody on the Dallas squad has the combine numbers of Butler, and he’s simply not so bad that he shouldn’t be out there opposite of Dez. It’s nuts.

  • Tony Farthing

    Can’t be afraid to take a hit! Especially, when team need a spark. #PutSomeSauceOnIt

  • Assassin

    I’m gonna leave this conversation with an analogy. Depending on Brice Butler to become a dependable deep threat is like depending on winning Texas Lotto. Yes, there’s a chance… but infinitesimal. Butler was signed in case they couldnt get Terrance Williams signed (which if they had waited a couple of days, Butler probably wouldnt have happened). A one year band aid. Butler will make a spectacular catch or two before the year is over. He will also drop several passes which will ultimately cost us game(s).

  • Spoonydawg

    Bring on the young guns while its still early.. come play off time.. they will be ready to go…

    • Brian Martin

      I think you may get your wish this week. At least, that’s what I’m hoping anyway.

      • Spoonydawg

        We will see… Lets see if Scott is worth the money…

Game Notes

Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Though it's still early in the 2018 season, the lead in the NFC East is up for grabs when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins meet this Sunday. Both teams would like their full roster available for the game, but the Week 7 injury reports indicate that won't be the case.

Here are the players either confirmed to be out of action tomorrow or are otherwise listed by Dallas and Washington:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - OUT
  • CB Chidobe Awuzie (ankle) - Questionable

The Cowboys are getting healthier, with Sean Lee finally off the injury report and set to return to action. Not only will Dallas get their elite linebacker back, but it means a deeper rotation while the team remains without Joe Thomas.

Tavon Austin elected to skip season-ending surgery on his injured groin, but his should be out a few weeks. That will put Cole Beasley on punt returns and perhaps create more offensive opportunities for Deonte Thompson and Brice Butler.

Awuzie remains limited in practice but has played the last few weeks despite the ankle injury. There is no reason to think he won't suit up in Washington.

Washington Redskins

  • WR Jamison Crowder (ankle) - OUT
  • WR Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) - Doubtful
  • S Troy Apke (hamstring) - Doubtful
  • RB Adrian Peterson (ankle, shoulder) - Questionable
  • RB Chris Thompson (rib, knee) - Questionable
  • G Shawn Lauvao (calf) - Questionable
  • CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) - Questionable
  • CB Danny Johnson (forearm) - Questionable

It's a rough time for Washington's offensive weapons. They will definitely be without slot receiver Jamison Crowder and likely starter Paul Richardson, who current lead all WRs in receptions. Josh Doctson will put into a major role, as will veteran Brian Quick off the bench.

Peterson and Thompson both practiced this week and should play, but have nagging injuries that could slow them down. Washington is already missing Rob Kelley and rookie Derrius Guice, who are both on injured reserve.

Starting left guard Shawn Lauvao is also nursing a lower leg injury, but practiced in a limited capacity all week. His backup is undrafted rookie Casey Dunn out of Auburn.

In the defensive backfield, starting CB Quinton Dunbar was a Friday addition to the injury report with a shin injury. He did practice with it, though, so will likely play. Backup safety Troy Apke is doubtful with a hamstring issue.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys are 0-3 on the road this season. Not only do you already know this, but they do as well, needing to build off a 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 6 at AT&T Stadium to claim first place in the NFC East at the Washington Redskins.

Although the Cowboys were given Monday and Tuesday off, they are focused on addressing one alarming reason why the team has struggled so much on the road -- particularly on offense.

Running Back Ezekiel Elliott pointed out the Cowboys lack of communication in early season losses at Carolina, Seattle, and Houston. "Seeing the same thing," was the issue Elliott addressed when discussing the Cowboys knowing their assignments in hostile territory.

Yesterday, Quarterback Dak Prescott told the media of a meeting between players and coaches that addressed this specifically.

David Moore on Twitter

Dak Prescott said players & coaches held a meeting before today's practice to "address the elephant in the room," which is poor communication among the offense on the road. "I know we'll take a lot from that conversation," The QB said.

Unlike Prescott's remarks about new "wrinkles" in the Cowboys offense prior to a 26-24 home win over the Lions, this has a tangible sign of progress for an offense that made scoring 40 on the Jaguars look impossibly easy. The Cowboys season high in total yards remains the 414 amassed against Detroit, after which Prescott confessed that he simply tells the media "things" that aren't necessarily true.

The Cowboys didn't necessarily do anything new against the Lions, but they most assuredly will this week against the Redskins, at least by way of signaling and remaining in sync on offense.

Prescott and Elliott's leadership is on full display here, and their on-field impact can be attributed as closely to the Cowboys successes or failures as any duo in the NFL.

Missing is a similar impact from Center Travis Frederick, who remains sidelined as he deals with GSB.

Joe Looney's play at center has been good enough to pave the way for Elliott's 586 rushing yards so far, second to Todd Gurley at 623 yards, but his ability to call checks for the offense is understandably much more limited.

Looney deserves all the credit in the world for his strong play in place of Frederick. The Cowboys have never asked for him to be anything he isn't, a reliable depth option that earned a second contract and with it the starting center job for the time being in Dallas.

He has the full support of his teammates, Frederick included. All of this is lovely to put down in writing until Looney and the Cowboys have been forced to step on the field with the crowd against them and attempt to sustain a drive, something Frederick will unfortunately not be a part of for a long while.

If the Cowboys offense isn't going to unveil new wrinkles in the scheme, there is one wrinkle worth mentioning that's new to the team's communication on offense this season. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan up in the box, his play calls are sent down to first-year Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, who has been in the ear of Prescott ever since playing with him from 2016-17.

Sure, these are things that could've been addressed before the Cowboys managed only eight points in week one, turned the ball over three times in week three, or punted away their best chance at victory in week five. The best teams in the league likely already have these things down to routine, and few would consider the Cowboys anywhere near the upper echelon of the NFL.

Following sixty minutes of football at a division rival they've won four in a row against, with an even more impressive five game win streak at the Redskins, the Cowboys could control their own path atop the NFC East.

That feels truly incredible for such a young team faced with a steep learning curve early in the season, adjusting to it on the fly as they prepare to leave everything on the field before a bye week.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Pass Rush Better than They're Given Credit For
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.

But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.

According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.

Brian Burke on Twitter

Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.

What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.

For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.

As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.

Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.

Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).

Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.



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