When I really sat down to think this cut through and what had happened that were a few signs that things were ending for Dez. The first was August 25th, 2016. On this day it basically ended two players careers in Dallas, Dez and Romo. I remember thinking back that the offense would change dramatically given that Tony & his original back up, Moore broke his ankle a few weeks earlier. The team was going to either trade for a veteran or just roll the dice with Dak. Wasn’t that the prevailing thought at the time? The Cowboys were intent on running the ball with their first round choice, Zeke Elliott when the draft ended. Visions of Tony running the offense with a true, elite running back, had Jerry thinking of hardware. Finally, they had a truly balanced attack behind the best O line money could buy. Without Tony under center the targets would likely be less than in prior seasons for Dez & Co. FYI, there was nothing wrong with Dez’s production in 2014 with Murray gobbling up 1800 yards! What we learned quickly in 2016 was that Dak wasn’t throwing the ball unless a WR was wide open, like in the college game. Dez was never a guy who needed separation to get it done as he wasn’t the best route runner. No one, was better on contested throws! You have to remember what the rub or knock on Dak was and why he was a 3rd or 4th round rated player. As a leader he was a 1st round pick, but it was his lack of accuracy that concerned many. In fact, Dane Brugler, in his write up on Dak thought he’d be a quality back up due to this one limitation. When you look at the entire WR corp in Dallas, they lack elite speed, top line route runners and struggle to separate on the outside. Beasley is the one guy with some juice to get separation, but rare they run him beyond 10 yards downfield. Tony’s work with Dez helped put millions in Dez’s pocket as he could bring out the best in Dez and Tony trusted him to be a play maker. That wasn’t happening with a young QB in quite the same way. Nor was it fair that we expected that to be the case. But the question has to be, how long was Dez going to last in Dallas when the stats couldn’t support the contract?
The second indicator that the end wasn’t that far off, to me, was when Dez was hammered by the media on his lack of stats in the early part of 2017. Dez replied to them stats were meaningless to him, but wins were the only important stat to him. The business side of the game mandates that your numbers are in line with your contract. Only a few guys seem to stay under the radar on that issue. We have to be honest and realize that Dez’s numbers, just the pure stats, weren’t worth 12.5M plus the carrying charges of his bonus. Its easy to say we loved Dez’s passion, but that only works when you’re winning and posting big stats. Personally, I felt that regardless of his stats, teams game planned coverage on him to force Dak to go elsewhere and force the offense to find another way to beat them. My concern now is who is going to command double coverage? Certainly not Terrance, Witten & Beasley both can be bracketed and limit their production.
Dez’s numbers hadn’t been there the way they were in 2014 when the Romo / Dez combo was virtually unstoppable in the red zone. Play action slants were big gainers in 2014 because of the concern of Murray eating up yardage and clock. Now in 2016 Dez’s numbers were fine in the end, not great, but solid. Dez’s performance in the GB playoff game may have been his best career game. Considering that Dak didn’t throw his way early in the season, Dez was really good when leaned on with quality targets. In 2017 we didn’t find Dak & Dez in sync, which surprised me after my trip to Oxnard, where they were toying with the DB’s. Had every reason to think they’d be lighting it up last year. The only thing I’d spot on the All 22 was that Dez wasn’t getting separation and Dak doesn’t like throwing into coverage. The fact of the matter is that Dez was never known to be a solid route runner. What made him special was he didn’t need space on ground level. Dez’s mindset is that, once in the air, the ball is his. All he asks of his QB, is to throw the ball in his direction, somewhere that he can haul it in, high, low, wide or above the rim, all work for Dez. At the bottom, I’ve posted information at the bottom, from Pro Football Focus which shows that the quality of Dez’s targets was the lowest of several of the more highly rated WR’s in the game over the last 3 years. The quality of the targets in Dez’s directions were the lowest of his contemporaries during that duration.
We have to face the facts that Dez’s passion and volatility also got him released. WR’s are all about “get me the ball” and the best of the best, tend to make that statement in the locker room, on the sidelines and to the media. As long as they’re posting 1,200 yards, 85 catches and double digit TD’s, teams tolerate the boisterous persona’s that come with the WR position. Even the Giants were entertaining offers this off season for one OBJ, who’s clearly in the prime of his career. Yet, they were tiring of his antics.
Well, sadly it’s time to move on and ask what’s next for the Cowboys offense? Allen Hurns, for me, has to prove he can stay healthy. Now I’m not asking, nor should the fans, that Hurns produces the stats to replace Dez. A player that could help the offense is Thompson, who has the speed to stretch a defense. That’s been missing in Dallas for a long time! But will the Cowboys actually use Deonta’s speed vertically? I’m not so sure that Beasley is around for the season. His production was considerably less with only 36 receptions for a measly 314 yards. His contract, while not as high as say, former Cowboy, Danny Amendola, but at 3.25M it does make him a trade option or outright release candidate, to free up money in their attempts to clear space for the draft signings or long term deals for Zack or DLaw. If Switzer shows out in camp, then the odds on Cole being gone, get raised incrementally.
The draft is here come Thursday afternoon and we have to expect they pick a WR in either the 1st or 2nd round. They’re really rebuilding the WR room. This year Dez, next year Terrance is likely gone, IMO. Don’t see Beasley being around next year for sure.
Dez Bryant has seen a reduction in catchable targets over the past three seasons pic.twitter.com/aynrkMJ2CU
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 17, 2018