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Watkins: The Cowboys don’t have an elite receiver anymore. How much does that matter?

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  • Watkins: The Cowboys don’t have an elite receiver anymore. How much does that matter?

    The Cowboys don’t have an elite receiver anymore. How much does that matter?



    By Calvin Watkins Jun 21, 2018 11

    The​ Cowboys​ will attempt to​ contend for a playoff berth without​ an elite receiver.

    Do they really need one?

    The Eagles won​​ the Super Bowl last year without a true #1 wideout, utilizing a rising young quarterback and the NFL’s new trend, the Run-Pass Option – and when he got hurt, leaning on a strong defense. Can the Cowboys do the same?

    Dak Prescott should use the RPO more often in 2018 – but we don’t yet know if they are part of Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan’s gameplan.

    It wouldn’t be hard to utilize RPOs given Zeke Elliott’s ability to run power and off the edges for 16 games. The Cowboys also have the most expensive offensive line in the history of the game so employing RPOs is something they can do. It also gives Prescott so many options. He can use it to hand off to Elliott, throw quick slants to Cole Beasley or the newly-acquired Tavon Austin.

    Prescott can drop back and throw deep to Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, or Michael Gallup.

    In other words, the Cowboys have options.

    But are they ready to compete without an elite receiver?

    “I think our group will pick up the slack,” Linehan said. “I guess what’s considered a true No. 1, I think guys will be No. 1 in specific roles based on plays that we have called and utilize guys’ strengths that way. And have good balances the targeting of our skill players in the passing game.”

    For decades through the franchise’s history, the Cowboys employed a No. 1 receiver on their teams and saw Super Bowls. Dallas won three titles with Michael Irvin, who used his big frame to protect his quarterback on occasional bad throws and emerged as a big-play threat in a game where bump-and-run coverage was commonplace.

    Alvin Harper and Jay Novacek were just the cherries on top for the passing game. Having Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman didn’t hurt either. And before the dominant 90’s group, the Cowboys leaned on ‘Bullet’ Bob Hayes and Drew Pearson, legends in their own right.

    That’s the past and it seems the Cowboys live in the past too much around here. As they morph toward training camp in Oxnard, history hovers over this organization like a black cloud.

    If the Cowboys want to move forward with Prescott, he’ll need help from his receivers = and the front office needs to forget about having No. 1 wideouts.

    Having an elite receiver isn’t necessary. The Eagles won without one last year, and they’re far from the only organization to do so. Since the 2011 season, only one Super Bowl champion has dedicated more than 8% of its cap to a receiver – the 2015 Broncos, who paid Demaryius Thomas $13.2 million (9.1% of the cap) that year.

    Philadelphia’s leading receiver, Nelson Agholor, worked out of the slot and averaged 3.9 receptions per game with eight touchdowns and a team-leading 62 catches. He caught 65.3 percent of passes thrown his way, a far higher number than Dez Bryant did.

    Bryant, the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver last season, was targeted 132 times but only caught 52.3 percent of his passes with six touchdowns. Optimally, you would like a receiver’s catch rate to be at least 60%.

    The Cowboys expected more from Bryant considering his massive contract, but health and his attitude got in the way of greatness.

    The Eagles had players with great attitudes such as Alshon Jeffery, who scored nine touchdowns. Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz led the team with 824 yards and eight touchdowns.

    The Eagles’ receiving group in 2018 will have Jeffery, Agholor, Ertz and Mike Wallace.

    Is that better than what the Cowboys will display on Sundays?

    Yes.

    If you listen to Linehan, it appears he believes Austin could turn into a No. 1 threat, with Beasley taking on some of those characteristics too. He can run smoke routes, slants and get the ball out of the backfield. In other words, Austin will provide a little extra juice. The duo caught a combined 49 passes last year, but Linehan believes they are ready for a step up.

    “He’s Tavon, that’s what he is. He’s Tavon,” Linehan said. “He can line up anywhere at any time or place. He moves around the meeting rooms upstairs. Sometimes he’s going to be in the backfield, sometimes he’s going to be a receiver. We’re working a lot of situations right now, where we need the depth at receiver, more so than at running back because we work a lot of stuff, third-down situations, you might see. He’s going to be in a lot of unpredictable spots, to be honest with you.”

    The Cowboys don’t have a No. 1 receiver on the roster. It seems strange seeing how they’ve employed Joey Galloway, Miles Austin, Terrell Owens and Bryant.

    For over a decade now, somebody was the No. 1 guy.

    Now a bunch of twos and threes will get their opportunity to move up.
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

  • #2
    Alshon Jeffery is a number one if you use him like one and he stays healthy.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by shoop View Post
      Alshon Jeffery is a number one if you use him like one and he stays healthy.
      He is about as effective as a number one as Bryant would be at this stage. Very limited player. Luckily, the Eagles have a well designed offense to compensate.

      Comment


      • #4
        Since they're referring to Dez, he hasn't been elite for awhile now. He basically became an (unreliable) possession receiver/red zone target, a glorified TE labeled as a WR1. At least IMHO.

        Comment


        • #5
          #1 WRs aren’t chosen, they emerge because they’re the best option.

          Towards the end, Dez wasn’t even a good option for Dak. Maybe another QB, but not Dak.

          Spreading the ball around is fine so long as the offense is still able to generate at least three 25+ yard pass plays.

          If you can’t, then you suck and don’t deserve playoff success. Not unless you have a great defense.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by ravidubey View Post
            so long as the offense is still able to generate at least three 25+ yard pass plays.
            Over what span of games? A whole season? That seems damned paltry to me.
            defense wins championships

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by ravidubey View Post
              #1 WRs aren’t chosen, they emerge because they’re the best option.

              Towards the end, Dez wasn’t even a good option for Dak. Maybe another QB, but not Dak.

              Spreading the ball around is fine so long as the offense is still able to generate at least three 25+ yard pass plays.

              If you can’t, then you suck and don’t deserve playoff success. Not unless you have a great defense.
              Training camp should go a long way toward determining who is a likely candidate for the #1 WR spot.
              Since Day One

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by p1_ View Post
                Over what span of games? A whole season? That seems damned paltry to me.
                Each game!

                You have to do this to be considered elite.

                In 2016 the Cowboys were among the worst in the league at 25+ yard pass plays, which was a telling sign. Their leading the league in 10+ yard running plays masked their passing weakness.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by L.T. Fan View Post
                  Training camp should go a long way toward determining who is a likely candidate for the #1 WR spot.
                  Yeah, we're starting from scratch. If Dak can make this work, pay the man.

                  If the excuses continue to pile up, give him the Kirk Cousins treatment.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by L.T. Fan View Post
                    Training camp should go a long way toward determining who is a likely candidate for the #1 WR spot.
                    Hurns.
                    defense wins championships

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ravidubey View Post
                      Each game!

                      You have to do this to be considered elite.

                      In 2016 the Cowboys were among the worst in the league at 25+ yard pass plays, which was a telling sign. Their leading the league in 10+ yard running plays masked their passing weakness.
                      I think you meant to say 2017. We were tied for 3rd in the league in 2017 for number of games in which we had a 25+ yard pass play.

                      2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If you did mean 2016, we were middle of the pack.
                        2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ravidubey View Post
                          Yeah, we're starting from scratch. If Dak can make this work, pay the man.

                          If the excuses continue to pile up, give him the Kirk Cousins treatment.
                          You mean franchise?

                          Uh, no.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by boozeman View Post
                            You mean franchise?

                            Uh, no.

                            I think he means let someone else overpay him.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by boozeman View Post
                              You mean franchise?

                              Uh, no.
                              If we have no better options, sure, and you definitely eventually let someone else overpay him.

                              If Dak flounders this year with the OL and RB he has, then you have to conclude there's nothing special about him and draft/sign another QB.

                              Comment

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