I didn’t have a problem with the decision to cut Dez Bryant loose. I think he’s lost some speed and effectiveness. But he didn’t cause all of the stink down in Dallas. A lot of other guys on that team have struggled as well.
Terrance Williams, for one, went all of last year without catching a touchdown pass. He averaged over 16 yards per catch in each of his first three years. In the last two years, he’s averaged only 13.5 and 10.7. He seemed to have a much better rapport with Tony Romo.
Cole Beasley tends to get trumpeted as possibly becoming another Wes Welker, but he really struggled last year. In 2016, he caught almost 77 percent of the passes thrown his way, best of any wide receiver in the league. Last year he caught only 57 percent of his targets. By my count, that ranked him last among slot receivers who were used much at all.
Numbers for those two years are below. Wading into which guys are slot guys and which guys play outside is subjective in some cases. Nowadays there are some big guys who play a lot out of the slot – JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Thomas, Jordan Matthews in 2016. On these charts, I tended to try to stick to the very much slot-looking guys (and I’m showing only players with at least 50 targets.
But whoever you want to list, Beasley went from being very good to very bad.
|CATCH RATES FOR SLOT RECEIVERS (2016)|
|Cole Beasley, Dall.||98||75||833||11.1||5||76.5%|
|Mohamed Sanu, Atl.||81||59||653||11.1||4||72.8%|
|Eli Rogers, Pitt.||66||48||594||12.4||3||72.7%|
|Jarvis Landry, Mia.||131||94||1,136||12.1||4||71.8%|
|Randall Cobb, G.B.||84||60||610||10.2||4||71.4%|
|Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.||150||107||1,023||9.6||6||71.3%|
|Anquan Boldin, Det.||95||67||584||8.7||8||70.5%|
|Willie Snead, N.O.||104||72||895||12.4||4||69.2%|
|Jamison Crowder, Wash.||99||67||847||12.6||7||67.7%|
|Golden Tate, Det.||135||91||1,077||11.8||4||67.4%|
|Tyler Boyd, Cin.||81||54||603||11.2||1||66.7%|
|Adam Humphries, T.B.||83||55||622||11.3||2||66.3%|
|Sterling Shepard, NYG||105||65||683||10.5||8||61.9%|
|Julian Edelman, N.E.||159||98||1,106||11.3||3||61.6%|
|Andrew Hawkins, Clev.||54||33||324||9.8||3||61.1%|
|Albert Wilson, K.C.||51||31||279||9.0||2||60.8%|
|Marqise Lee, Jac.||105||63||851||13.5||3||60.0%|
|Jeremy Kerley, S.F.||115||64||667||10.4||3||55.7%|
|Quincy Enunwa, NYJ||105||58||857||14.8||4||55.2%|
|Seth Roberts, Oak.||77||38||397||10.4||5||49.4%|
|CATCH RATES FOR SLOT RECEIVERS (2017)|
|Golden Tate, Det.||120||92||1,003||10.9||5||76.7%|
|Adam Humphries, T.B.||83||61||631||10.3||1||73.5%|
|Randall Cobb, G.B.||92||66||653||9.9||4||71.7%|
|Trent Taylor, S.F.||60||43||430||10.0||2||71.7%|
|Danny Amendola, N.E.||86||61||659||10.8||2||70.9%|
|Sterling Shepard, NYG||84||59||731||12.4||2||70.2%|
|Mohamed Sanu, Atl.||96||67||703||10.5||5||69.8%|
|Jarvis Landry, Mia.||161||112||987||8.8||9||69.6%|
|Albert Wilson, K.C.||62||42||554||13.2||3||67.7%|
|Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.||161||109||1,156||10.6||6||67.7%|
|Seth Roberts, Oak.||65||43||455||10.6||1||66.2%|
|Cooper Kupp, LAR||94||62||869||14.0||5||66.0%|
|Nelson Agholor, Phil.||95||62||768||12.4||8||65.3%|
|Kendall Wright, Chi.||91||59||614||10.4||1||64.8%|
|Jamison Crowder, Wash.||103||66||789||12.0||3||64.1%|
|Cole Beasley, Dall.||63||36||314||8.7||4||57.1%|
Anyway, we can’t pin all of this on Dez Bryant, or even on only the pass catchers. Dak Prescott also has to shoulder some of the blame. He was a good game manager as a rookie, when the Cowboys were steam-rolling everyone and he was standing in clean pockets with all day to throw. When Ezekiel Elliott got suspended last year, it became more apparent that Prescott is very much a young quarterback who’s not really there yet. He’s not comfortable throwing into tight windows or unloading the ball before guys have come out of their breaks. He wants to throw to guys who are wide open, but there are lots of backup quarterbacks around the league who can move an offense when afforded that kind of luxury.