Every year during training camp we hear stories about rookies leaving their team because the NFL can be a tough and overwhelming experience for a young player. And it’s not often that a team begs that player to come back to camp. But for Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver Cole Beasley that is exactly what happened.
Beasley left Dallas’ training camp in early August after he became discouraged with the challenges of the NFL. He wasn’t sure if football was in his future anymore. But just because a player leaves camp because they are discouraged, does not mean they don’t have a future in the NFL. Dallas Cowboys’ former starting cornerback and Super Bowl XXX MVP Larry Brown left camp because he didn’t think he was cut out for life the NFL. Jimmy Johnson reached out to Brown, much like Jason Garrett did to Cole Beasley. Both coaches were eventually able to convince their players to return to camp and continue their careers.
Fortunately for Cole Beasley, he came onto the scene where specialized players are in vogue. Beasley is strictly a slot receiver who has a knack for finding the soft spot in zone coverage and can quickly create separation near the line of scrimmage. A high percentage of Beasley’s catches came on third down, and eight of his fifteen catches resulted in first downs. I want to be clear about Beasley. He will never be a number one receiver, or for that matter even a number two receiver in the NFL. But that doesn’t mean he won’t have value for his team and that he can’t be a key piece in the offense. Beasley caught only 15 passes for 128 yards in 2012, so file this away as an incomplete scouting report of him.
Physical Attributes: At 5’8, Beasley is one of the shortest wide receivers in the NFL. But what Beasley lacks in height he makes up for in speed, quickness, and unreal vertical leaping ability. Beasley’s pro day results at SMU show that he ran a 4.49 forty yard dash and jumped 38 inches in the vertical. Both of those stats are greater than what Dez Bryant accomplished at his pro day. Make no mistake, Cole Beasley is a tremendous athlete, but his limited size will continue to be a hinderance in the NFL.
Blocking: Blocking will never be one of Beasley’s strength because of his small stature. When he is on the field, it is almost always because it’s an obvious passing down. He is a willing blocker, but he never moves defenders off the line of scrimmage. With Beasley being primarily a passing player, there is no real reason to use him in the running game as a blocker.
Hands: Beasley has soft hands, and doesn’t often let the ball into his body. I was really impressed by how Beasley makes the tough catch look routine. Multiple times he made spectacular one handed catches with little effort. Beasley is such a natural catcher of the football and does it with ease.
Running Ability With the ball in his hands, Beasley’s height actually helps him avoid defenders. Beasley’s low center of gravity allows him to make short, quick cuts. Beasley has a nose for the first down marker and he always seems to know exactly how many yards he needs for the first down.
Route Running/Separation: One thing that I noticed right away when scouting Beasley is that he is excellent in finding the soft spots in the zones and in man coverage. Beasley is strictly a slot player, so in order for him to have any success, he must be able to quickly read defenses. There were a few times where he incorrectly sat in the wrong zone and that is the fastest way to lose a quarterback’s trust. But what I did notice is that Beasley worked back towards the quarterback when the play broke down.
The following play is an example of Beasley using his terrific quickness and ability to read coverages to get open. On a 2nd and 3, Dallas is in hurry up mode as there is only 1 minute left in the second quarter.
This play is designed to be a “quick hitter” for Cole Beasley. Beasley has a one-on-one matchup with the nickel cornerback and Dallas is betting that he can win quickly off the line of scrimmage. Beasley has a route-option as he can either break outside or inside depending on the coverage. Tony Romo recognizes at the beginning of the play that the safety that is positioned over the top of Dez Bryant (highlighted in blue) will determine where he goes with the ball. If the safety jumps up to cover Witten or Beasley, the ball will be thrown to Dez on a deep slant. If he stays with Dez, the ball is going to Beasley on an inside route.
Beasley starts out by cutting to the outside. Once he sees the defensive back turn towards him and that the safety is sitting on the deep slant, he makes a quick cut to move back inside where the middle of the field is free. Tony sees this and looks off the safety before turning his eyes towards Beasley.
Beasley’s exceptional quickness allows him to separate from the defensive back and get himself open for Tony. Beasley catches the ball cleanly and works upfield for a 9 yard gain which is enough for the first down.
Cole Beasley isn’t going to be counted on as an every down wide receiver for Dallas. But they will need him on third downs where he excels at getting open quickly against nickel cornerbacks for short gains. Where his career goes from here is anyone’s guess, but I’m willing to bet he will be a serviceable slot player for the Dallas Cowboys.