Dallas Cowboys need a youth movement at wide receiver

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 26: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with Dez Bryant
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 26: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with Dez Bryant /

The Dallas Cowboys wide receiver corps struggled against one of the worst defensive secondaries in the NFL Sunday night. It’s time for a shake-up.

This offseason, the Dallas Cowboys had a radical shake-up in their defensive secondary. Out were veterans like safety Barry Church and cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. In were rookies like safety Xavier Woods, and corners Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis.

Now, the Cowboys wide receiver corps needs a similar youth movement to shake-up their offense. And Sunday night’s game against the Oakland Raiders is a perfect example as to way.

Coming into the matchup, the Raiders’ defensive secondary was considered one of the worst in the NFL. As a group, they were only able to record two total interceptions all season prior to their Week 15 matchup against Dallas. That amount doubled after facing the Cowboys lackluster receiver corps.

One of those two interceptions could be blamed on Dallas’ number one wide out, Dez Bryant. The 29-year old stopped short on a route on the Cowboys first offensive series. Bryant apparently made a “business decision” with linebacker Navarro Bowman bearing down on him, slowed up in response which allowed the pass to be intercepted. The other pick was due to quarterback Dak Prescott getting hit in the pocket.

Prescott ended up competing 18 of his 27 passes for 212 yards and those two interceptions. But Dak was only able to connect with his wide receivers a total of seven times the entire game!

The second-year quarterback often had enough time to throw. There simply wasn’t anyone open against one of the league’s worst secondaries. And that’s been an ongoing issue all season for Dallas.

Whether it be a lack of speed, bad route running or a subpar coaching (probably all three), the Cowboys receivers often struggle to gain consistent separation from defenders. And that’s despite their bloated salaries.

The worst offender by far is Bryant, who has been targeted a ridiculous 118 times so far this season. That’s the 10th highest amount of targets in the NFL! But Bryant has only been able to catch 63 of those passes, which currently ranks him 22nd in the league (tied with two tight ends). That’s a depressing catch rate of 53.4%.

Throw in his $17 million salary cap value in 2017 (second highest for a WR in the NFL according to OverTheCap.com) and Bryant is being grossly overpaid for his services … and has been for years!

Terrance Williams signed a modest four-year, $17 million contract this offseason. And he continues to have up and down performances, recording 47 catches for 520 yards so far this year. But Williams has yet to score a single touchdown. His inability to separate from defenders and inconsistent hands are still his biggest obstacles.

Slot receiver Cole Beasley has faced a slew of double-teams this season, as the word is out on the diminutive dynamo. Last season, the “Bease” posted a career high 75 receptions for 833 yards and five scores. Through 14 games this season, the 28-year old has recorded just 34 catches for 302 yards and four touchdowns. It’s a steep decline for a receiver many had high hopes for. Now, it appears Beasley is nothing more than a gadget player.

As for the rest of the depth chart, Brice Butler has done his annual disappearing act after performing so well during training camp. Both Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown are solid rookies and give Dallas hope for the future.

Against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, this Cowboys wide receiver corps racked up a disappointing seven catches between them for a total of 101 yards and zero touchdowns. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree posted seven receptions himself, for 39 yards and two scores in the same game.

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With several talented players hitting the free agent market this offseason and many others being available in the upcoming NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys need to shake-up their old, stagnate wide receiver corps in the same way they retooled their defensive secondary earlier this year.