Thursday, September 15, 2016

Gameplan - Feed Dez Bryant

Let's be clear here right off the bat:  Getting Dez Bryant the ball enough is not a Dak Prescott problem.  It is a Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan problem.  It always has been since the trio has been together and it seems like it is not really improving.   In fact, you could argue that whether Tony Romo was the man in the huddle or not, the amount of times the Cowboys use their most dangerous weapon has dropped substantially since it peaked at an average of 10 balls a game in 2013.   Since Linehan has taken over play-calling, the Cowboys throw the ball to Bryant an average of 8.2 times per game and just five times against the Giants to start 2016. 

And let's also be clear on this next point:  It is a problem.  You pay players elite money because you feel they win games for you.  When they gave Bryant a five-year, 70 million contract last summer, it was because they thought he compared favorably to the best receivers in the NFL.  This is why he has the second-best contract at his position behind Atlanta's Julio Jones. 
We know who the elite wide receivers are on an annual basis: With Calvin Johnson now dancing with the stars, that means Antonio Brown, Jones, AJ Green, Odell Beckham, and Dez are those in the top handful.  Atlanta has been making sure Jones gets 12.6 targets a game.  Antonio Brown is at 11.7 in Pittsburgh.  Even Beckham is at 10.6 targets a game, even though he is only starting his third season.  AJ Green is the only contemporary down near Bryant at 8.7.  Even Houston's DeAndre Hopkins, who has had multiple poor QBs, is force-fed 10 times per game.
Linehan, as you might recall, was brought in for his ability to maximize the value of "Megatron" in Detroit.  His last two seasons with the Lions, Calvin Johnson was being fed 12 times a game. 
Now, in the days following the Giants game where Prescott took multiple shots to Bryant down the field, we are wondering why the total of his workload was just five balls out of the 43 pass attempts from the rookie QB.  And almost all of them were on the repeated "Go" routes down the field.  Bryant needs to bring in the catch in the end zone that review nullified and there was another few jump balls that uncharacteristically, he didn't win, but Sunday was not his day.    
Additionally, nobody wants to hear about the coverage.  Bryant sees nothing that those other receivers don't see in the secondary.  In fact, with this ferocious running game, he should often see less. 

The point is that he needs to be used in every way possible to affect the game all over the field.  The plays he makes in the middle of the field bring stress to any defense and we didn't see any of that in the opener.  Instead, the middle of the field was exclusive property of Jason Witten and Cole Beasley who combined for 26 targets.   They all serve important roles, but there is a reason the Cowboys decided to give Bryant $70 million.  That same reason should be why they are demanding that Linehan and Garrett figure out how to get the ball to their star at rates similar to his contemporaries. 
It is difficult to imagine 75 plays with only five going to Bryant.  Let's not let it happen again.

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