Potential landing spots for Dez Bryant
For the first time since Dez Bryant led the team in catches in 2011, the Cowboys will be transitioning to a new No. 1 wide receiver.
Dallas last week released the staple of the franchise for eight seasons and a player who collected nearly 7,500 yards and hauled in a franchise-record 73 touchdown catches.
The offense likely will continue to be centered on a power-rushing scheme, led by running back Ezekiel Elliott. But now, quarterback Dak Prescott will have his chance to put his stamp on the passing offense and the direction it takes. Most important, the Cowboys will look to establish a new top target.
The obvious in-house choices to play a bigger role are Terrance Williams, a 28-year-old target entering his sixth season with Dallas, and former Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns, who is 26 and signed with the Cowboys in March after Jacksonville released him.
Williams’ experience in Dallas’ scheme could give him an early edge for a bigger role than Hurns, but his inconsistency has been problematic. Neither has flashed the pure explosiveness and ability to overpower defensive backs that Bryant once displayed.
Holding the No. 19 overall selection in the first round, Dallas could look to the draft to fill the void at receiver. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley — a polished route runner and likely Day 1 starter — and SMU’s Courtland Sutton — a raw but tall (6-3, 218) and physical possession receiver — could both be targets.
The issue during the last three years of Bryant’s tenure in Dallas, including a shortened 2015 season in which he suffered a broken bone in his foot, was that he was simply far too inefficient. In 2017, Bryant ranked 12th in the NFL with 132 targets but caught only a shade more than half of them (69) for 838 yards.
In fact, Bryant’s catch percentage from last season (52.27%) ranked 103rd in the NFL, behind teammates Williams (67.95%) and tight end Jason Witten (72.41%), as well as Hurns (69.64%), who tracked down passes from Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.
The argument could be made that Prescott tried to force the ball to Bryant, a notably outspoken personality who demanded a high volume of targets. Regardless, when Bryant had the ball thrown his way in recent seasons, he did not do enough with those opportunities.
The passing offense now should flow more naturally and throws should funnel more freely to open targets.
The team banking on big gains out of Elliott in the rushing game continues to make sense as the offensive identity.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will have to find a new go-to No. 1 receiver after the team released Dez Bryant.