It is no secret that the Dallas Cowboys’ offense is stacked from their immovable offensive line, to second year stand-outs Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot. The one factor of the Cowboys’ offense that often gets looked past is their receivers, specifically Dez Bryant, Jason Written and Cole Beasley probably because of the fresh energy Prescott and Elliot brought in. They are by no means underrated but their ability to move the chains is often looked past.
What makes Bryant, Witten and Beasley so deadly is that they are very good at moving the chains on third down. Bryant is one of the more elite receivers in the league and because of that, he often gets doubled up by defenders leaving fellow teammates open as well as having reliable catching ability that lets Prescott trust him on a third down situation. Bryant leads the team this season with 212 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Written is one of the greatest tight-ends of all time and a future hall of famer. Witten’s entire career has been around making the important big catches. He was always a go-to receiver for Tony Romo on third-downs and he has also been that with Prescott at the helm. Witten is second on the team with 168 yards receiving and two-touchdowns.
Beasley is interesting because he’s a lot like a smaller, quicker version of Jason Witten. He is also a favorite target of Prescott’s on third down as his quickness allows him to get open on short routes and his elusiveness allows him to get yards after the catch. If its third and short, Prescott is looking immediately for Beasley in the flat and more than likely, he’s open for a first down. Beasley doesn’t quite have the numbers like Bryant and Witten because he’s not a down the field guy. His role specifically on the Cowboys is to be the go-to guy for Prescott on third down because he makes it so easy.
After last week’s debacle, it will be interestin
g to see what Damarious Randall does and where he’ll be mentally. He will most likely be covering Beasley, Terrence Williams and/or Bryce Butler. Kevin King will probably be responsible for Dez Bryant. Hopefully he will get a lot of help but he was left alone a lot when he covered Julio Jones and AJ Green so that can be concerning. Witten will probably be the linebackers and Josh Jones’ responsibility. The Packers have been very good so far, this season at not letting opposing tight-ends take over the game and they played the likes of Tyler Eifert, Zach Miller and Jimmy Graham. It will all be about the short game and third down that this defense will be tested the most.
The interesting stat that works in the Packers favor is third down conversion percentage for both the Cowboys’ offense and the Packers’ defense. The Cowboys only convert 38.5% of their third downs while the Packers only allow opposing teams to convert 36% of their third downs. With Elliot and even Prescott’s ability to run the ball, it is interesting that they have such a low third-down conversion percentage. With both defenses, not being the more elite of the NFL, converting third downs will be an important factor in the game on both sides of the ball.