OK, Dez Bryant calls himself the X-factor. He’s got the trademark hand signal that is becoming a fan favorite in the stands. When he gets introduced before the game, flashes his “X” symbol with the fireworks blasting off and the sparks to each side … it’s the closest thing the Dallas Cowboys have to Monday Night Raw.
So – Dez is the X factor and that’s what he’ll continue to call himself.
But when it comes to this offense, the real definition of the term might be better suited for another person. For everything Bryant is and will be for this offense, it’s starting to become a given. Teams know exactly where No. 88 is at all times. He’s the guy defensive coordinators are losing sleep over.
That’s a staple for this offense. But the true X-factor is now in the form of a 5-8, 175-pounder who is sometimes difficult to spot on the field.
Yes, Cole Beasley is becoming the real X-factor of this offense. He’s the wild card of this bunch, and one that can prove to be a real difference maker as the second half of the season approaches.
Make no mistake, no one is calling Beasley a better player than Bryant. Of course not. He’s still probably the fourth-best receiver on the team when everyone is truly healthy. And because of tight end Jason Witten in the mix, the fourth receiver is really your fifth option.
But in this world of “Empty Sets” and five-wide looks all around, your fifth option can lead to a first – as in first down.
That’s what Beasley has become. Nearly every time Tony Romo throws him the ball, it’s being caught, and usually for a first down.
Romo has thrown 20 passes to Beasley this year, and 18 have been caught for an average of 9.3 yards.
How much more reliable can you be than a guy who pretty much gives you a first down, not just every time he catches it, but every time you throw it to him?
Because he’s such a matchup nightmare, that’s what makes him the real X-factor. Teams have been forced to put a slot cornerback on Beasley but by doing that, especially in a five-wide look, it means one of the defense’s best cover corners is being relegated to the line of scrimmage, because that’s really where Beasley is doing most of his damage – 1-10 yards off the ball.
And, of course, we know what happens if they choose to match up Beasley with a linebacker. That’s a mismatch all day long, no matter what linebacker it is. He can’t cover Beasley and his quick feet.
Where the Dallas Cowboys have a done a nice job is making sure Beasley is off the line of scrimmage or slightly moving in motion so bigger defenders – wait, that’s all defenders – can’t get their hands on him and jam him at the line.
When it comes to running routes, Beasley is easily the best on the team. And he’s probably the most sure-handed guy on the roster. Then again, with his size, Beasley has to run the best routes and have the best hands.
Jason Garrett hinted on Monday that maybe it’s time to rest Miles Austin and his hamstring. And he can do that because of the emergence of Terrance Williams on the outside and Cole Beasley in the slot.
Dez is the man, no doubt. He’s a beast of all beasts. Sunday will truly be a showdown between the NFL’s two best receivers. This is a chance for Dez to show the world just where he stands against Calvin Johnson.
But in terms of an X-factor on the Dallas Cowboys offense, it very well might be Cole Beasley.
The Dallas Cowboys are back to a full eight-man practice squad on Tuesday, signing three in the last 48 hours.
On Tuesday, the club signed former Baylor wide receiver Lanear Sampson, who spent all summer and preseason with the Colts before being cut just prior to the regular season. Sampson played in all four exhibition games with Indy, catching two passes for nine yards.
Sampson joins college teammate Terrance Williams on the Cowboys’ receiving corps. Like Williams, Sampson is also a Dallas native (Mesquite) who spent five seasons in Waco, including a redshirt in 2008.
At Baylor, Sampson started opposite of Williams last year and had his best season of his career, catching 52 passes for 646 yards and six touchdowns, earning All-Big 12 honorable mention honors. Sampson not only finished his career with a 43-game reception streak, but ranked fifth in school history with 165 catches.
While the Cowboys sent wide receiver coach Derek Dooley and assistant receiver coach Keith O’Quinn down to Waco for the Baylor Pro Day mainly to scout both Williams, they were also impressed by Sampson, who ran a 4.35 time in the 40. He went undrafted but signed with Indy after the draft.
Sampson becomes the fourth Baylor wide receiver in the last three seasons to be on an NFL roster or practice squad, along with Williams, Josh Gordon (Cleveland) and Kendall Wright (Tennessee).
And the Cowboys now have eight players on the practice squad roster. Over the weekend, they had to waive receiver Jamar Newsome and guard Ray Dominguez because of an NFL rule that doesn’t allow teams to keep three-year practice squad veterans if the 53-man roster is not full. Since the Cowboys had only 52 players on the roster going to Philly, those two players had to be released to prevent from losing the ability to sign them back in the future.
After they cleared waivers, Jamar Newsome and Ray Dominguez were officially retained Monday. And along with Sampson, they join wide receiver Tim Benford, running back Davin Meggett, cornerback Micah Pellerin, safety Jakar Hamilton and quarterback Alex Tanney.