Cole Beasley considers it a sign of respect. But the bottom line numbers still don’t make digesting it any easier.
One year after leading the Dallas Cowboys with 75 catches for 833 yards and being a primary target on third down, Beasley is almost a forgotten man at times with 30 catches for 228 yards.
Defenses are indeed playing him different to take away his bread-and-butter option routes underneath, forcing the ball to go outside.
And because the Cowboys only use him for underneath passes and rarely expand his route tree up the field, it has resulted in the most frustrating season of his career, according to Beasley.
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He hopes things will open up on the final four games and help make a difference for a Cowboys passing game that ranks 29th in the league. The Cowboys play at the New York Giants on Sunday.
But the Cowboys have to win more outside battles with Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams to help open things up again for Beasley in the middle of the field.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan acknowledges teams are simply playing Beasley differently after all the success he had last season working the middle of the field.
“One of the adjustments the defenses are using to stop the option route runners from attacking the middle of the field is they will give you front and they drop one of the down guys offs,” Lineahan said. “We call it prevent-man coverage. They are really rushing three guys at times. They are playing an outside hole player and an inside hole player for these option runners to stop some of the big chain movers like Cole. That is a bit of it.
“It kind of started midway through last year. And everybody is doing it now.”
So while its appears to the outside observer that quarterback Dak Prescott is ignoring Beasley and forcing the ball to Bryant on the outside, in this case perception is reality.
He is throwing more to the outside because that is where the coverage dictates he goes with the ball.
Bryant had 50 catches on 97 targets in 13 games last season. He has 58 catches on 110 targets in 12 games this season.
Comparatively, Beasley has 30 catches in 50 targets so far in 2017 compared to 75 catches on 98 targets a year ago.
“They have made it more challenging at times to get those option players who work the middle of the field,” Linehan said. “You got to disperse the ball to outside part of the field. That is what they are forcing you to do. They are giving us more looks on the outside part of the field this year.”
With temperatures hovering around 40 degrees in North Texas Thursday, the Cowboys practiced outside at The Star to simulate playing in those weather conditions.
Quarterback Dak Prescott tried to throw in gloves for the first time.
He took them off midway through practice, calling it a mistake and is prepared to go glove-free in the cold on Sunday.
“I always think it’s good to practice in the elements that you’re going to be in that week,” tight end Jason Witten said. “It allows you to prepare for it and go through it. But hey, it’s football. This is when it gets fun. If you can’t handle that, you’re not going to win many games and be playing in the games you expect to. I thought it was a good call by Coach (Jason Garrett) to put us out there in it.”
It was a break from the routine for the process-oriented Garrett. The Cowboys normally practice outside on Wednesday, but go inside The Ford Center for practice on Thursdays and Fridays.
“We are going to practice outside,” Garrett said before practice. “I think the weather is real similar today as to what it could be in New York based on what the reports are, so it just makes sense to be out there.”