Hall of Fame quarterback and FOX NFL analyst Troy Aikman doesn’t know how the Dallas Cowboys passing game will fare this season with their overhauled receiver corps under new position coach Sanjay Lal.
But his concerns have nothing to do with the absence of Dez Bryant, the team’s all-time leader in touchdowns receptions who remains unemployed after being released by the Cowboys in April.
Bryant was a great player during his career with the Cowboys but he wasn’t much of one last year, per Aikman.
“The Dez from 2017 I don’t think they will miss at all,” Aikman said during a conference with local reporters leading up his broadcast of Sunday’s season opener between the Carolina Panthers. “No matter who they got coaching the receivers. I don’t think Dez was threat for most, it not all of last year. When you get one on one looks, no matter who you are as a receiver,, that is what you are looking for as a quarterback. And if you can’t beat defenders one on one then you simply can’t play in the NFL.”
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The Cowboys overhauled receivers corps features the veteran additions of Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson and Tavon Austin and rookie third-round pick Michael Gallup to go with holdover Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams.
The Cowboys are touting the added speed and versatility of the group because they all can line up at different positions. Aikman said the Cowboys will start finding out what they have at receiver starting Sunday against the Panthers.
But he believes the Cowboys are on the right track with Lal heading into the 2018 season because they are getting back precise route running, which the foundation of an offense that dates back to when he won three Super Bowl titles in Dallas in the 1990s with coach coach Jason Garrett as his backup quarterback for the last two.
Aikman said a lot of Garrett believes came from Norv Turner, who was the Cowboys offensive coordinator from 1991-1993 and is now the Panthers offensive coordinator and Ernie Zampese, who placed him in Dallas.
And they were taught that the primary point of the passing game was for the receivers to be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there.
Aikman said the Cowboys receivers, led by Bryant, didn’t do that consistently in 2017.
“I think last year I think the Cowboys got away from that a little bit quite honestly,” Aikman said. “I think some of the principles within the scheme, precise route running I think they got away from. It seems with Sanjay coming in there is more of an emphasis on the art of running routes. I think that is important.”