Over the past few years, the only real constant for the Dallas Cowboys has been their passing attack. With Mr. Automatic Jason Witten at tight end and the dynamic duo of Miles Austin and Dez Bryant at wideout, the 'Boys haven't really needed to worry about that aspect of the team. But maybe it is time to.
Sure, Bryant lived up to his pre-draft hype by putting up solid numbers last year: 63 receptions, 928 yards and nine TDs. He is going into his third season with high expectations on his shoulders. What about Miles Austin? He's only put up a mere 2,940 yards since his breakout year of 2009. And Jason Witten? He is almost a lock for 1,000+ yards and five TDs every year.
So what's the problem?
Besides Witten, both Austin and Bryant have yet to show that they can remain healthy for an entire season. They've been plagued with injuries since 2010 training camp, mostly with recurrent hamstring woes, and both can't seem to shake them.
It has been more of the same for Bryant, as a high ankle sprain kept him out for most of training camp in 2011 and a fractured ankle cut his 2011 campaign short. Throw in that Bryant injured himself once again during this year's camp and followed it with an arrest and possible suspension. When Jerry Jones gets involved in team relations, you better take notice. Especially when you're on "thin ice" with the team:
“I see much improvement in Dez in every respect. But he’s screwed around here and got his benefit of the doubt collateral down to nothing,” Jones said. “And he’s also very vulnerable. Now you’ve got to act differently when you’re in those shoes. He’s got to gain a bunch of that back. He can do it, and he can do it right on this football field. And I hope he does.” (h/t to Frank Ward of NFCEastTalk.com)
With all that said, you have a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity surrounding the receiving corps.
The Cowboys need to stock up and shore up on wide receiving talent and, more importantly, depth. According to Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com, the Cowboys and free-agent WR Plaxico Burress engaged in preliminary talks regarding signing the former star. As of right now, they were just talks. Burress has also worked out with the Patriots in recent days, but the Patriots don't seem as interested in him, as he is in them.
Burress, although no longer a star wide out, can still be productive and a big-time threat around the red zone. With the Jets last season, Burress corralled eight TDs, almost all of which, came in the red zone. During his career, Plax has accumulated 63 TDs total.
Not only do the Cowboys need help around the red zone (they finished 20th in Red Zone Scoring Efficiency last year, compared to the Jets second place finish), but their depth leaves much to be desired. Dallas currently has a positional battle for the three spot, with Kevin Ogletree, Danny Coale and Dwayne Harris going at it in camp. But who would you rather have? The young and inexperienced Harris, or the length and athleticism of Plaxico, going up for balls on opposing sides of the same dual threat in Dez Bryant?
Also, the pressure to perform in Dallas is higher than that of other cities, and by signing Burress, it would alleviate the tremendous weight off of both Austin and Bryant's shoulders. If they were to get injured, the team would still be fine with the amount of targets on offense. Witten hasn't missed a game since his rookie season in 2003, DeMarco Murray is expected to be back healthy and use his great hands to catch screens out of the backfield, and Plax would simply solidify the overall depth of the offense and provide veteran leadership to a team that lacks it.
If the Cowboys cannot find a solution internally, the way to go would be to sign Plaxico Burress. Not as a last resort, but because he'll be reasonably cheap, he's fresh (after two years out of football), and he would fill a need. He could conceivably move Austin to the slot where he would flourish as the speed guy, while the two behemoths (if Dez can remain healthy and out of trouble) go for jump balls and make corners look like middle schoolers.
Let's hope Burress brings his size and talent to Big D, where it is greatly needed. Although there is that Chad Johnson guy...
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