Throwing up the ‘X’—it’s Dez Bryant’s trademark touchdown celebration that fans have enjoyed mimicking for years now. When Bryant broke his foot during Week 1 of the 2015 season against the New York Giants, the season outlook for the Cowboys took a swift turn for the worse, a problem that was only compounded when Tony Romo fractured his collarbone the following week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Throughout the entire season, the injuries only lingered for these two faces of the franchise, and the Cowboys ended up finishing with a measly 4-12 record. The correlation was clear—no Romo and Bryant, no ticks in the win column.
This year, however, is a completely different story. Both Romo and Bryant are currently out again with injuries, but Cowboys fans have many reasons to remain optimistic this time around. The Boys currently sit atop the NFC East, winning their previous four games with their two beloved Rookie of the Year candidates, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot, leading the charge.
Nevertheless, there is still an obvious void in the passing game with the absence of Bryant, a receiver consistently tabbed as one of the best in the league.
Enter Cole Beasley, a fifth-year man out of SMU who joined the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2012. Only to be overshadowed by Bryant and fellow wideout Terrance Williams, Beasley has flown under-the-radar during his stint with the Cowboys but still has never failed to put up reliable numbers for the offense.
Beasley has mastered his craft as a slot receiver, lining up inside the numbers and always running short-yardage slant, out, or button hook routes. As a result, he has drawn comparisons to Wes Welker, a former standout slot receiver who played alongside Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, for his ability to dissect coverage and adjust his routes accordingly. Beasley has showcased on numerous occasions his capacity to both secure a pass and subsequently sustain a treacherous blow from a patient defender waiting to deliver one.
In two games without Bryant, Beasley amassed seven receptions for 119 yards and one touchdown. By no means are these gaudy numbers, but they are a testament to his dependability in the slot. Just last game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Beasley bailed out a flustered Prescott as he was escaping the pocket and ended up hitting pay dirt because of it.
As of right now, Bryant is back at practice this week and is eyeing a possible return against the Green Bay Packers this Sunday. However, his injury situation last season is important to note when considering his return. Bryant was out six weeks following his initial foot injury and returned Week 8 of the 2015 season against the Seattle Seahawks. He played the next eight weeks but never performed like vintage Dez Bryant. The foot injury remained, and an ankle injury further aggravated his recovery process. With the Cowboys’ season being a lost cause either way, Bryant was placed on season-ending IR with two weeks left in the season. Again, this timeline is significant because history can very well repeat itself with Bryant exacerbating the hairline fracture in his right knee.
By no means will Bryant for sure reinjure his knee, but preparations need to be made if the situation does indeed present itself. If this is the case, the Cowboys will be in very good hands with the flashiness of Williams and, more importantly, the reliability of Beasley.
Photo: Ron Jenkins (AP Photo)