Cowboys’ offense can overcome injury to Dez Bryant

QB Tony Romo will rely on other targets in the absence of Dallas' top WR.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Cowboys’ offense can overcome injury to Dez Bryant

While the Cowboys squeezed out a Week 1 win over the Giants, WR Dez Bryant suffered a broken foot that may keep him out of action for four to six weeks. Bryant is a major loss for a team that has a relatively tough schedule over the next month; how will the Cowboys adjust?

Bryant’s absence leaves Terrance Williams (-2.1 overall rating in Week 1) as the top target at wide receiver. In truth, however, the Cowboys will likely try and lean more on TE Jason Witten, WR Cole Beasley, and the rushing attack.

Cowboys OT Doug Free didn’t have the best game of his life against the Giants, but the offensive line as a whole played pretty well (83.3 grade in PFF’s signature stat of pass-blocking efficiency). OT Tyron Smith, in particular, was his usual excellent self, and two of the interior trio had perfect games in pass protection.

The Dallas backfield has been a source of much speculation all offseason, with armchair general managers looking to upgrade on RB Joseph Randle at any opportunity. Randle saw more action than any other Dallas runner carrying the football, but actually saw fewer snaps than RB Lance Dunbar; the two seemed to be splitting very defined roles. Dunbar was on the field for 32 snaps, but only one of them was a run; of Randle’s 28, 17 of them were on the ground. RB Darren McFadden chipped in with six carries on 10 snaps, but the fact that the Cowboys seem to have designated backs for passing and rushing is unusual.

Third-down backs are common enough throughout the league, but more often teams are looking simply to spell their top back to avoid tipping their hand.

Twitter’s favorite long shot, RB Christine Michael, was a gameday inactive for this week, but could be featured going forward. The bottom line remains the same — the Cowboys’ offensive line will block well enough for most running backs to be effective. Had Randle (-0.2) not fumbled in the game, he would have performed relatively well, and that sets the team up with a great platform for QB Tony Romo to move the ball in the air.

Losing a WR as effective as Bryant (No. 4 overall at the position in 2014) would be a major loss for any team; however, the Cowboys are well-positioned to be able to lean on their running game and work the passing game over the middle with a combination of Witten and Beasley, hitting Williams occasionally when the opportunity arises.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

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  • Tony Argo

    Once Michael gets the playbook down, maybe the running game can resemble Murray’s production.
    Tough sledding until then, as the injury curse of the big contract strikes again.

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