OK, so I know Dez Bryant calls himself the X-factor. He's got the trademark hand signal that is becoming a fan favorite in the stands. When he gets introduced before the game, flashes his "X" symbol with the fireworks blasting off and the sparks to each side … it's the closest thing the Cowboys have to Monday Night Raw.
I get it – Dez is the X factor and that's what he'll continue to call himself.
But when it comes to this offense, I think the real definition of the term might be better suited for another person. For everything Bryant is and will be for this offense, it's starting to become a given. Teams know exactly where No. 88 is at all times. He's the guy defensive coordinators are losing sleep over.
To me, that's a staple for this offense. But the true X-factor is now in the form of a 5-8, 175-pounder who is sometimes difficult to spot on the field. [embedded_ad]
Yes, Cole Beasley is the real X-factor of this offense. He's the wild card of this bunch, and one that can prove to be a real difference maker as we approach the second half of the season.
Make no mistake, I'm not calling Beasley a better player than Bryant. Of course not. He's still probably the fourth-best receiver on the team when everyone is truly healthy. And because of tight end Jason Witten in the mix, the fourth receiver is really your fifth option.
But in this world of "Empty Sets" and five-wide looks all around, your fifth option can lead to a first – as in first down.
And that's what Beasley has become. Nearly every time Tony Romo throws him the ball, it's being caught, and usually for a first down.
Romo has thrown 20 passes to Beasley this year, and 18 have been caught for an average of 9.3 yards.
How much more reliable can you be than a guy who pretty much gives you a first down, not just every time he catches it, but every time you throw it to him?
And because he's such a matchup nightmare, that's what makes him the real X-factor. Teams have been forced to put a slot cornerback on Beasley but by doing that, especially in a five-wide look, it means one of the defense's best cover corners is being relegated to the line of scrimmage, because that's really where Beasley is doing most of his damage – 1-10 yards off the ball.
And, of course, we know what happens if they choose to match up Beasley with a linebacker. That's a mismatch all day long, no matter what linebacker it is. He can't cover Beasley and his quick feet.
Where the Cowboys have a done a nice job is making sure Beasley is off the line of scrimmage or slightly moving in motion so bigger defenders – wait, I guess that's all defenders – can't get their hands on him and jam him at the line.
When it comes to running routes, I think Beasley is easily the best on the team. And he's probably the most sure-handed guy on the roster. Then again, with his size, Beasley has to run the best routes and have the best hands.
Jason Garrett hinted on Monday that maybe it's time to rest Miles Austin and his hamstring. And he can do that because of the emergence of Terrance Williams on the outside and Cole Beasley in the slot.
Dez is the man, no doubt. He's a beast of all beasts, and I think Sunday will truly be a showdown between the NFL's two best receivers. This is a chance for Dez to show the world just where he stands against Calvin Johnson.
But in terms of an X-factor on the Cowboys offense, it very well might be Cole Beasley.