OXNARD, Calif. – Earlier this offseason, the Cowboys made it clear they were going to try different ways to move Dez Bryant around in the formations. One of those moves involved him sliding inside to the slot.
But even more telling than trying to get the team's best receiver in different matchups was how they handled one Cole Beasley in that scenario. See, Beasley's best spot for his size and skill combination has always been the slot. And for the most part, that's where he'll be the majority of the time this year.
But as he enters his third season in the NFL, Beasley appears to be so much involved in this offense that he won't necessarily move off the field when Bryant slides around.
"I think it's something we're doing a little more of," Beasley said of playing on the outside. "I think we all know that I'm better when I'm inside. That's where my game is, working the middle. But it only makes sense to move Dez around and try to create mismatches. He's the best receiver on our team and one of the best receivers in the NFL. You've got to move him around, but hopefully they can find some ways to keep me out there, too."
And if the first week of camp here in Oxnard is any indication, the Cowboys will most certainly find ways to get Beasley involved. He wins the majority of his 1-on-1 battles no matter where he lines up.
If anything, he's won over the confidence of Bryant, who says there isn't anyone on this team that compares to him.
"Cole is a rare talent. He's very underrated," Bryant said. "He gets open and makes plays. I think he's going to have a great season for us. But he's a tough matchup for anyone. He's just another guy you have to worry about."
And there weren't many people who could've foreseen that scenario just two years ago, especially when Beasley left the Cowboys' training camp for a couple of days as he dealt with personal issues. While he's never publicly revealed the specifics he was dealing with that caused him to leave, he has admitted that he never knew just how much he had impressed the coaches already.
That's why the Cowboys immediately got in touch with Beasley and his agent, just to inform them how much they wanted him to return. After some time to contemplate his satiation, Beasley did return and the Cowboys welcomed him.
And the rest hasn't just been history, but it's better and better with each year.
Beasley had just 15 catches in 10 games played as a rookie, followed up by 39 catches last year in 14 games.
Now with Miles Austin no longer in the mix, Beasley is expected to be the No. 3 receiver behind Bryant and Terrance Williams. While he might split some reps when the offenses changes formations and adds players such as Gavin Escobar and Dwayne Harris, Beasley knows the more complete of a player he can become, the more snaps he will receive.
With the route-running and pass-catching already a strong part of his game, Beasley said improving his blocking skills is a must.
"That was my top priority this offseason," Beasley said. "It's not really about getting stronger. I'm never going to be a guy to go block a lot of linebackers. But it's all about technique and fundamentals. I know if I can be a complete receiver without a lot of holes in your game, they'll put you out there more."
Garrett said he's happy with Beasley's improvements this offseason.
"He's never going to be a devastating blocker – he's always been willing," Garrett said. "So that will be a mismatch we've got to be careful of, but he's I think definitely gotten stronger. That helps him when he gets into situations where he's trying to get away from press, where he can not only use his quickness but maybe use some upper body strength as well."
What Garrett is most concerned with regarding Beasley is his ability get open and make plays. That's what he did last season and that's what the Cowboys are expected from him again in 2014.
"If you follow his career, he's just been a guy who has always been able to make a play that makes a difference in the game," Garrett said. "We used him a lot in third down situations last year. It was pretty consistent that he was making some kind of play that would allow us to move the chains and keep that possession alive. I think he's getting more and more confident as a player. I think he's shown us that he can do more than just sit in the slot. He's played a [embedded_ad]
little bit more outside over the course of the spring. He's growing. He also loves ball. He has a very infectious personality. Quarterbacks love throwing to him."
And depending on how often and successful Tony Romo throws to him this year, it will certainly affect Beasley's future with the Cowboys or any other team.
As a restricted free agent, there will likely be a decision made on Beasley after this season. But that's certainly not something the wide receiver is thinking about right now.
"I can't do that because I know if I don't play well, it's not going to matter," Beasley said. "It would be pointless for me to worry about a contract. Sure it would be nice to have, but no one is going to pay me anything if I don't come out here and work my butt off to get better."