FRISCO, Texas – Hang on tight, we've got a lot of ground to cover, lot of Shots to knock out quickly, so we'll be going fast.
Especially now that the NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium is now a week away. Batter up.
- Just Be Honest: Lots of numbers floating around to diminish the career of Dez Bryant, it's as if folks are overly qualifying the Cowboys releasing their all-time leader in receiving touchdowns (73). You know, you can't always put everything into one big box and tie a bow on top. Sometimes you have to look inside. Like this: Over the past three seasons Dez has 150 catches for 2,035 yards (13.6 avg.) and 17 TDs. True enough. But should be pointed out he played only nine games in 2015, suffering the broken fifth metatarsal in the opener against the Giants and re-breaking it at the end of the season. Plus, he played only one game with Tony Romo that season. Entire offense struggled under eventual starter Matt Cassel. In 2016 Dez missed three more full games (fractured tibial plateau) and most parts of two others. So like five. Now when it comes down to it, those numbers come from playing 36 of a possible 48 games. And guess what, everyone's numbers were down in 2017. Cole Beasley goes from 75 catches to 36; Jason Witten from 69 to 63 and 113 fewer yards; Terrance Williams no TDs first time in five-year career; and Dak Prescott goes from passing for 3,667 yards to 3,324.
- Wrong Page: Then there is this notion Dez and Dak never were able to get on the same page. Well, let's page this: Once Dez recovered from that early-season knee injury, check this out. Over the final eight games (minus Philly 18 snaps) and adding Green Bay playoff game, Dez caught 43 passes for 646 yards (15.9 avg.) and eight TDs. Over first eight games of 2017, with Zeke on field, and Tyron Smith, too, Dez had 38 catches for 437 yards and four TDs. Add those together, and you have essentially a 16-game season with 81 catches, 1,085 and 12 TDs. Would you take it? So don't come telling me about any of this page stuff. Who knows, someone might have stolen that figurative page the final eight games of 2017, right along with the continued services of Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith? Come on now, be honest.
- Check Yourself: OK, one more since somehow these perceptions become truths. The Cowboys, with Zeke, are a run-first team, so you don't need that go-to receiver. Hmmm. In 2014, when DeMarco Murray rushed for a franchise-record 1,846 yards and 13 touchdowns, Dez Bryant had 88 catches for 1,320 yards (15.0 avg.) and a franchise-record 16 TDs. Dez also produced those final eight-game numbers in 2016 with Zeke piling up 815 yards over those same final eight games. Just sayin'.
- Why Not June 1? The Cowboys could have used their second of the two allotted June 1 release designations on Dez, meaning they would have spread that $8 million of dead salary-cap money evenly over two years, $4 million this year and $4 million next year. But in doing so, they would not have recouped his 2018 base salary of $12.5 million until after 3 p.m. June 1. They decided they wanted to have that money under the salary cap now, so took the extra $4 million hit this year. Hmmm, wonder what they have up their sleeve for that extra dough?
- Plan B: No, not the forerunner to today's form of free agency, but what are the Cowboys' plans without a true No. 1 receiver? Says COO Stephen Jones on 105.3 The Fan, "(Dez) was a No. 1 receiver, he was paid like a No. 1 receiver, you know, you don't replace that – probably (just) a half-a-dozen in the league that are truly No. 1s. But that's not the only way to go about having success. Obviously, we're not going to do it that way with the group that we have right now. There's a lot of teams that go about it with numbers, with different skill sets." Maybe the first true time this century since 2000, no Bryant, Austin, Keyshawn, Owens, Glenn or Galloway.
- Weighty Issues: You know, back in the day, like a month or so before the start of training camp, we used to talk about Pro Bowl guard Nate Newton going to the *fat farm, *so he could lose like 30 to 50 pounds. Well, it's not quite that, but defensive linemen David Irving and Kony Ealy have some poundage to shed. First Irving, who signed his $2.91 million restricted free-agent tender on Monday, has sprouted a little too much tummy for Rod Marinelli's liking. Same with free-agent signee Ealy, but maybe he has somewhat of an excuse. After the season he had shoulder surgery, and chances are you not going to see the fifth-year defensive end trying to jump-start his career in team activity until the start of training camp. Ample time to get back down to his 270-pound playing weight, which will enhance his dynamic first step.
- Tightening Up: Thought maybe it was the tailor-made, blue sports coat Dak Prescott was, how do they say it, rockin' Tuesday night at the Albertson's Companies All-Star Gala to present Emmitt and Pat Smith a Lifetime Achievement Award for their extraordinary community service. Looked trimmer. Nope, not just the coat. He was, saying he dropped like 10 pounds and wants to play at 230-235. Listed at 238 last year.
- Shorter Shots: Yea! Many of us will be able to plan out the rest of our lives for the year when the NFL releases the 2018 schedule at 7 p.m. (CT) Thursday on NFL Network. Betting against a Cowboys-Giants opener a fourth consecutive season and sixth time in the past seven . . . Congrats to Cowboys season ticket member Andrew Springate, chosen to be the Cowboys representative for next week's Ultimate Draft Experience at AT&T Stadium, along with 31 season ticket members from each of the other NFL teams . . . See where Cowboys 2013 second-round pick Gavin Escobar has moved on to his fourth team within the last year after the Cowboys chose not to re-sign him last spring. He's gone from Kansas City (released Sept. 2) to Baltimore (played in two games, released Nov. 18) to Cleveland for three months (released April 12) to signing with Miami on Monday . . . Former Florida State safety Telvin Smith impressed me during our Senior Bowl interview 2014, but further did so this week when emotionally introducing retiring Jacksonville teammate Paul Posluszny this week. Google it . . . Here's why unofficial NFL stats, ones not compiled by the league, are hard to trust. Four of these so-called stats services rated Dez' 2017 drops anywhere from five to 10. So subjective. Just like targets, and that's the last Shot I'll take on that.