FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys' offense broke loose in a big way last Sunday against Jacksonville, and Cole Beasley was at the center of the resurgence.
The veteran receiver caught his first two touchdowns of the year, and his nine receptions for 101 yards were his best single-game totals since Week 9 of the 2015 season. Through six games, he now leads the team in all major categories: 26 catches for 294 yards and two scores.
Beasley's role in the 40-7 blowout win likely got the Washington Redskins' attention. But he says he'll keep the same approach play to play, no matter how he's defended in Sunday's pivotal NFC East matchup.
"I can't control what they do," he said Wednesday. "All I can do is be ready to make plays when I'm called upon. I'm going to run routes fast regardless.
"I can't get into a game to where I'm thinking too much, or else I won't play as well. I've gotten into that before after the '16 season and I think the beginning of last season. That kind of messed with me a little bit."
Beasley had a career 75-catch season in 2016, Dak Prescott's first year as the starting quarterback, and quickly became a go-to option in the passing game. But his 2017 catch total dropped by roughly half (36) with no more than 4 receptions in a single game. Defenses game-planned to contain him more than ever, often bracketing him in coverage.
When the Jaguars tried to cover Beasley with only one defender last Sunday, they paid for it. In the second half they started sending a linebacker in his direction, though he still caught three more passes after halftime.
Most importantly, Beasley made drive-sustaining plays. His seven catches on third down tied several NFL receivers, including Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison, for the most in a single game by any player since the research became available in 1991.
"Last week you saw him in rare form," running back Ezekiel Elliott said. "You could see the look in his eyes, you could tell the way he was running his routes that he was just in a rhythm. I don't think it mattered who was guarding him at that point. He was definitely in a zone."
It was easily the best production from the Cowboys' revamped receiver group in 2018. If the Redskins try to take Beasley out of the equation this Sunday, others will have to step up. Protection and well-placed throws will be key, too. Inconsistency from all areas at different times have contributed to the offense's struggles in three road losses this season.
Beasley is focused solely on his assignments first, not allowing him to get frustrated by what the defense might be doing.
"That's probably been the biggest change for me this year," he said. "I owe a lot of that to (new receivers coach) Sanjay (Lal) and the mentality that he's brought into that room. You get satisfaction out of winning your routes whether the ball comes or not."
Good things happened last week. Beasley and the offense want to keep that momentum going.