The Cowboys don’t have a prototypical “No. 1 receiver.” We’ve known that since training camp.
We’ve since discovered that they don’t even have any real threat in the passing game – running back Ezekiel Elliott is their most-targeted player through the air – but that’s a different story.
Many have deemed the dismissal of Dez Bryant earlier this year as a puzzling choice, given the lack of options behind him at receiver. And, yes, some are making the fruitless call for a reunion between Bryant and his employer of eight years.
If you ask Jerry Jones, though, that wouldn’t solve the “No. 1 receiver” issue.
In his weekly radio interview on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday, Jones said the Cowboys haven’t had a “true” No. 1 receiver in “several years.”
Jones’ definition of a “true No. 1 receiver” is an elite class. He pointed to Houston Texans star wideout DeAndre Hopkins – who delivered the dagger with a superhuman 49-yard play in overtime Sunday – and Atlanta’s Julio Jones as examples.
“A true No. 1, you saw one the other night. Every team doesn’t have a true No. 1 receiver,” Jones said. “When you put it in that class – those guys that just absolutely can change the ballgame – that hasn’t been our case for several years. Not a true No. 1.”
Jones deflected a follow-up question about whether Bryant fit the description of a No. 1 receiver.
Bryant, who is still unemployed, led the league in touchdowns and was top-10 in receiving yards in 2014, but hadn’t topped 838 yards in the three years since.
He addressed Jones' comments on Twitter Tuesday afternoon, saying "Jerry is right." Bryant referred to former Cowboys tight end Jason Witten as the No. 1 target during his tenure in Dallas.
"As a receiver playing for the Dallas Cowboys your mind have to be right because you will never see targets like [Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Jr. or DeAndre Hopkins] none of those guys," Bryant wrote. "I was never schemed into things I made things happened through out my career I’m mr 73.. they had J Witten as our #1 so Jerry is right."
The "Mr. 73" is a nod to Bryant's franchise-record 73 receiving touchdowns with the Cowboys.
For what it's worth, Bryant was targeted 909 times in his eight years with the Cowboys. Witten saw 879 targets in that same time frame (2010-2017).
Of the 2018 receiving corps, which has combined for just three touchdowns and three plays over 20 yards through five games, Jones said the Cowboys “have guys who can make plays.”
“We do have a number of receivers and each one of them brings something to the table for us,” he said.
In a potential nod to the need for help, Jones acknowledged earlier in the interview that it’s difficult to add players after the start of a season.
“You can’t go out and remake your team personnel-wise,” he said.
Listen to Jerry Jones' interview on 105.3 The Fan below or here.
Jerry in Dak’s corner
Jones was asked whether Dak Prescott, who is averaging just 172 yards per game with just five touchdowns and four interceptions, is playing well this season.
Jones unabashedly backed the third-year pro.
“He did some things that kept us in that game [Sunday]. I’m firmly in the corner that we’ve got a quarterback that we can build with and have for years to come in Dak Prescott,” he said. “Make no mistake about it.”
Clarifying his stance on the decision to punt
The Cowboys owner made headlines Monday for seemingly questioning the decision to punt the ball on 4th-and-1 at the Texans’ 42-yard line in overtime. “It’s time for risks” in that situation, he told reporters late Sunday night.
He walked back those comments a bit Tuesday morning, saying he didn’t want to second-guess his head coach.
“There really are good arguments on both sides of the ball about what to do or what not to do there,” Jones said. “We know how it works – if it pans out for you, you get a lot of pats on the back [...] that’s what you’re paid to do is make those hard calls.”
He said he and Jason Garrett had a “good visit” about the punt call Monday.
For context on the decision: In the last 18 years, teams faced with similar 4th-and-1 situations in the fourth quarter or overtime have elected to go for it 72.5 percent of the time, according to Pro Football Reference. Those teams have converted 43 of 66 times in that span – a 65 percent clip.
Fifty percent of the time, NFL teams have elected to run the ball in that situation.
And, since 2016 – when Dak Prescott and Elliott joined the team – the Cowboys have converted 18 of 20 attempts on 4th-and-1 or 4th-and-2.
“On either decision, a big play – a real bad play – ruins the strategy,” Jones said Tuesday. “That’s exactly what happened. We made a bad play and they made a great play.”