Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys and Josh Wilson #26 of the Washington Redskins at Cowboys Stadium on November 22, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.
As much as it seems like the Cowboys have changed this offseason, there’s a decent chance that they’ll head into the 2013 season with just one new starter on offense in rookie Travis Frederick. So while there are certainly high hopes surrounding the offense this year, not much has been altered on the unit that finished 15th in points, 10th in net-YPA passing, and 30th in YPC rushing.
So what can the Cowboys do to improve this year? Well, I think they’ll be a superior squad simply because Tony Romo probably won’t throw 19 interceptions again. Risk-taker or not, Romo averaged only .68 interceptions per game in the three seasons prior to 2012 before totaling nearly twice that last year. If Romo is closer to 10 picks than 20, the Cowboys will be a dramatically better offense.
Outside of a regression of volatile stats like interceptions, there are some other things the ‘Boys can do to improve on offense in 2013. I’ll take you through some of them over the next week or so, starting today with something we all want to see: more deep passes to Dez Bryant.
Before the 2012 season, I wrote the following in my article Dez Bryant Will Be True No. 1 in 2012:
Over the past two years, only 18.7 percent of Bryant’s targets came on passes that were thrown 20 or more yards. The playmaker has ranked only 51st and 54th in deep target rate over the past two years, according to Pro Football Focus. With Bryant’s undeniable ball skills, it’s a guarantee you’ll see his deep ball rate increase in 2012.
And Bryant’s deep ball rate did increase. But only after the first three games (during which Bryant saw only one deep look). It’s no wonder it took Bryant a few weeks to break out. After it was all said and done, Bryant still ranked just 45th in the NFL in deep target rate in 2012. That’s not going to cut it.
So the top way the Cowboys can improve offensively in 2013 is to get the ball to Bryant deep pretty much any time he sees single coverage. He’s that good at fighting for the ball; he caught 50 percent of his deep looks in 2012—the second-highest mark for anyone with as many targets as him. Bryant’s 491 yards and five scores on deep touchdowns ranked him fourth and second in the NFL, respectively.
Simply put, Bryant is perhaps the NFL’s premiere receiver in terms of making catches in jump-ball situations. If he doesn’t see at least a 25 percent deep target rate in 2013—a number that would still rank him outside of the top 10—it will be a travesty.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.