ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Cole Beasley doesn’t really hide his frustration over the perception that Dallas receivers are floundering as they try to replace Dez Bryant and retired franchise catch leader Jason Witten.
The dean of the Cowboys pass-catchers is never belligerent about it, but his message is always pointed — just as it was after the second 100-yard game of his career in a 40-7 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars .
“I know my worth,” Beasley said after getting the first 100-yard game for a Dallas wideout this season (101) while tying career highs with nine catches and two touchdowns. “There’s a lot of naysayers and a lot of people that are trying to tell me what I am, but it doesn’t mean anything.”
Ask him, and the seventh-year pro would say the same applies to the rest of the players in the receiver room.
But it’s not as if the criticism is without merit. Before the Cowboys (3-3) shredded the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense in the first half, their receivers had 604 yards combined in five games, with just three touchdowns.
Against the Jaguars, Beasley and rookie Michael Gallup combined for 106 yards in just one half. Beasley had his first two TDs of the season, and Gallup almost had the first of his career on a soaring grab when he couldn’t get the second foot down while sailing out of bounds.
“This just puts a lot of confidence in the wide receivers,” Gallup said. “We know we can make plays. Just throw the ball and we’re gonna go make the quarterback right.”
Beasley acknowledged that the receiving group wasn’t good in a 19-16 overtime loss at Houston, which dropped the Cowboys to 0-3 on the road before they beat the Jags to improve to 3-0 for the first time at 9-year-old AT&T Stadium.
Against the Texans, there were drops and several plays where receivers weren’t strong enough on routes. One of those led to an interception. Gallup’s catch against Jacksonville was contested on sideline, and Beasley kept getting open, showing emotion with each grab.
It’s exactly what Dak Prescott has been seeking from the group while acknowledging his misfires and protection breakdowns. And the third-year quarterback had a feeling he would get it — and will need more of it for the Cowboys to break their .500 pattern.
Dallas goes for its first road win Sunday against NFC East-leading Washington (3-2).
“He’s texting me last Friday night, saying he was taking care of his body and you could just tell,” Prescott said of Beasley, his most reliable target with Witten gone. “He was preparing to have a big game, and that is exactly what he did.”
Ezekiel Elliott had a quiet 100-yard day (106 yards with a touchdown) and lost his NFL rushing lead to Todd Gurley, who had a career-high 208 yards in the Los Angeles Rams’ win over Denver. Beasley knows the Dallas offense still revolves around its star running back.
“So it’s going to be tough to explode,” he said. “Where we can show our worth is just making plays when it comes our way. We failed to do that last week. It’s hard to play that way, but we’ve got to do it. That’s our job.”
The Cowboys have believed all along that they could win without a so-called No. 1 receiver since dumping Bryant, the club’s career leader in touchdown catches, in a cost-cutting move.
This group still needs more time to get comfortable with Prescott, who is also showing that his running is an important component for this offense.
The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year had the second-most yards rushing for a quarterback in franchise history with 82 against the Jaguars. His previous career high of 45 came in a Week 2 win over the New York Giants.
But the Cowboys will have to throw to get back to the playoffs after missing in the disappointing encores of Prescott and Elliott following their remarkable rookie seasons together.
“I’ve been preaching this all year, just pure execution,” Elliott said. “We have the best O-line in football. We have the weapons on the outside. Dak’s a great quarterback. But if we don’t go out there and play up to who we are, well then we’re not going to look like it.”
This win looked more like something to build on than the first two for the Cowboys.
NOTES: DE DeMarcus Lawrence, who was a half-sack out of the NFL lead going into the Jacksonville game, didn’t start and played a season-low 24 snaps while nursing a shoulder injury. He went without a sack for the second straight game after getting at last half a sack in each of the first four. … Coach Jason Garrett said LB Joe Thomas is likely to miss a second straight game against the Redskins because of a foot injury.
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