<
>

Do Dallas Cowboys really need Odell Beckham Jr.? Maybe not

play
Stephen A.: Cowboys scared they can't get it done without OBJ (1:38)

Stephen A. sounds off on the Cowboys' all-out pursuit of Odell Beckham Jr. (1:38)

FRISCO, Texas – The flirting has been going on for quite some time. Whenever Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is available, Odell Beckham Jr.’s name is brought up. Inside the locker room, players have been asked about the free agent receiver who is recovering from a torn left ACL suffered in February.

Everybody asked has said the same thing: They want Beckham to be a Cowboy.

“Odell could help us,” Jones said on Thanksgiving, letting everybody know he talked with the receiver.

Beckham is scheduled to meet with the Cowboys on Monday, and Jones said the receiver’s incident at Miami International Airport would not factor into the team’s decision to pursue him. He met with the New York Giants Thursday and is scheduled to meet with the Buffalo Bills Friday.

Before a decision is made, however, a question:

Do the Cowboys really need him? No. Seriously.

In the five games since quarterback Dak Prescott’s return from a fractured right thumb, the Cowboys’ offense is ranked No. 1 in the league in offensive points per game (32.4), points per drive (three) and third-down percentage (57.1%). They are second in red zone touchdown percentage (84.2%). No quarterback has a better completion percentage than Prescott’s 72.2%.

Prescott has connected with Beckham a couple of times.

“I’m confident in the guys we have,” Prescott said. “As I’ve told you, it would help us having a guy like that, but we’ve got some great players in that locker room. Some guys that are hungry. Guys that want to make plays. [Michael Gallup] is getting his feet back up underneath him. Noah Brown, who’s constantly reminding me of his matchup, what he’s got on the other side. I’m confident in the guys we have in this locker room. Odell could definitely help us, but for me, it’s about focusing on what I can control.”

It has taken the offense time to get up to speed in part because of injuries.

Prescott wasn’t the only regular to miss time. Gallup missed the first three games as the receiver continued rehab from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee suffered last January. Running back Ezekiel Elliott missed two games with a hyperextended right knee. Tight end Dalton Schultz missed two games with a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Left guard Connor McGovern missed two games with a high ankle sprain. Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith has not played all season because of a torn hamstring that required surgery, but he is close to returning.

“I think certainly continuity has a lot to do with it,” offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said. “Guys being able to spend time together, play together, practice together. Hopefully we continue hitting [and] the trend line stays where it’s at.”

Gallup has started to look like his former self. He had five catches for 63 yards against the Giants, which were season highs.

“Honestly it’s just I feel like I’m getting back to [being] 'MG',” Gallup said. “It took me a little bit, but just playing ball, quit thinking about everything. Quit thinking about my injury and stuff like that. Just playing ball.”

Lamb has two 100-yard games in his past three outings. His ascension to the No. 1 role has had some ups and downs, but he is on pace for 99 catches for 1,324 yards and eight touchdowns in 17 games. The last time a Cowboys wide receiver had that many catches and yards in a season was Michael Irvin (111, 1,603) in 1995 (before the NFL schedule moved from 16 to 17 games).

“CeeDee is giving us more production every week, every opportunity,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We need to stay focused there. He's delivering for us.”

So are the running backs, be it Elliott or Tony Pollard. So are the tight ends, known internally as the Four Horsemen: Schultz, Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot and Sean McKeon.

The results have been noticeably different. Against the Chicago Bears in Week 8, the Cowboys scored touchdowns on their first four possessions. Against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11, they scored on their first seven possessions. Against the Giants last week, they scored on their first three possessions of the second half, after a slow start. And it would have been four straight if not for a rare missed field goal attempt by Brett Maher. The Cowboys won all three of those games.

“I’m feeling pretty good about where we are as a team,” Pollard said. “The ceiling is pretty high for us with guys getting back, getting the chemistry back going, getting their feet back under them and just getting the timing together."

Last season, the Cowboys were rolling offensively in the first six games. They led the league in scoring (34.2 points), yards (460.8) and converted 46.6% of their third-down opportunities. Prescott had two 400-yard passing games and 16 touchdown passes, but he suffered a calf strain on the game-winning touchdown pass to Lamb that forced him to miss a game.

Whether it was the calf or opposing defenses figuring out the Dallas offense, things were not the same in the final 11 games despite some stat-padding in 50-point efforts against Washington and Philadelphia.

This year, the opposite appears to be happening with the Cowboys, even without a talent like Beckham.

"Momentum is such a huge part of this game, week in and week out, play in and play out. I think the biggest thing is when you have a game like we did in Minnesota, you'd like to capture that and put it in a bottle and all that stuff. That's not realistic,” McCarthy said.

“But those are emotional head spaces that you need to stay in touch with because to really grow you need those type of moments. I like the way our curve is going offensively. We're getting the ball ran, the touches to the running backs are there, the completion percentage the last three weeks, that's the way you want to play.”