Clarence Hill: Antonio Brown not answer to Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver issues

Adam Hunger/AP
·4 min read

If we learned one thing about the Dallas Cowboys over the weekend, owner Jerry Jones needs to do something at wide receiver.

What else know is that Jones doesn’t need to do that.

The former involves the struggling play of rookie third-round pick Jalen Tolbert, who has been targeted since the draft as an immediate solution to the team’s woes at receiver.

The latter concerns receiver-turned-rapper Antonio Brown, who seemingly said good by his downward spiraling NFL career last year when he stripped off his uniform and walked off the field mid-game last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brown now believes his only hope to returning to the NFL is with the Cowboys and offered this to TMZ over the weekend, “Tell Jerry Jones to call me!”.

Don’t do it Jerry. Not that.

But it is becoming abundantly clear that the Cowboys need to do something at receiver.

And this is not just about Tolbert’s recent struggles.

He had a huge drop in the joint practice against the Denver Broncos before a roughing outing in the 17-7 preseason loss to the Broncos on Saturday night.

The Cowboys did their best to get him involved and grow his confidence with a team-high seven targets. But Tolbert caught only two passes for 10 yards and had a huge drop on fourth down.

“Just got in there too fast,” Tolbert said of the drop. “That’s something that I’ve got to work on. That’s a learning experience for me. I’ve got make that play. Next time it comes to me, fourth down or first down, I’m going to make that play.”

Tolbert said all the right things. And there is no question he is going to go back to work and improve.

But again, it’s not just about him.

Too much is being asked of the rookie from South Alabama to come in and be a main cog in the Cowboys receiver corps right away _ an issue that was exacerbated further when free agent addition James Washington suffered a fracture foot a week into training camp, sidelining him for 10 weeks.

The Cowboys needed help even before losing Washington.

They did little little in the offseason to make up for the losses of Amari Cooper (in a trade with the Cleveland Browns) and Cedrick Wilson (to the Miami Dolphins) in free agency.

And as much as the team likes what they have seen from Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko and undrafted rookie Dennis Houston in training camp, the Cowboys are heading into the season with CeeDee Lamb as their only proven option at receiver for quarterback Dak Prescott.

There is no real solace in the expected return of Michael Gallup from a torn ACL. That won’t happen until last September or early October.

And if the Cowboys are really being honest with themselves, they know that Gallup won’t truly be himself until December or January, if not 2023.

So right now it’s Lamb and a bunch of baby maybes.

Houston has been the biggest surprise of camp and he has been rotating with Lamb in the starting lineup along with Brown and Tolbert.

There is no doubt that Tolbert will get better. He is too hard of a worker and has too much potential not to improve.

Still, the Cowboys are undoubtedly on the look out for veteran options via trade, the waiver wire and free agency.

Will Fuller, Emmanuel Sanders, T.Y. Hilton, Odell Beckham Jr. and Cole Beasley are among the proving veterans still available and looking for jobs.

So is Brown.

Although the four-time Pro Bowler said in May that he was done with the NFL, that recent salvo to Jones indicates that he is open to returning to play for the Cowboys.

And while Jones has never been afraid of controversy, if it helps his team win, Prescott and the Cowboys don’t need or deserve this.

As talented as Brown is, he’s left every team who’s given him an opportunity with egg on their faces, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots and Buccaneers.

Before ending his stint with the Buccaneers in the third quarter shirtless against the New York Jets, Brown played in just seven games in 2021, partly because of a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols with a fake vaccine card.

Jones once took a chance on controversial receiver Terrell Owens after he wore out his welcome with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Cowboys got 38 touchdowns over 47 games in three years out Owens before Jones unceremoniously released with a message on table cloth with a black pen.

At least, Owens was in the prime of his career.

At 34, Brown is not the same player he was and thus not worth the trouble.

The Cowboys need to do something at receiver, just not that.