The Dallas Cowboys will have a new quarterback under center when they return to action in Week 7 against the New York Giants, as Matt Cassel will take the reins of the offense from Brandon Weeden. While it’s the right move after three straight losses, don’t expect a major uptick in fantasy production from the team’s skill players.
Nick Eatman of the team’s official site provided confirmation on the high-profile lineup change from head coach Jason Garrett. He admitted it’s too simplistic to place all of the blame on Weeden, but he still felt change was needed at the position:
We decided (Tuesday) to do this and spoke to both of the players. There are a lot of different reasons you make a decision like this. You evaluate the quarterback and what we’re asking them to do on a daily basis and weekly basis. Also at this position, you look at how the offense is performing and this position has an impact on the entire offensive unit. It certainly has an impact on how the team is performing. Sometimes it’s fair and sometimes it’s unfair but it’s the nature of the position.
Dallas acquired Cassel from the Buffalo Bills last month. He enjoyed success with the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs earlier in his career, but his performance over the past four years has been subpar. That’s why it’s still hard to trust the Cowboys’ stars in the fantasy realm.
Tight end Jason Witten has continued to receive a steady stream of looks despite Tony Romo’s absence. He has seen at least six targets in each of the past three games and has turned that into 15 catches for 155 yards. Those are only middling numbers, but it’s not a complete lack of production.
The biggest problem is a lack of touchdowns. The 13th-year player out of Tennessee found the end zone twice in the season opener with Romo leading the offense. He hasn’t scored another TD in the four games that have followed, though.
If you add a couple of touchdowns to his numbers from the Weeden games, that’s starter-level performance. It’s hard to imagine the offense as a whole becoming that much more efficient with Cassel leading the way, however.
Instead, the offense is likely to look quite similar after the quarterback change, which means a limited number of trips into the red zone. Considering that’s where Witten does most of his scoring damage, he remains a risky, fringe No. 1 tight end.
Wide receiver Terrance Williams is a deep threat who’s always had a lot of his value tied to the big play. The change from Romo to Weeden—and now Cassel—only magnifies that. He’s been targeted a healthy 18 times over the past three weeks, but only five of those turned into receptions with one touchdown.
That’s mostly because Weeden lacked the necessary accuracy on long throws, which led to a lot of incompletions when looking in the Baylor product’s direction. Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News passed along one example of that from last week against the Patriots:
Unfortunately for Williams’ fantasy owners, that’s not going to change with Cassel. He connected on 13 of 15 throws during the preseason with Buffalo, but he accounted for just 83 yards. Most of his attempts were of the short, safe variety.
Though that might give the Cowboys a better chance to control games, it doesn’t improve the receiver’s outlook. The situation makes it difficult to trust him with a limited number of deep balls expected.
All told, it speaks to the overarching theme about the quarterback switch from a fantasy perspective: Don’t expect much of a change from the Cowboys’ top targets.
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