Now we come to the most exciting position group for the Dallas Cowboys, Wide Receiver. When many analysts did their rankings on the top wide receiver groups or playmakers, the Cowboys ranked at the top or very close to it. That’s what happens when you have two 1,000-yard receivers and add at #17 the best receiver in the draft class who is a yards after catch monster. That doesn’t mean this group doesn’t have a few questions but wondering who the fourth, fifth and, if they decide to keep that many, sixth receiver is on a roster like this is a great place to be in.
Starting at the top with Amari Cooper who despite missing essentially all of the Jets game and being erased by defensive play of the year Stephon Gilmore, the weather and Jason Garrett’s play calling in New England, still put up 1,189 yards and 8 TDs with an average of 15.1 yards per catch, which means Dak is finding him downfield for some big plays. Football Outsiders ranked him third in DYAR, defense adjusted yards above replacement, at 324 yards. Even with the disappearing act he has pulled at different times last year, he still ranks as one of the best in the game. Pro Football focus ranked him 9th overall with an 84.2, which was the highest of Cooper’s career. The main area Cooper can get better his drops. Football Outsiders put his catch rate at 66%, which isn’t bad at all, but you would love to see that number closer to Michael Thomas’s league leading percentage of 81%.
The man lining up across from Cooper last year really broke out after being drafted in the third round in 2018. Michael Gallup put up 1107 yards and 6 TDs. Like Cooper he needs to improve on the drops. His catch percentage according the Football Outsiders was 58%, which if that can come up closer to where Cooper’s currently is, then he would become even more of a threat. While Gallup put up the stats PFF was not as kind to Gallup in their grades. They had him at 34th, tied with Golden Tate, with a grade of 74. (If a player is in the mid 70s and higher in PFF grades, that’s a solid grade.)
Considering how much emphasis was put on running the ball, it was interesting to see neither Cooper of Gallup had good run blocking grades.
What makes this group so exciting is the, for now, #3 receiver on this roster. It’s not often a team adds a guy who can do things like this to a roster that already has two 1,000-yard receivers.
The most interesting thing about Lamb will be how he is used in this offense. According to reports from practice, with the little people can actually talk about thanks to the NFL’s new rules, Lamb is lining up in the slot a lot. Randall Cobb had a solid season manning that spot last year, with 828 yards. I would expect Lamb to be able to produce at least that well. When the biggest story regarding a pick is if he will carry on the tradition of #88, you know the pick is a good one.
The whole there is only one ball statement always comes up when teams add more dynamic playmakers and to an extent it is fair. There should be more than enough targets to keep these three, as well as Zeke, happy. I expect to see Cooper, Gallup and Lamb on the field together in 11 personnel often. Gallup is the one I don’t expect to see operate out of the slot much, if at all. Putting Cooper there occasionally would give him great matchups and the space to use his amazing route running ability on a corner that probably isn’t the defenses #1 corner. It will be weird seeing a #88 being used in end arounds or reverses or even possibly bubble screens, but with Lamb’s after the catch ability it would be wrong to not get him the ball like that often. Cooper said it and Mike McCarthy backed him up that this team could have three 1,000-yard receivers and that is a definite possibility.
Now the guys who fill out the roster aren’t as exciting or a sure thing. The names to know are Jon’Vea Johnson, Devin Smith, Ventell Bryant, Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown. Who knows if the Cowboys will keep five or six receivers on this year’s roster, but that leaves those four guys fighting for two or three spots. Cedrick Wilson may have the edge in the race for the fourth receiver. There was some hype about him going into last season before injuries derailed it. According to practice reports he has developed some chemistry with one Rayne Dakota Prescott. Devin Smith is the former second round pick who flashed at times last year and he can definitely stretch the field with his speed. Johnson was the darling of last year’s training camp before he seemingly forgot how to catch the ball in the preseason games. Ventell Bryant was very good on a bad special teams unit last season and had one catch that went for a touchdown. When you are a number 4 or 5 receiver you will have to contribute on special teams. I think Wilson is almost a lock to be the fourth receiver. Brown was in a way considered a Garrett guy going into this offseason and you wondered if the new coaching staff would want to keep him around. According to those few people who are allowed to watch practice, he makes a play or two almost every day and his touchdown was about the only play we all got to see from the “scrimmage” that was televised. I think he is your number 5 receiver whenever the final roster cuts are announced.
Regardless of who ends up with the final two and three wide receiver spots on this roster, this group has improved from last season because of another year of development from Gallup and because of the addition of Lamb.
Briefly to the tight ends here since I covered in depth ways to use those guys in a previous article. Most if not all of the pass catching will be done by Blake Jarwin. I’m not sure he will be targeted at frequently as Jason Witten was last season, but I could see him doing a lot more damage with the ball in his hands. If we know one thing about Blake Bell, he is good for 8 catches for 67 yards, posting that exact stat line the last two years. Dalton Schultz remains a bit of a mystery what he will do, but I expect him to be named the third TE and, no offense to him there just shouldn’t be three TEs on the field often, he hopefully won’t see the field much. While he probably won’t make this roster, I am intrigued by what Charlie Taumoepeau could be down the line. He went undrafted out of Portland State. He ran a 4.75 and had a 4.27 20-yard shuttle at 6’2” 240 lbs. He played a kind of H back role at Portland State more than a true inline or flexed out tight end at all times. Hopefully McCarthy’s ploy of not putting names or numbers keeps this man hidden from other teams and the Cowboys can stash him on the practice squad for a season.
Next up the Offensive Line.