We will begin breaking down each positional unit in the coming weeks. Today, we look at wide receivers.
A lot of talk has been centered around how the Cowboys are going to pay their stars that are up for new contracts, most notably quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper. Dak will command at least $30 million, while Cooper himself is also hoping to cash in on a big pay day for his efforts.
Right now though, the two are under contract for the 2019 season, which is the good news. Prescott and Cooper built a strong connection over the second half of the season, especially against the likes of divisional rivals Philadelphia and Washington.
Cooper is not the only receiver that has built a strong rapport with Prescott. Michael Gallup showed flashes of his potential over the course of his rookie season. He will be needed to take the next step in order to replace some of Cole Beasley’s production.
Dallas also addressed Cole’s absence through free agency, inking a deal with veteran slot Randall Cobb — who they hope will be an immediate impact player. How does this position look heading into 2019?
The midseason trade for Amari Cooper appears to be one of the best moves that Jerry Jones has ever made. While the price of a first-round pick was a little high at the time, it proved to be worth it. Cooper changed the Cowboys from a team likely picking inside the top-15 to a playoff team that lost the round before Championship Sunday.
Amari opened things up for the entire offense from the moment that he arrived, providing Dak Prescott with a legitimate weapon through the air while forcing defenses to think twice about committing to a full box to stop Ezekiel Elliott. Games versus Washington on Thanksgiving (8 catches, 180 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Philadelphia in December (10, 217, 3) showed us the former top-five overall pick can completely take over games.
Amari Cooper is setting to the Eagles’ secondary! (Via @NFL) pic.twitter.com/X4l7vQLKnc— USA TODAY NFL (@usatodaynfl) December 10, 2018
There are reports suggesting that Cooper wants to be paid like the talent he is, and he certainly has an argument for that. For now though, the Cowboys are hoping that their star receiver picks up where he left off this upcoming season.
Cooper grew into a big-time target for Dak, but Michael Gallup had himself a solid season as well. The rookie turned it on as he grew more comfortable on the professional level, using his speed to get by opposing defensive backs. The connection between Prescott and Gallup was not always there, but when the two hit, it usually went for a big gain.
Gallup’s best performance of the season came in D.C. during the last game before Dallas traded for Amari, as the Colorado State Rams product hauled in three catches for 81 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown grab.
MICHAEL GALLUP roasting the Redskins defense for a 49-yard TD in week 7 last season #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/R04K9nQXAh— PirateLife Football (@PirateLifeFF) April 5, 2019
With another offseason under his belt, along with better chemistry with his quarterback, Gallup has an opportunity to make a jump in his second season.
Cole Beasley is off to Buffalo, but Randall Cobb is here. Cobb, the veteran receiver that spent his entire career in Green Bay, signed a one-year, $5 million deal and will look to take over in the slot this season.
Cobb has battled injuries throughout his career, specifically concerning hamstrings and concussions. Still though, Cobb is a player that can be productive when on the field and brings valuable experience to a young locker room.
It looks like Cooper and Gallup will be the two primary options in the passing game, but the 29-year old has a chance to be a contributor for Prescott. Here is what he was able to do in week one last season:
New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb with the 75-yard TD in the final minute in Week 1 last year— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) March 19, 2019
(Video: @NFL) pic.twitter.com/tyW6zfYV1e
Dallas is banking on Cobb replacing at least some of Beasley’s production in the slot. If he can stay healthy, Cobb has a real chance of doing just that.
Allen Hurns was the “big” receiver signing last offseason, as the Cowboys lured him away from the Jaguars in hopes of him finding his 2015 form in which he put together a 1,031-yard, 10-touchdown campaign in Jacksonville.
However, Hurns struggled adjusting in Dallas, and failed to eclipse 30 yards receiving until Week 7. In total, Hurns grabbed 20 passes for 295 yards and two scores. Some of that can be contributed to the lack of production from the offense as a whole prior to the move for Cooper, but he did not live up to some preseason expectations either.
Dallas opted to pick up Hurns’ option for 2019. The big question mark surrounding Hurns heading into the season is how he recovers from a gruesome ankle injury versus the Seahawks in the playoffs.
Tavon Austin is a versatile playmaker that can contribute in a number of ways — receiving game, run game, and on returns — partly why the Cowboys decided to trade for him last offseason.
Austin had an up-and-down season with the Cowboys — some big moments, some questionable ones, injuries, and some in between. Austin’s biggest play of the season with Dallas unquestionably came against the New York Giants in Week 2 when Dak hit him on a bomb:
Cowboys strike first in the Sunday Night game.— Daaaaaarrrryyl (@DFSBBallGuy) September 17, 2018
Dak Prescott finds Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown. Dallas up 7-0 earlier against the Giants #NFL pic.twitter.com/jgKzuEzaHN
Austin is entering the final year of his deal, and the Dallas Cowboys drafted a player with a similar skill-set in Tony Pollard. What does this mean for Austin and his future in Dallas? That is a question, but the speedster should provide a quality playmaker for Kellen Moore to work with in 2019.
Other receivers that will be battling for potential spots on the roster include 2018 sixth-round draft pick Cedrick Wilson, wideouts that have been on the roster previously in Noah Brown and Lance Lenoir, and 2019 undrafted free agents Jon’Vea Johnson (Toledo) and Jalen Guyton (North Texas).
It is debatable where the Cowboys’ receivers rank in the NFC East, but it would be insane to argue that the position does not look much prettier right now than it did at this point last offseason. Amari Cooper has the tools to be a star in Dallas, Michael Gallup looks primed for a rookie-to-sophomore jump, and Randall Cobb is a veteran wideout that can still make plays in the slot.
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