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Cowboys have an elite wide receiver group - and they’ll need it

Sometimes a QB elevates his receivers. Now, they need to lift Andy Dalton.

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys
He had not one, but two of the biggest catches of the day, back to back.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It is obviously a tough time for the Dallas Cowboys. With Dak Prescott out and not returning until after the season ends, things just got even harder than they were. Before the New York Giants game, they had dug themselves a 1-3 hole that was already going to be difficult to climb out of. Now, they have to rely on Andy Dalton to captain the ship.

However, he did a pretty good job taking the helm, leading a fourth quarter comeback to win that game and get Dallas to 2-3 and first place in the admittedly woeful NFC East. And he had one true source of help, one that will be even more important than it already had become. That is the rather incredible wide receiver group for the Cowboys.

A quick look at the numbers to date show that they have about as deep and talented a group as any team in the league. According to the up-to-date numbers from ESPN (which don’t include the Monday and, uh, Tuesday night games) their top four wide receivers are ranked like this among all receivers:

  • 5 CeeDee Lamb 433 yds
  • 6 Amari Cooper 429 yds
  • 18 Michael Gallup 348 yds
  • 89 Cedrick Wilson 163 yds

That is pretty strong. Having three top 20 receivers, plus another one playing at a level that would be decent for a WR3, is not something you see very often. The Cowboys also have Dalton Shultz sitting at 46 with 225 yards, which is sixth among all tight ends, and Ezekiel Elliott’s 173 yards have him tied for 79th on the overall list, the fourth highest running back.

Those are, to an extent, volume stats in an offense that has been forced to throw a lot due to the way games have gone so far. While still impressive, it is important to look at other measures, such as yards per catch. That also has some good news, at least at the top of the Cowboys’ group.

  • 2 Michael Gallup 20.5 yds/catch
  • 28 CeeDee Lamb 14.9 yds/catch
  • 44 Cedrick Wilson 13.6 yds/catch
  • 89 Amari Cooper 10.9 yds/catch

That may be a more important set of numbers. Gallup in particular has become a true long-ball threat. And his average got a boost from the last pass of the game yesterday, the 38-yard pass and outstanding reception from Dalton to set up the game-winning field goal.

This seems an appropriate place to note this related graphic.

That first-round pick used to acquire Lamb just keeps looking better and better.

We have to expect the gross numbers to decline with Dalton throwing and hopefully game situations that allow the Cowboys to use the running game more effectively, as they did against the Giants. But it can certainly be inferred that this bunch of receivers is very good at getting open, making the catch, and moving the chains. That should make Dalton, who completed nine of the eleven passes he attempted, more effective.

It is one bright spot that may help overcome the pall thrown on this season by Prescott’s very regrettable injury. Now Kellen Moore and Mike McCarthy have to find a way to maximize the contributions from the WRs. If they can, the rest of the season may not be as bad as we all feared when we looked in horror at what happened to QB1.

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