As the Dallas Cowboys’ 2020 season continues to spiral downward, it’s time they turn their focus to 2021. After the abysmal performance on Thanksgiving Day, there is no reason this team should worry about the now.
Obviously an NFL team is not going to go out and try to lose games. It would be silly to think that. But one way that Dallas can prioritize 2021 over the remaining fives games of 2020 is by giving some younger players more time on the field. One player who deserves to see a big increase in playing time is wide receiver Cedrick Wilson.
Coming off a year in which he played in just six games, expectations were not very high for Wilson coming into the season. With rookie CeeDee Lamb in the fold, he was expected to be a distant fourth wideout at best. The former Boise State Bronco did not get targeted once in the first two games of the season, but that all changed when Dallas traveled to Seattle.
Against the Seahawks, Wilson had his first breakout game as a pro. He caught five passes for 107 yards and scored his first two touchdowns in the NFL.
Cowboys WR Cedrick Wilson's first career TD came with Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright in man coverage. "I'm thinking he is probably going to zone off. I really didn't think they were going to play man coverage on me with a linebacker." Then it happened. "All I had to do was run." pic.twitter.com/patYvjLfgp— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 2, 2020
Fans may have been surprised by Wilson’s sudden breakout performance, but his teammates weren't. Amari Cooper shared his thoughts on Wilson’s game in Seattle, stating it’s just what he does in practice on a regular basis.
“Everybody (on the team) kept saying the same thing, ‘It looked like practice,’ because that’s exactly what he’s been doing in practice. Nobody was surprised.”
While he did not near the same production he had in Seattle, Wilson continued to play well during the next two games. Against Cleveland, he caught three passes for 34 yards, and against the Giants, Wilson caught four passes for 22 yards and threw a touchdown pass on a trick play to Dak Prescott.
The Cowboys have never lost a game in which Cedrick Wilson threw a passpic.twitter.com/ifhKL2OQA5— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) November 8, 2020
During that three game stretch, Pro Football Focus rewarded Wilson with an overall offensive grade above 78 each week, something none of the Cowboys’ big three wideouts were able to do. Wilson’s stock was clearly going up, but then Dallas started to take him off the field.
From Week 3 to Week 8, Wilson was on the field for at least 18 offensive snaps in all but one game. He was on the field for around 28% of the offensive snaps, a good number when you have three potential Pro-Bowlers in front of you. But, in the Cowboys last three games, Wilson has not totaled more than 14 offensive snaps once. This has limited his ability to make an impact, and he’s caught just two passes for 13 yards over the course of those last three outings.
This isn’t to suggest Wilson is going to become the next great wideout in the league. He’s still a distant fourth wideout on his own team, and will be as long as the same three are above him. But he was able to show he could make an impact when given chances, and that means he’s worth taking a deeper look at down the stretch.
As good as Michael Gallup is, his long-term future in Dallas is a question mark. After the Cowboys have to pay Dak Prescott this offseason, are they really going to be able to pony up another big-time deal to a wideout?
With a cheap rookie in CeeDee Lamb, and Amari Cooper already locked into a $100 million deal, Gallup could be the odd man out. This is where Wilson enters the equation. Wilson would be much cheaper to retain than Gallup (granted not as talented), giving Dallas flexibility to use money to upgrade other spots. If the Cowboys really wanted to, they could try to move Gallup after this season and pick up some draft picks to help address the dreadful defense.
It’s unlikely that Wilson could entirely fill Gallup’s role if the Cowboys can’t re-sign him, but is there ever a better time to find out than now just how much of that role he could fill? These last five games should be about seeing what your future looks like, and figuring out what you have in young guys like Wilson.
It’s time to turn the page and the focus to 2021 and beyond, and Dallas can start by putting Cedrick Wilson back on the field more.