If you were ranking the Dallas Cowboys roster by position groups, the wide receiver corps would likely be up near the top of the list. Not because of the depth at the position, but due to the star power at the top. Dallas locked up Amari Cooper long-term last month, inking him to a five-year deal. Cooper is paired with one of the emerging receiving stars in football, Michael Gallup. In his second season in the NFL, Gallup basically doubled his rookie year production, catching 66 passes for 1,107 yards, and six touchdowns.
The one-two punch of Cooper and Gallup stacks up with any other top two in the NFL. However, at the moment, the wide receiver group is extremely top-heavy. After the big two, the Cowboys’ roster is filled with a bunch of question marks. They can fix that by using a high draft pick on a receiver to round out the group, but are there any internal options that could also play a role in 2020?
Today, we take a look at two former Ohio State Buckeyes and see what kind of impact they could have at the receiver position in 2020.
One of the forgotten men on the Cowboys’ roster at the moment seems to be Noah Brown. Since entering the league, injuries have plagued Brown’s career. He missed the first half of the 2018 season and sat out all of the 2019 season with a knee injury. Due to this, we still have not seen what offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has in mind for Brown in his offense.
Brown has a rare combination of size and strength at the wide receiver position. Listed at 6’2, 222 lbs, based solely on size, he looks much more like a tight end than a wideout. Back when he was on the field in the ladder half of the 2018 season, the Cowboys were able to use Brown in a variety of ways.
The first way, and probably what he does best, is using Brown in the blocking game. Dallas would frequently motion Brown in on run plays, letting him use his strength to take on linebackers in the run game.
After a pretty ugly 1st game back, Noah Brown has impressed in his role. As @BryanBroaddus suggested when asked about the TE's without Swaim, why not just use Noah Brown more. This is what he can bring from an H-back role. #85hive #LightEnd @john9williams @NotToBeTrite pic.twitter.com/HgEkVhjkrn— Dalton Miller (@DaltonBMiller) November 24, 2018
They bring Noah Brown across the formation from the H-back spot to lead block for Zeke, and he, for the second time today, has sprung a nice run with his ability to understand leverage and hold up physically against bigger linebackers pic.twitter.com/HvFYfn1Hpb— Dalton Miller (@DaltonBMiller) November 24, 2018
Dallas also showed some looks putting Brown in motion and having him catch a play-action pass in the flat.
Cowboys finally read my pregame article and put Noah Brown in motion and got him to the flat quickly off the PA look. Schultz uncovers between the LB and safety and Dak gets his head turned and releases immediately pic.twitter.com/knlCKzhp7J— Dalton Miller (@DaltonBMiller) December 12, 2018
There were times back in the 2017 season when Brown would make a play, and it would be hard to tell if it was him or Dez Bryant who made it. Brown and Bryant both have the same type of physical play-style and size. Scott Linehan was able to use Brown somewhat in his offense, but it’s generally agreed that Kellen Moore is much more creative as a play-caller.
With Moore’s creativity combined with Brown’s combination of size, blocking ability, and good hands, the fourth-year man may be able to play a real role in this offense in 2020.
Even if Dallas does obtain a slot receiver in this month’s draft, the Cowboys will need someone to step up and contribute as a backup outside guy. If he can stay healthy, there is a good chance that with the help of Kellen Moore, Noah Brown can be that guy.
Another former Buckeye who has something to prove this offseason/preseason is Devin Smith. Brown and Smith have more in common than being teammates at Ohio State, like Brown, Smith’s career has also been hindered by injuries.
In college, Smith was an electric wideout in the Ohio State offense. In his final three years in Columbus, he caught 107 passes for 2,209 yards to go with 26 touchdown passes. All this production led to him being drafted by the New York Jets in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
In his rookie year, Smith caught just nine passes for 115 yards, and after that was only able to play in four more games in his Jets career, tearing his ACL twice in a span of 16 months. Dallas gave Smith a shot picking him up in the 2019 offseason, and he got off to a great start.
In the preseason, Smith caught 14 passes for 188 yards to go with a touchdown. This production solidified a spot on the 53-man roster for Smith, and he carried over his hot start into the regular season. When Michael Gallup went down in Week Two against Washington, Smith was cast into the fire and came up big.
Smith caught three passes for 74 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown reception, his first NFL touchdown since 2015.
Devin Smith will take on a larger role with Michael Gallup out. This catch yesterday by Smith was his first TD since 2015. He has battled back from two significant knee injuries. He led the Cowboys in receiving during the preseason, catching 14 passes for 188 yards and a TD pic.twitter.com/IwATqLsa8k— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 16, 2019
Reason #2 for the Cowboys scoring points - Kellen creating space— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) September 19, 2019
On this play, WR goes in motion, and everyone moves to their right once the ball is snapped. The entire defense follows anticipating a run. Devin Smith runs a quick slant with a wide open throwing window for Dak. pic.twitter.com/VUDOaYO31I
Smith continued to show signs in Week Three against Miami making a couple of nice plays.
All signs were pointing up for Smith, then Dallas traveled to New Orleans in Week Four. Smith, much like the Dallas offense, was unable to do anything against the Saints. Gallup returned the next week against Green Bay, and we never saw Smith on the field again in 2019.
Now it’s easy to say that Smith’s early-season production was just because Dallas was playing very bad teams, but there is still something to be said for the skillset he brings to the table. The 51-yard touchdown pass showed Smith’s ability to beat teams deep. That’s something every team could use in their offense.
Kellen Moore will likely have more flexibility in what he can do on offense this year with Jason Garrett out the door, and he may have a special role in place for Smith. Someone who can run the way he does and take the top off a defense always will be given a shot to show what he can do.
In his second year in Dallas, Smith has a chance to play a bigger role in the offense. He is more physically gifted than any of the receivers on the roster below him, it’s just a question of whether or not he can put it all together. If he can, Smith could play a decent size role in the Cowboys’ offense in 2020.