It seems like only a couple years ago when the Dallas Cowboys were starting the season with a wide receiver group consisting of Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and Deonte Thompson. That’s because it was a couple years ago. Ay, caramba!
Things are quite different now. In a matter of two short years, the team has transitioned to an entirely different group of receivers in the form of: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and this year’s first-round draft pick, CeeDee Lamb. Yowza!
Looking at this trifecta of talent, the starting unit is poised to be one of the very best receiving groups in the league. Here are the prime time players:
The outside, possession receiver
It’s so easy to undervalue the talent of Amari Cooper because he just quietly goes about his business. And it just so happens to be that his business is to create separation. Cooper is a route-running specialist who has routinely made the job of wide receiver look easy. He hasn’t dazzled like another receiver we’ll get to in a minute, but Coop has been very consistent in camp. And you can’t buy that level of consistency. Actually, yeah you can. It cost $20 million a year.
The outside, deep threat
The only thing drowning out the excitement for Michael Gallup is those other two first-round teammates of his. Entering his third season, the 24-year-old is looking to build upon a very good season last year where he caught 66 passes and had over 1,100 yards receiving. The chemistry with Dak Prescott continues to improve as he had nearly the same amount of targets last season as Cooper. He’s had a good camp and should continue to be a big part of the Cowboys passing attack.
The slot guy
Then, there’s the rook. Many never really believed landing Lamb was a possibility because a talent like his shouldn’t have been available when the Cowboys were up. And all he’s done since entering camp has electrified the observers by making play after play. Even amidst two other 1,000 yard receivers in camp, Lamb has been the best of the best. He’s just a guy that constantly gets open, and when he’s in space, that usually means big things. Sure, it’s just training camp, but we might be witnessing the beginning of something special.
Now that we got those three out of the way, which receivers should we expect to join them on the final roster?
Entering training camp, this spot was up in the air as you could insert a handful of names as candidates. That no longer appears to be the case as Cedrick Wilson has shown a lot of improvement in training camp. Last year, he was released during final roster cuts, but was signed to the practice squad. After Tavon Austin got hurt, Wilson was promoted and was active for six games last season before being placed on injured reserve.
While injuries have held him back these past two seasons, Wilson is healthy now and he looks good. The timing with Dak is as if these guys have been playing together forever. Wilson’s route-running has been sharp and he’s shown great hands in camp. Should the Cowboys endure an injury to the big three, the versatility of this group (including Wilson) should allow them to keep attacking opposing defenses in an multitude of ways.
The special teamer
While it’s not a prerequisite that one of the team’s wide receivers is required to play special teams, it’s understandable to feel that one of the spots would go to a player that offers that flexibility. Ventell Bryant was that player last season, and he very well could be it again this year, but Noah Brown has made it a legit competition in training camp. Brown is healthy and offers better blocking than Bryant, and his ability as a receiver is also stronger. While Bryant may have a slight edge at the moment, this one will come down to the wire as Brown’s strong camp has made things interesting.
When we entertained this question a couple months ago, we felt the final spots would play out as follows:
You’d have to figure one of the special team guys make the cut.
Prepare yourself for one of your favorite, more flashy WR’s to be left out in the cold in lieu of one of these essential workers.
The other spot could go to one of the speedsters, depending on which player shows more in camp. JVJ has a greater appeal due to his youth and upside, but right now Smith is the more proven talent.
And if neither of these guys wow the coaches, and Cedrick Wilson does - that could punch his ticket to a final roster spot.
On the outside looking in...
A healthy Devin Smith is certainly worthy of a roster spot, but even then he is only good for one thing - speed. With the Cowboys already having playmakers in the passing game, it’s hard seeing Smith earning one of those spots. He hasn’t been bad in camp, but he hasn’t amazed either. With so many roster spot contenders, it’s going to be hard seeing Smith land a spot.
We were hoping to see Jon’Vea Johnson take a step up this year to give the team a young speedster on a rookie deal. His consistency catching the ball remains a problem, and it could mean the beginning of the end for JVJ.
One guy to keep an eye on is UDFA free agent Aaron Parker. While he’s not a guy who will make the roster this year, he’s a prime practice squad candidate. He doesn’t possess any super athletic traits, but his ball skills keep people’s attention. He’s made some plays in camp, and it should be interesting to see how he develops.
If roster cuts were right now, it could go like:
- Amari Cooper
- Michael Gallup
- CeeDee Lamb
- Cedrick Wilson
- Ventell Bryant (with Noah Brown still having a shot to beat him out)