Shortly after the Cowboys drafted CeeDee Lamb last year, Amari Cooper made it clear what his expectations were for the trio of him, Michael Gallup, and the newest Cowboy: become just the sixth team to feature three different players with 1,000 receiving yards.
In the end, the Cowboys trio fell short of that goal, but for obvious reasons. Not only did Dak Prescott go out for the season in the fifth game of the year, but backup Andy Dalton also left a game early with a concussion and missed the next two games. It was during that time that Dallas played both rookie Ben DiNucci and former AAF quarterback Garrett Gilbert (who hadn’t even been on the roster a month prior to starting under center against the undefeated Steelers).
Yet even with four different quarterbacks throwing passes at various points last season, the Cowboys actually came pretty close to hitting a mark that hasn’t been accomplished since the 2008 Cardinals. Cooper did his part, finishing with 1,114 yards on the season, while Lamb fell just short with 935 yards. Gallup had the furthest to go, as he had 843 yards on the year, but many of his targets came on deeper passes down the field. Gallup’s average depth of target (ADOT) of 11.8 yards was the highest of any Cowboys receiver; similarly, he recorded a 12.2 ADOT last year when he finished the season with 1,107 yards. It’s hard to prove, but Gallup seems to be the one whose receiving totals were most affected by Prescott’s absence considering how in-sync he is with the quarterback’s deep passes.
But the 2021 season brings a new chance to tackle this feat, as Prescott has been participatingl at every step of the Cowboys’ offseason program and, by all accounts, looking just as good as he ever did. That’s an important note, too, considering how he was tearing apart the league before he was injured. Through those first five games, Prescott was hitting on 68% of his passes for 1,856 yards and nine touchdowns compared to just four interceptions. He also had 18 carries for 93 yards and three touchdown runs.
As a matter of fact, if you extrapolate those first five games over the entire season to assume Prescott never got hurt, then Dallas would have smashed past that record. Cooper would’ve finished with 1,356 yards, Lamb with 1,113 yards, and Gallup would have led the team with 1,385 yards, which seems to suggest that the deep ball connection with Gallup, and later lack thereof, contributed greatly to his falling short of a 1,000 yard season in 2020.
This is, admittedly, a highly imperfect method of projection. Prescott was performing at such an obnoxiously high level in those first five games that he still led the NFL in passing yards a week after missing his first game, and it took Dalton eight starts for the Cowboys (and the 111-yard performance when he took over in Week 5) before he eclipsed Prescott’s four-and-some-change game totals.
Which is all to say that Prescott very likely would have regressed at least somewhat towards the norm as the season went on, so those numbers listed above very likely wouldn’t actually come to fruition. Still, they’re all well over the 1,000-yard threshold to the point where a realistic scenario in which Prescott doesn’t get hurt probably still has the Cowboys accomplishing that feat.
Now the question is if they can do it for real in 2021. Prescott is back, and so is his offensive line, with both Tyron Smith and La’el Collins reportedly in great shape. Lamb isn’t a rookie anymore, and should have better chemistry with his quarterback with a proper offseason unfolding, and Gallup seems to be lining up for a predictable contract-year explosion on the field. On top of all that, it’s another year under the watch of both Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore, so there will be less of a challenge with learning the offense and adapting to any changes. In other words, things are perfectly set up for the Cowboys’ receiver trio to add their names to the very short list of 1,000 yard receiving trio’s in the annals of NFL history.
We discussed the state of the Cowboys wide receiver group and whether or not the team should consider trading Michael Gallup on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. Make sure to subscribe to it (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of our videos!