With a 10-4 mark with three games left in the regular season, the Cowboys will do something they haven’t since 2007. Make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Regardless of your feelings towards head coach Mike McCarthy, it’s a signal of the franchise heading in the right direction. The next step in the progression of this franchise is to at least get to something they haven’t since 1995, and that is a conference championship game. In that same year, the Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 30, but haven’t sniffed a deep playoff run since. Obviously this team has the talent to win a Super Bowl, but at a minimum a conference championship appearance should be in the cards. Anything less than that would be a disappointment.
Injuries are certainly a part of the game, but will the recent acquisitions be up to the task?
Of course injuries have played a part in some of most recent lackluster performances, and the depth of this roster is being tested. The organization has recently brought in a few players to help fill in the holes left by injury. It’s a positive development that the front office has been proactive in recent weeks to try and improve the roster. However, it remains to be seen if those recent acquisitions will be enough to help keep Dallas stay in contention for a Super Bowl. As the franchise has been proactive in filling holes, there is still one important component that hasn’t seen much improvement through the first 14 games of this season and that is at wide receiver. CeeDee Lamb has quieted some of the critics who were skeptical that he is a number one wide out in the NFL. But he has had to carry the wide receiver room because of the lack of another game-breaker in this group.
CeeDee Lamb’s play is currently at another level compared to teammates
Through 14 games, Lamb has garnered 124 total targets which averages out to nearly nine targets per game. Tight end Dalton Schultz, is second on the team with just 66 total targets, followed by Noah Brown and Michael Gallup who have 62 and 57 total targets respectively. In addition to overwhelming difference in target share, Lamb has 81 catches so far this year. Second on that list is Dalton Schultz, who has just 43. The statistics will show you that Lamb has nearly double the targets and receptions of any other pass catcher on the roster. That high of a discrepancy between first and second is quite astounding. This shows that the only consistent player catching passes for the Cowboys is CeeDee Lamb.
It’s apparent that Michael Gallup isn’t 100% back just yet
This isn’t a knock on the current number two wide receiver Michael Gallup. It just shows that it is going to take some time for him to get back to the player he was prior to his knee injury. Let’s not forget, it hasn’t even been a year since he tore his ACL in Week 17 last season. It’s promising to have him back on the field as quickly as the Cowboys have, but to expect him to jump right back in the saddle as the number two wide out on this team has been over-optimistic. Looking at the history of players who have had a similar injury to Gallup’s, it’s not until the second year where the explosiveness really comes back. The 2023 season for Gallup should be a bounce back year, and the franchise is banking on it due to the financial commitment they provided him shortly after his knee injury.
Veteran help is on the way... hopefully
Getting back to the here and now, it is clear that Dallas is lacking some explosiveness in the pass-catching department. On December 12th, the team brought in a multi-time Pro Bowler to help shore up this need. That Pro Bowler isn’t Odell Beckham Jr., but former Indianapolis Colt T.Y. Hilton. Hilton, has had his share of injuries just like Beckham, but is ready to go now not later. This is why the Cowboys opted for Hilton over Beckham, as they need some playmaking help right away. Hilton has yet to suit up but expected to do so in short order as Dallas gets him acclimated to the offense ahead of the playoffs. With nearly 10,000 receiving yards in his career, Hilton hopes to bring some of that magic to a passing attack that sorely needs it. With the final stretch of the regular season upon us, let’s hope Hilton still has some juice left because the Cowboys sorely need someone else to stretch the defense besides CeeDee Lamb.
Dak Prescott is trying to make things work, even with the lack of true playmakers not named CeeDee Lamb
With the wide receiver room currently on shaky ground, one player in particular is doing everything he possibly can to make things work as currently assembled, Dak Prescott. At first glance when you look at Prescott’s numbers thus far in the 2022 season, it certainly doesn’t scream elite quarterback. However, given the lack of quality play from the pass catchers, he has done everything he can to make it work. With a completion percentage of 68%, Prescott has been very accurate with the football. Yes, he has 11 interceptions this year but the majority of those aren’t on him. Realistically, only four of those are solely on Prescott due to him being a little overaggressive at times and trusting the playmaking ability of the players around him more than he probably should.
T.Y. Hilton is a Cowboy, but will it help?
Adding a player of T.Y. Hilton’s caliber should help shore things up and bring a little more stability to the passing attack. The combination of Lamb, Hilton, and the ever-improving health of Michael Gallup makes for a formidable trio of pass catchers at Prescott’s disposal. If this trio can hit the ground running ahead of the playoffs, then you will see the numbers of Dak Prescott improve. With an explosion on offense, the playoffs for Dallas could be a fun one. If things happen to go the other way, then the fun aspect will be lacking as a short playoff run could be in the cards. Let’s just hope that things get corrected and in a hurry.