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What to expect, and not expect, from Michael Gallup with Amari Cooper gone

With Gallup re-signed and Cooper in Cleveland, what should Dallas fans expect from Gallup?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

For the first full season in Micahel Gallup’s career, he will be playing without Amari Cooper. But it seems the Cowboys are comfortable with CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup anchoring the receiving corps.

Lamb will emerge as the WR1 and with his skill-set, he is able to do practically anything at receiver. Play in the slot, catch passes close to the line of scrimmage, play the intermediate routes, and even be a vertical threat. Gallup on the other hand has always been the big-play receiver. But what should fans expect and not expect from Michael Gallup moving forward?

What to expect from Michael Gallup

What to expect from Gallup is straightforward, he is a vertical threat who knows how to control his body and he is a safe target for Dak Prescott. There are three different arguments in that sentence, so let’s break each of them down.

Obviously, Gallup is a deep threat. There should be no controversy with this statement. But if you need an illustration, Gallup has the eleventh highest yards per reception of any receiver since 2018. And of the ten names higher than Gallup, he has more targets than everyone except for Mike Williams and Mike Evans.

He is also tied at seventh for the most 40-yard receptions by a Dallas Cowboys player since 1994. The Colorado State alum has been a deep threat his entire career and he will continue to be one, no surprise there.

What we should also expect is Gallup to be generously targeted in high-pressure situations. Due to his body control, he knows how to work the sidelines and has evolved into a trusted target for Dak when he needs to move the chains. In fact, from 2019 to 2020 (the last two healthy years for Gallup) he led the team in targets when there were less than two minutes left and the Cowboys were trailing by one score.

  • Gallup: 23 targets, 17 receptions, 11 first downs
  • Cooper: 21 targets, 13 receptions, 4 first downs

When trailing by one possession with less than two minutes from 2019 to 2020. It is clear that Gallup knows how to use his size and footwork to move the chains. And as a result, when Dallas needs it, Dak will turn to Gallup in 2022. Don’t expect Gallup to be forgotten in high-leverage situations.

And that leads to the final point. There are two Cowboys pass-catchers whose targets have not led to any interceptions over the last two years: Tony Pollard and Michael Gallup. The difference is that Gallup has 84 more targets than Pollard over the last two years.

He is a safe and reliable weapon for Dak, and he is either going to come down with the ball or it's going to fall incomplete. He is not going to give the defender the opportunity to get involved.

So what can we expect? Gallup will continue to be a vertical threat, he is also going to be used in high-pressure situations and he will be a safe target for Dak.

What not to expect from Michael Gallup

Two things that Cowboys fans shouldn't expect is a hyper-targeted wide receiver and Gallup playing any other role than the vertical threat.

Because Gallup is tied for 43rd among receivers by receptions since he entered the league in 2018, players like Jamison Crowder, Hunter Renfrow, Corey Davis, Russel Gage, and Julian Edleman all have more receptions than Gallup over this stretch. Not necessarily because they are better but that is their role.

Gallup’s role is to be the deep guy, and he will likely not see a sizeable increase in his target share, even with Cooper departing. Since 2018, Cooper has 24 games with more than five receptions and two-year veteran CeeDee Lamb has 12. In 55 games, Gallup has ten.

Gallup will not immediately become a highly-targeted receiver. In fact, don't be surprised if his 112 target total in 2019 is strikingly similar to 2022.

Similarly, Gallup isn’t going to evolve into a short or intermediate threat at receiver. He is going to stay the deep ball target. We can do a similar exercise as above, Cooper has 22 games where his yards per target was less than ten since 2018. Gallup has 12 such games.

Mike Williams is the perfect comparison for Gallup. Both Gallup and Williams haven't had a single season where their average depth of target was less than 12. They are deep ball threats. But no one is expecting Williams to evolve into a volume receiver with his new contract. The Chargers and Justin Herbert use him as a complement to Keenan Allen, who draws defenders to the middle of the field for Williams to get open up the sideline.

Williams and Gallup are the same. We should not expect Gallup to be a possession receiver that suddenly turns into a 100-reception player. His average depth of target isn't going to plummet. Instead, CeeDee Lamb is going to draw defenders to the middle of the field so Gallup can get open up the sideline and get his 60-70 receptions over the course of the season.

Here is a quick summary of what Cowboys fans shouldn’t expect from Gallup: a WR1. Gallup is a great player, and he excels at what he does. However, few would argue that Mike Williams is the WR1 with Kennan Allen on the team. Similarly, no one should expect Gallup to be the WR1 with Lamb on the team.

This is not an indictment of Gallup. He is excellent at what he does as a deep ball threat. But don’t try and fit a square peg into a round hole with Gallup. Do not expect him to see a drastic increase in targets and, more importantly, don’t expect him to evolve from his deep ball role. He is good at what he does, why change him?

Gallup is not a WR1. But he is a very solid WR2 and for $12.5 million per year with a team-friendly contract, it should comfort all Cowboys fans to have him back on the roster. Just don’t expect him to be something he is not.

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