So far in the year 2022, the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver group has been a major plot line among media personalities and fans alike. Things really kicked off on January 2nd when Michael Gallup scored a touchdown on a tremendous play, and on the play tore his ACL, which ended his season. Just a few months later, in March, not only did Dallas trade Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns, but Cedrick Wilson left via free agency by joining the Miami Dolphins. Within that same time frame as the Wilson and Cooper transactions, Dallas began to address the holes left by those two by bringing in former 2018 second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, James Washington.
Washington, in all fairness, struggled to establish himself in Pittsburgh because ahead of him on the depth chart have been players like Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Although he was stuck behind those players on the depth chart, Washington still managed to score 11 touchdowns in his time in the black and yellow. Those 11 touchdowns came at a time when Ben Roethlisberger was starting to decline as a performer, and was often injured which caused non-NFL starting caliber players to step in as the field general.
Given Washington’s situation in his four seasons with the Steelers, there are many unknowns and questions as to what kind of player he is and what kind of player he will be. Those questions are certainly valid. However, going back to his college days at Oklahoma State University, he amassed quite a stat line and was a consistent performer for the Cowboys where he caught 226 balls for 4,472 yards, and scored a total of 40 touchdowns.
As you’ll see in this highlight reel, Washington has a lot to offer:
The talent and ability is there which is why he was a second-round pick, but the only way to know what the Dallas Cowboys have in him is to give him ample time which due to the injury of Michael Gallup is more than likely going to happen.
Another player the Cowboys are banking on playing well in the absence of Gallup is the 2022 third-round pick from South Alabama, Jalen Tolbert.
Tolbert is coming in with high expectations as the lone wide receiver addition in this year’s draft class. Being a third-round pick, you are expected to make the team and contribute in some degree right away. In 2018 Dallas also went wide receiver in the third round and drafted Michael Gallup. Gallup at the time was also coming also from a non-power five school and put up monster numbers at Colorado State. In year one with Dallas, he caught 33 balls for 507 yards and two touchdowns in eight starts. Jalen Tolbert will likely surpass those numbers in year one because he will likely be a top three wide receiver on the Cowboys all season long barring injury which means more opportunities to make plays.
Speaking of making plays, Tolbert made a lot of them at South Alabama. His last two years in college he averaged 73 catches, 1,280 yards, and eight touchdowns. On a per game average he was over 100 yards a game and was the focal point of the Jaguars offense. Even against stiffer competition from the SEC, his stat line was very impressive as he caught seven balls for 143 yards and a touchdown. Obviously it’s a small sample size against the bigger programs, but as you’ll see in this highlight reel, he has an NFL athleticism to his game.
The big knock on his game is concentration drops, which with a little coaching up, can be corrected. Michael Gallup had the same problem coming out of college and every year since entering the league has improved on it immensely. Expectations for Tolbert should be the same.
With NFL teams going to a more pass-oriented offense, the starting lineups will typically feature three wide receivers which means along with CeeDee Lamb, both James Washington and Jalen Tolbert will likely get starts. Considering both players strengths and weaknesses, Tolbert has more of the total package. Washington is a good outside player who is at his best running the deep routes so keeping him in his comfort zone would be ideal. Tolbert and Lamb, who both possess next level route running ability, can take turns on the inside and outside.
If deployed by offensive coordinator Kellen Moore properly, the trio of Lamb, Tolbert, and Washington will do just fine until Gallup returns from injury. Once Gallup is back in the fold, Dallas will have four quality wide receivers for Dak Prescott to throw to in addition to all the other weapons the Cowboys possess. The offense should produce solid numbers all season long regardless of having Michael Gallup in the lineup.