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Cowboys wide receiver room has been hampered by injuries, but an unexpected name has stepped up

Undrafted free agent Dennis Houston went from an afterthought to potential roster spot stealer.

NFL: JUN 02 Dallas Cowboys OTA Offseason Workouts Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michael Gallup and James Washington are two of the wide outs many pundits expected Dallas to lean on to fill the void of the recently departed Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson. In addition to filling the void left by Cooper and Wilson, the Cowboys also went out and drafted Jalen Tolbert in the third round of this year’s NFL draft to provide much needed depth and competition for the wide receiver room.

Unfortunately, it is looking more and more like the Cowboys will be without Michael Gallup for at least the start of the season. Gallup is currently on the PUP list and the Cowboys shouldn’t rush him back to the playing field.

Washington Football Team v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

To make things worse, James Washington recently went down with a fractured foot which will cost him the next six to ten weeks. By that timeline, in theory, he could possibly be available for week one, but that is stretching it. The more plausible timeline is actually similar to Gallup’s where he could be back some time early in the season after missing some games.

Detroit Lions v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

With injuries hurting the position, many were expressing their dismay with how the Jones family was handling this situation by not signing a veteran free agent wide receiver. Jerry Jones himself even stated he is going with a totally different approach regarding the wide receiver position, and seems to feel confident in the players already at training camp.

The early returns with this different approach seem to be looking very promising thus far in camp. This year’s third-round pick, Jalen Tolbert, is already flashing tremendous ability and from a statistical perspective could wind up putting up the second best receiving stats on this year’s squad by seasons end, behind the unquestioned number one wide out, CeeDee Lamb.

It appears at least for the first few weeks of the regular season that the Cowboys will be rolling out a one-two receiving duo of CeeDee Lamb and Jalen Tolbert. The real question is who is going to step up and become that number three wide receiver behind Lamb and Tolbert?

Based on early returns, and rapport with franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, undrafted free agent by way of Western Illinois, Dennis Houston, could be in the mix.

NFL: JUN 02 Dallas Cowboys OTA Offseason Workouts Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dennis Houston is a native Texan who grew up in San Antonio. His path to a potential NFL role is an interesting journey. Out of high school, Houston started his college career at the Division 1 FCS level by attending Houston Baptist, where he appeared in eight games and tallied 33 catches for 362 yards with no touchdowns. Following this short stint with the Huskies, he decided to go the JUCO route by attending Fullerton College in California. In ten games played at Fullerton, he scored three touchdowns and tallied 360 receiving yards. After one year in JUCO, he ended up back at the Division 1 FCS level where he enrolled at Western Illinois. His junior year with the Leathernecks was a solid one where he led the offense with 539 receiving yards along with three touchdowns. Houston was also the only player on his team to record two games with 100 receiving yards. There was also a cool moment where the masses got their first look at the talents of Dennis Houston as he was featured on the ESPN’s You Got Mossed segment where he made a tremendous grab.

After being introduced to the masses during his first season with Western Illinois in 2019, Houston followed up in the 2020 season with another solid campaign where in just six games he caught 43 balls for 477 yards and scored two touchdowns. What really put Dennis Houston on the NFL scouts radar was in his senior year, where he caught 90 passes for 1,015 yards with six touchdowns.

To see what he did in college, here is a highlight reel of Dennis Houston while at Western Illinois.

Fast forward to joining the Cowboys on May 3rd, he has since taken advantage of the injury situation at wide out and has performed extremely well. So well, in fact, that he has scored high praise from Cowboys franchise quarterback Dak Prescott:

“When you break the huddle, he’s lining up in the right spot, no matter what position he’s in. He’s where I expect him to be on each and every play,” Prescott said. “He’s just a tough guy - very resilient. I might say, ‘hey, did the DB hold you right there’ and he’s like ‘ahh, I’ve got to make the play.’ When you that response from a young guy like that, not making excuses and trying to help the team in any way that he can, it makes you excited.”

When the franchise quarterback trusts you, even if you aren’t necessarily a lock to make the team, it certainly gives you a very good shot at making the roster. Check out this highlight from training camp as Houston makes a great play while being covered by Cowboys number one corner, Trevon Diggs.

The road to the regular season is still weeks away, however, Dennis Houston is making a case to make the Dallas Cowboys roster. He might even get himself in the mix for the number three wide out while Michael Gallup and James Washington are on the mend. A continual building of rapport with Dak Prescott could be what leads Houston to a role on this year’s team. Only time will tell what unfolds for Houston and his future with the Cowboys, but one thing is for sure, the battle to make the team at wide receiver will be highly contested and a fun watch as we get ever closer to the start of the regular season.

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