The Dallas Cowboys came into the season hoping that sixth-year wideout Michael Gallup would prove his down year in 2022 was an abnormality. Gallup, who signed a five-year contract extension with the Cowboys in March of 2022, posted career lows in receiving yards (424) and Y/R (10.9) last season and never looked fully comfortable returning from the ACL tear he suffered in late 2021.
This season, with Gallup close to two years removed from the injury, Dallas was hoping the wideout would return to the guy they saw play a huge role in their offense from 2018-2020. Eight games into the season, Gallup’s 2023 campaign has looked a whole lot like what we saw in 2022.
The 27-year-old wideout has just 22 receptions for 243 yards, catching two or fewer passes in five of Dallas’ eight games. Gallup’s average separation of 2.6 yards is just .2 points higher than his 2.4 yards from last season, showing he is still having some serious issues separating from defenders and getting open.
The former third-round pick also ranks 60th in the NFL in route win rate (45.1%), 90th in win rate vs. man (28.7%), and 91st in contested catch rate (10%) via PlayerProfiler.
What made Gallup so good in his heyday was his ability to beat defenders deep and make contested catches down the field. At this point in his career, that ability is virtually nonexistent. Gallup’s average target distance of 11 yards is 50th in the league and his six deep targets on the season are 53rd among all wideouts.
Gallup’s struggles came to a head in Philadelphia on Sunday. With a little over one minute left in the first half, Dallas had a third and three from the Philadelphia 33-yard line. Gallup came wide open over the middle but dropped a perfect pass from Dak Prescott. This ended Dallas’ chance for a touchdown drive before the half and forced them to settle for a field goal.
After this drop, Gallup saw second-year wideout Jalen Tolbert take most of his snaps. Tolbert played a career-high 31 snaps and caught three passes for 49 yards, all coming in the second half, and scored the first touchdown of his NFL career.
Dak Prescott to Jalen Tolbert— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) November 6, 2023
Cowboys down by 5 trying to pull off a miraclepic.twitter.com/gLkWT3BYAt
While he did come back in the game and draw a pass interference penalty on Dallas’ final drive, it was pretty obvious the Cowboys had finally come to the realization that they would be better off if Tolbert/KaVontae Turpin got most of Gallup’s offensive snaps.
It’s hard to not feel for Gallup, but there just is no way to disagree that the Cowboys would be better on offense right now if Tolbert or Turpin were taking his snaps. The 27-year-old just isn’t the same guy he was back at the start of his career and it’s pretty clear the injury he suffered back in 2021 has had career-altering ramifications.
Sunday may have been a turning point in Michael Gallup’s Cowboys’ career. With Tolbert’s breakout performance and Gallup’s recent struggles, Dallas may very well turn the page at the receiver position and let the young wideout take over putting Gallup’s long-term future in Dallas in serious doubt.