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The Cowboys biggest secret to strengthening their receiving group may not be a secret at all

The Cowboys have plenty of storylines for the WR corps, but the alpha at the top is the main driver of expectations.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After finishing in the top eight in passing yards (including finishing second in 2019 and 2021) for three-straight years, the Dallas Cowboys found themselves near the middle of the pack last season. It was quite an underwhelming performance considering the team was sporting one of the higher-paid quarterbacks in the league in Dak Prescott.

Most pointed to getting rid of Amari Cooper as a big culprit. Others weren’t all that impressed with Kellen Moore’s play-calling ability. And then there’s the Dak critics who point to his league-leading interceptions.

The Cowboys have taken measures to fix some of those things with one of the biggest being the trade for veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Just this addition alone will be a significant upgrade over the team’s former second-leading receiver last year (in terms of receiving yards), Noah Brown.

The Cooks move is just one of many factors that could contribute to a new and improved passing game. If you look around the wide receiver room in Dallas, there are several reasons for optimism. Michael Gallup is another year away from his knee injury. Not only is his body fully healed, but the trust he’ll have in his movements will bring us closer to seeing the pre-knee injury receiver that we grew to love. Gallup was already showing signs of this growth in drills last week.

Speaking of growth, there’s a lot of buzz about the sophomore leap from second-year receiver Jalen Tolbert. Almost non-existent last season, Tolbert only had two catches for 12 yards and his most memorable moment came when he lined up offsides at a critical moment in the overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers. He was so ineffective that the Cowboys made him a healthy scratch for the final five games of the year. But that’s in the past and once again the Cowboys coaches only have positive things to say about him in camp.

There are several other players who have a shot to offer the team some depth like third-year receiver Simi Fehoko, last year’s UDFA camp star Dennis Houston, and new seventh-round pick Jalen Brooks. While the other guys seem more like fliers, the changes of adding Cooks, a healthier Gallup, and the growth of Tolbert are reasons to feel better about the receiving group. But, the fun doesn’t stop there.

Last year was a big reveal in terms of whether or not CeeDee Lamb could handle the alpha role after the departure of Cooper. As we learned, he most certainly could. Lamb started his career off strong with a 74 catch, 935-yard, five-touchdown season, and has eclipsed his totals in each of the following two seasons en route to two-straight Pro Bowl years. The career path he’s on could see Lamb emerging as one of the game’s elite receivers real soon.

One of the great things about what we’re seeing from Lamb is that he has turned into one of the more complete wide receivers in the game. We already know he lines up all over the place as a receiver and is involved in about 10 jet sweeps a season. From bubble screens to deep slants, the guy does it all. He’s turned into a well-rounded receiver who has shown that he is really good at a lot of different things.

Lamb has never been a fundamentally sound route technician, but the way he alters his speed during his routes lulls defenders to sleep and it has made him a very good separator. And despite only weighing a buck eighty-nine, he’s surprisingly tough to bring down. He’s playing with the slipperiness and toughness that made him a YAC machine back at Oklahoma. Look at how many boxes he checks off:

  • Efficient separator - CHECK
  • Sideline toe dragger - CHECK
  • Hangs on in traffic - CHECK
  • Red zone threat - CHECK
  • Body control, ball tracker - CHECK
  • Dazzling catch-maker - CHECK
  • Ankle breaking traffic weaver - CHECK
  • Fair to snazzy TD celebration dance moves - CHECK

Does he have the greatest nose for the end zone? Not while DaVante Adams is in the league. Is he the best at yards after the catch? Nope, that’s Tyreek Hill hands down. And does he break the most tackles? Well, close as only Deebo Samuel had more last year. While CeeDee is not the best at any one thing, he’s very good at almost everything.

Lamb entered the league with a slender build, without blazing speed, and a route-running repertoire that needed refinement, and after three years in the league, he remains those things. But this guy is so talented and has so many other skills that are gradually turning him into one of the top dawgs in the league.

So, the addition of Cooks - yippie! A healthier Gallup - hooray! An improved Tolbert - sure, we’ll take it. But the continued ascension of one CeeDee Lamb, that’s what we all should be excited about!

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