Dallas Cowboys: The best replacement for Michael Gallup is…

Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports /

In Week one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the Dallas Cowboys saw their biggest offensive advantage take a shot to the gut when receiver Michael Gallup fell to injury. Gallup, the third piece in what is arguably the NFL’s best WR trio, is expected to be out for the next 3-5 weeks, leaving a hole in the Cowboys line-up and Kellen Moore searching for answers.

Cedrick Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys highly paid WR4, is the obvious solution. He came in for Gallup on Thursday night, and performed admirably in Gallup’s stead. But “next man up” may not be the best solution. The best solution may require a more nuanced approach.

The Dallas Cowboys should replace Michael Gallup with a combination of Blake Jarwin and Cedrick Wilson.

Simply plugging Wilson into Gallup’s top-3 role may be the easiest solution, but it’s not the most optimal. Blake Jarwin gives the Dallas Cowboys a different kind of pass-catching weapon from the tight end position and could be the answer to some of Dallas’ concerns.

Blake Jarwin is technically a tight end but anyone watching him play sees he’s more of what we refer to as a “big slot”. Jarwin, more pass-catcher and than blocker, is the Yin to fellow tight end Dalton Schultz‘s Yang. He’s a big play weapon who can operate up the seam and gain yards after the catch in chunks. He’s also a liability as a blocker and as such, not very useful when positioned inline.

Curiously, the Dallas Cowboys used both tight ends somewhat interchangeably against the Bucs. Instead of playing to each of their strengths, they had both tight ends basically share the same role. Truly bizarre.

What makes Jarwin special is his ability to create mismatches and win when spread out either in the slot or flexed out on the boundary. He’s especially potent as a red zone threat. The Dallas Cowboys once again struggled in the redzone (going 1-for-4) and based on his success in the past, it stands to reason Jarwin’s pass-catching could be just what they need to keep Greg Zuerlein off the field.

More 12 personnel for the Dallas Cowboys?

Does this mean the Dallas Cowboys should shift to more 2-tight end sets? Yes. In Jarwin’s last full season (where he served as the primary pass-catching TE2, the Dallas Cowboys had their highest successful pass-play percentage when they were operating out of 12 personnel.

11 personnel was still more explosive, mind you, but as far as pure success rate, passing out of 12 personnel gave Dallas a 59% success rate (plays in which the EPA increased).

More Cedrick Wilson for the Dallas Cowboys?

This doesn’t mean Cedrick gets benched again either. Cedrick Wilson is getting paid $2.183M for a reason. He’s a smart player capable of filling playing WR3 with little to no fall off. Wilson, best in the slot himself, offers more speed and downfield play-making ability than Jarwin.

On Thursday night we saw CeeDee Lamb spread his wings as a receiver, lining up outside 60% of the time. I’ll remind you last season he was used 93% in the slot. With Lamb and Amari Cooper both viable weapons outside, the task of replacing Gallup becomes easier.

Both Jarwin and Wilson are strong slot weapons, providing quite the Band-Aid to the missing piece on offense. By playing to each of their strengths the Dallas Cowboys could easily thrive during Gallup’s absence, and fix some of their issues along the way (red zone, of course).

Instead of “next man up” this should be a group effort. The Dallas Cowboys should use their depth to their advantage here and could come out all the stronger for it.

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At the very least the Dallas Cowboys need to stop using their two TEs interchangeably because they are anything but. Jarwin needs to be flexed out more often than not, because he’s proven he’s one of the most efficient TEs in the NFL when he does