One of the biggest questions facing the Dallas Cowboys this season is how they will approach the wide receiver position with the trade of Amari Cooper. Currently, the Dallas Cowboys have CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup penciled in as the two outside starting wide receivers. While most people agree the Cowboys need to add to their wide receiver corps, the question of what type of receiver has been debated, both between fans and in mocks.
The discussion usually centers around CeeDee Lamb, his ability to play predominantly on the outside, and whether his best usage is out of the slot. With Michael Gallup probably missing a few games due to injury, the position will probably still addressed one way or the other. But the Lamb question will be clearer once the draft has occurred.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to use CeeDee Lamb to replace Amari Cooper’s production, but where to line him up is a bit of a mystery.
Looking at 2021, Lamb played the most he has played in his pro career on the outside. Most of these snaps occurred between weeks two and weeks ten, due to injuries and other issues with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. However, once both were back and playing, Lamb saw his slot percentage jump from 16% to over 60%. For the season as a whole Lamb played about 382 snaps or around 33% of his snaps in the slot, and about 477 snaps or around 67% of his snaps out wide.
However looking back to 2020 and 2019, Lamb was used out of the slot around 90% of the time in 2019 and around 84.5% of his snaps in the slot in 2020. One thing we have seen from the Cowboys with the new coaching regime is a slightly more dynamic attempt to move players around and create matchup problems. Lamb, is the weapon of choice to do this with at wide receiver. Keeping Lamb in motion or off-the-ball has helped him get and keep separation.
The concern about him playing outside for extended periods of time is whether or not he can hold up against bigger, stronger cornerbacks. There are some that believe he will have no problem, some that want to take a wait-and-see approach, and others who are concerned this will not be the best usage for Lamb. No matter which view is yours (or one in between), there is certainly a case to add to the wide receiver corps.
It is not a crazy idea to have your “best” wide receiver in the slot. Just last year Cooper Kupp was in the slot for 631 snaps and only 131 out wide, and Tyreek Hill played 560 snaps in the slot and only 256 snaps split out. The idea of the “best” wide receiver has to be an “X” has slowly been fading in the NFL as the passing frequency and schemes have developed.
Having Lamb able to start off the line and use his route running on a free release seems to be the right call for the Cowboys. Lamb is a hard wide receiver to stick with, especially for a team’s second, or more so, third corner.
He will move around probably more this season with Amari gone and not drawing attention, the Cowboys will have to find ways to adjust how teams will likely play them. Not having Gallup hurts, and could be used in the consideration of what type of receiver they select. Granted, there is still the unknown of Simi Fehoko, Noah Brown, James Washington, and last year’s undrafted free agents Brandon Smith and T.J. Vasher.
However the Cowboys decide to go in the draft, someone will have to take over on special teams for Lamb. That could affect the pick, it may not. How this staff and front office see Lamb will be on full display in a few weeks when the draft happens. For now, we can only wonder if Lamb will be outside, inside, or more of a split between the two.