When the Dallas Cowboys signed free agent receiver James Washington in March, Cowboys Nation didn’t exactly celebrate in the streets. The former Steeler has had a lackluster career since being selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft and fans were still emotionally recovering from the loss Amari Cooper.
For four years Washington struggled to get snaps while he wrestled with his role in Pittsburgh’s quick-strike offense. The deep-ball big-play machine was a square peg in a round hole for the Steelers – An ill-fitting situation he hopes to correct with the Dallas Cowboys in 2022.
The Dallas Cowboys should expect a career year from James Washington this season.
To say James Washington is going to produce a career year isn’t as bold as it seems. The 5-foot-11 213 lb. receiver’s best season to-date was in 2019 when he caught 44 balls for 739 yards and three touchdowns.
With Amari Cooper in Cleveland, Cedrick Wilson in Miami, and Michael Gallup on the mend, opportunities will be ample for the 26-year-old wide out. Likely WR2 in Week One, Washington will be expected to hit the ground running. And going against two high-powered offenses like Tampa and Cincinnati, the Cowboys will be under pressure to keep up on the scoreboard.
When Gallup eventually does return from his ACL injury, opportunities should continue for Washington. Last season the Dallas WR3 averaged roughly 50 yards/game in Kellen Moore‘s offense. Over the stretch of a season that should equate to a stat line of 68 receptions for 850 yards, and five touchdowns.
Complicating the formula is the Dallas Cowboys rookie, Jalen Tolbert. Tolbert could take his share of WR3 snaps as well. In fact, many are already projecting him to be the primary WR3 this season once Gallup comes back. Without having seen Tolbert take a single practice, that projection is possible, but it brings me to the point of the article and the title itself – we seem to be underestimating James Washington.
Washington is a high-character competitor with a strong work ethic. He’s going to endear himself to this coaching staff and if you don’t think that matters, you weren’t paying attention to the La’el Collins/Terence Steele saga last season closely enough.
Washington plays a physical brand of football that makes him a viable weapon on the outside and deep threat down field; two things Kellen values immensely in his Coryell-like offense. With the Steelers he’d been forced into a short-passing offense piloted by noodle-armed captains.
Dak Prescott doesn’t just give Washington a much better passer to work with, but someone who can play to Washington’s strengths. Like just about all of Dallas’ WRs, he can play inside and out (190 slots snaps/311 wide snaps) allowing Dallas to use Lamb heavily in the slot once again.
Washington is hungry to perform and eager to boost his value before he hits free agency again in 2023, so the stars are aligned for a career year.
For as high as we are (and should be) on Jalen Tolbert, there’s no need to push him up the ranks prematurely. James Washington was brought in to help ease the rookie transition (Dallas knew they’d be drafting a WR) and he will likely play a big role on this Dallas Cowboys offense in 2022.