Dallas Cowboys build a well-rounded platoon at WR3

(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

When playing cards, do you fold the hand automatically if the dealer doesn’t deal you blackjack? No, you take extra cards and hope the sum gets you as close to 21 as possible. When Kelly Kapowski dumped Zack Morris, did he hold out for the next Kelly? No, he snagged Stacy from the Beach Club and Danielle from USC to fill the void. So when the Dallas Cowboys struck out on developing a true WR3 this season, they didn’t say “Odell Beckham Jr or bust.” Instead, they formed a platoon to carry the load.

With a committee approach that would make Allen Hurns (circa 2018) blush, the Dallas Cowboys opted to fill their WR need with a handful of players, rather than just one clear answer.

Sure, it would be nice to have a healthy OBJ playing the WR3 role. But that’s not reality and reality tells us the Dallas Cowboys need to fill the role of WR3 as efficiently as possible – even if that means using three players to do it.

Without a true WR3 on the roster, the Dallas Cowboys will deploy a diverse platoon of receivers to fill the role.

With the recent signing of T.Y. Hilton, the Dallas Cowboys now have three serviceable options at WR3. Kellen Moore can mix and match according to formations and play designs. He can design an attack that plays to each of their strengths, without feeling obligated to feed any single one player in that tertiary role.

Noah Brown

Standing 6-foot-2, 225lbs, the 26-year-old Brown is about as stable of a fixture as one could be on this roster. Brown has been a mainstay on Kellen Moore’s offense from the start, and even if the Dallas Cowboys had signed OBJ, Brown’s role on offense would not be up for debate.

Brown’s usage as an inline blocker, move blocker, and backside blocker has been well documented. But this season, Brown has turned himself into a downfield weapon as well. Noah Brown has already doubled his previous career high in targets. And his ADoT, yards, and touchdowns have followed suit.

Additionally, Brown has taken significant snaps outside (334 outside, compared to 284 in the slot) which has allowed CeeDee Lamb to thrive inside.

James Washington

This is the exact reason James Washington was signed back in March. Washington was never meant to be the ideal answer as a top-three WR on the Cowboys this year. He was signed as an insurance policy, of sorts. If the Cowboys couldn’t get a rookie or free agent to fill the role, Washington would help protect them from disaster.

And that’s basically what he’s doing today.

The Dallas Cowboys never did lure a high-end free agent into the WR3 role and they also failed to add a competent option in draft (Jalen Tolbert is developmental). So the stoutly built 26-year-old from Abilene will be called upon to do what he was signed to do. Help in a committee.

T.Y. Hilton

Not long ago, T.Y. Hilton was one of the best WRs in the NFL, but after a series of soft tissue injuries and the inevitable presence of Father Time, T.Y. Hilton is nothing more than a complementary piece here at age 33.

Last seen, Hilton was a burner and a true gamebreaker all over the field. His 14.4 yards/reception in 2021 would place him first on the Dallas Cowboys this year (by a fairly significant margin). Hilton still has speed and a downfield presence to him – he just needs to stay healthy.

A committee approach at WR3 should help him stay fresh and stay healthy while maximizing his impact when he is on the field.

All three options can play outside which means none of them should steal opportunities from CeeDee Lamb in the slot. After Noah Brown’s breakout here in 2022, it appears all three options can play downfield as well. Hilton is the elite route-runner with legit speed, while Brown and Washington are big bodied blockers who can use physicality on high-traffic routes and in the running game.

The best part is none of the three will demand to be fed the ball, meaning Kellen Moore can still feature Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb as WRs, and keep deploying steady doses of 21, 12, and 13 personnel (multiple TEs and RBs).

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Don’t be mistaken, a singular talent at WR3 would be the most optimal. But since the Dallas Cowboys dragged their feet addressing the position all year, that option doesn’t appear to exist. The next best solution is to build a platoon, and with Brown, Hilton, and Washington, the Cowboys appear to have done just that.