When the Dallas Cowboys sent Amari Cooper to Cleveland for a Day 3 draft pick last offseason, they effectively bet the farm on third year receiver CeeDee Lamb. Since Michael Gallup was recovering from an ACL injury and unlikely to start the season on the active game day roster, Dallas was banking on Lamb to step up and carry the load.
And carry the load he did. In 2022, Lamb enjoyed his best season as a pro. With 107 receptions for 1359 yards and 9 touchdowns, Lamb almost singlehandedly kept the passing game alive. His 28.7 percent target share was top-10 in the NFL.
Dallas was so depleted at WR, they started the season with UDFA Dennis Houston starting alongside Lamb. The falloff in WR talent from Week 1 2021 to Week 1 2022 has deeper than the Mariana trench. It didn’t get much better as the season progressed either.
Gallup was a shell of his former self all season. And Noah Brown, a career WR4/5, was the WR2 most of the year. Lamb was left to do it all and opponents knew it.
we have no idea how much motion at the snap Mike McCarthy and his offensive sidekick Brian Schottenheimer plan to use
With defenses fixating on Lamb, Kellen Moore brilliantly deployed his star receiver a variety of ways. Motion and slot usage were key in keeping defenses from cancelling the Dallas Cowboys star out completely.
But by the time the playoffs arrived, Dallas was simply outgunned. The 49ers had multiple game-breakers sprinkled through their offense. They just needed their rookie QB to give them a chance. After the Dallas Cowboys lost Tony Pollard, Lamb was alone on the Cowboys. Dak Prescott didn’t have other options.
San Francisco caged him in, unafraid of any other “weapons” the Cowboys had, and Dallas predictably lost.
For as counterintuitive as it may seem, more weapons on the Dallas Cowboys and a smaller target share could mean better numbers for CeeDee Lamb.
Brandin Cooks helps in two major ways:
- He’s a veteran WR who can get open and defenses respect
- He’s a burner who stretches the field and demands safety attention
Both items are something the Dallas Cowboys lacked in 2022. T.Y. Hilton helped, but he was by no means the player Cooks is today. At just 29-years-old, Cooks is still operating near peak performance. He’s an every down player who should be able to handle Z receiver duties, allowing Lamb to maintain heavy slot usage.
This is important because we have no idea how much motion at the snap Mike McCarthy and his offensive sidekick Brian Schottenheimer plan to use (we’re hoping for the best but planning for the worst).
Gallup is another year removed from his knee injury, which can only mean good things. Even if his improvement is only marginal, the WR unit, as a whole, will be light-years ahead of last season. If Gallup is able to bounce back to his pre-injury self, the Dallas Cowboys may even be better than the star-studded 2021 version.
Coordinators can scheme players open but eventually an offense needs more than one downfield weapon or they will be exposed. That happened last season for the Cowboys.
With more firepower the Cowboys are less likely to have that happen to them again in 2023.