Last year’s iteration of the Dallas Cowboys had a starting receiver trio of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Cedrick Wilson. In the 2022 version of the Cowboys, only Lamb remains.
If they want their offense to stay hot in a suddenly more competitive NFC East, Dallas is going to need some big contributions from Lamb, as well as recently extended receiver Michael Gallup, free agent receiver James Washington and maybe a rookie or two.
You don’t end up being the NFL’s leading scoring offense while also leading the league in offensive yardage without tons of talent on that side of the ball. Such was the case of a 2021 Cowboys team that featured the triumphant return of quarterback Dak Prescott and big seasons from receivers Cooper, Lamb and Wilson as well as running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
Cooper had been a special piece of the Cowboys’ offense in each of the three and a half seasons he played in Dallas after coming over via a trade with the Raiders. He was a Pro Bowler in his first year and a half with the Cowboys and scored 13 touchdowns with nearly 2,000 receiving yards in his last two years in Dallas.
Wilson, too, had something of a breakout season himself in his second full season with the Cowboys in 2021. With Gallup gone for a significant portion of the early season and again at the end, Wilson stepped up in his absence and recorded career-highs in catches (45), receiving yards (602) and touchdowns (6). After two years near the very bottom of the Cowboys’ depth chart, Wilson proved himself to be a key part of a high-powered offensive machine in 2021. That led to his status as a more sought after free agent this offseason and set the stage for his departure from Dallas.
The losses of Cooper and Wilson, while significant, shouldn’t prove to be catastrophic. The guys expected to step up in 2022 are clearly talented, as well.
Lamb had already supplanted Cooper as the true No. 1 receiver in the Cowboys’ offense by the end of last season. Dallas also clearly liked what they had in Gallup, who they committed to instead of Wilson with a five-year extension even after he tore his ACL at the end of the 2021 season. There’s also tight end Dalton Schultz, who also broke out last season and will likely remain one of Prescott’s top three receiving options in 2022.
Where questions arise is within the depth behind the starting receiver duo and breakout tight end. The Cowboys signed Washington as a free agent this offseason before drafting receiver Jalen Tolbert in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and Ty Fryfogle and Dontario Drummond were two more additions as undrafted free agents.
Barring a big season from a rookie or two, Dallas just doesn’t have the same quality depth from top to bottom in the receivers room going into this season. The one veteran addition they made, Washington, doesn’t have the most outstanding track record to provide confidence that he can be a worthy replacement for Cooper and Wilson.
It’s imperative that the Cowboys find an impactful replacement for two of their biggest offensive contributors from last season. Not only because an injury to starters Lamb or Gallup would devastate them without strong depth pieces behind them, but because the NFC East race is shaping up to be much more competitive in 2022. A lack of a strong receivers room could be the difference between another division title and a wild card berth or even potentially missing out on the playoffs if both the Commanders and Eagles have strong seasons.
Regardless of whether it’s a veteran like Washington or one of the rookie receivers, Dallas needs at least one receiver to step up in 2022 and fill the big shoes of Wilson and Cooper. Lamb and Gallup can’t do it all on their own.
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