FRISCO, Texas - Needless to say, this is a pivotal season coming for Michael Gallup, but the good news is all signs point to the former 1,000-yard receiver likely returning to form having now had more time removed from suffering a torn ACL in January 2022.
He'd eventually return to the field in Week 4 of the 2022 season and show flashes of being in prime form, but something wasn't quite right.
Too often it appeared Gallup was overthinking in his routes and moves, and he readily admits this was the case as the mental hurdle of returning from what was the first major injury of his entire football career was more difficult to overcome than he thought it'd be.
"You know you're healthy, everything's good, it's just mental now," Gallup said last season. "You've got to make sure you feel like your old self, so getting to that, that's the hardest part."
On Thursday, the first OTAs practice open to the media, Gallup looked quite springy in his step, crisp in his routes and, more importantly, extremely confident and fluid in his overall play and demeanor. Needless to say, it's a welcome sight for a player who has proven he can be a game-changer for the Cowboys offense.
"I think Michael's very important," said head coach Mike McCarthy ahead of Thursday's practice at The Star in Frisco. "I think the biggest thing for Michael, and he wants it too, he just wants to have a healthy season. He looks good. This is really the first time, in my time here, that he's had a full offseason program.
"He's definitely very important."
And you can expect to see Gallup utilized as more than simply a "go and get it" wideout, which is the strongest point of his game, as McCarthy and newly-appointed offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have bigger plans for him in complement to CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks.
"… Just conversations we've had, particularly with Brian Schottenheimer, giving him some more opportunities inside," McCarthy added. "Expanding his responsibility [route tree] and checklist, he's been pretty much in school here at X receiver but we feel like he can do more."
That could truly create a dynamic that evolves into a nightmare scenario for opposing secondaries, never truly knowing where either of the top three Cowboys receivers will line up; or what route they might run, seeing as Gallup would be disqualified from any attempt to pigeonhole him as little more than a downfield bully (though he'd still ideally be that as well, but on-demand).
It's all very exciting to two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott.
"The guy was coming off of an injury last year, everybody understands that," said Prescott. "And for him to get in this offseason and get his body right, and starting to come back into who Michael Gallup is and starting to feel himself. I think you saw that right there — doing it on a couple of plays consecutively. That's a guy I've got a lot of trust in.
"I know who he is and, more importantly, how he works and comes to work each and every day to get better. He's getting his feet under him and he's going to be better."
If Gallup returns to form in 2023, the only thing that could presumably stop the Cowboys offense from regaining their statistical throne atop the NFL will be themselves.