FRISCO, Texas – As soon as the Cowboys finalized the trade that sent Amari Cooper to Cleveland back in March, all eyes immediately went to CeeDee Lamb.
Tabbed as the de facto No. 1 receiver over the offseason, there were still plenty of questions surrounding whether or not the University of Oklahoma product was ready for such a role with the Cowboys.
Though as the season has worn on for Dallas and Lamb with all of the twists and turns, one thing has become crystal clear - Lamb is in fact that guy. Despite being without Dak Prescott for five games early in the year Lamb still put-up good numbers by averaging 76 yards a game, but only just two touchdowns.
The last nine games since Prescott's return have been a much different story however with Lamb posting four 100-yard receiving games, an average of 89 yards per game and six touchdowns. In just the last two games against both the Jaguars and the Eagles, he finished with back-to-back 100-yard performances, including two scores against Philadelphia.
"I have the utmost confidence in myself regardless, no matter who it is guarding me," Lamb said. "Personally, I feel like I'm ready for the ball. I'm never running away from it. So, whenever my number is called, I'm going to step up to the occasion."
Tack on his 91 receptions (third in the NFL,) his over 1,200 yards (third,) and eight touchdowns (second,) and it's easy to see why Lamb was named to his second straight Pro Bowl last week.
While the numbers might not reflect it in the box score or the stat sheet in terms of targets, it was abundantly clear that there was a concerted effort against the Eagles to get Lamb the ball. Why wouldn't there be? He had 10 catches on 11 targets for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and the case could be made that it wasn't even his best game of the season.
Both Lamb and Prescott have helped elevate the Cowboys' offense into a completely new stratosphere in recent weeks, but the connection between the two has been taken off the longest they've both been on the field this season. The confidence they have in one another, and the trust the Cowboys have placed in Lamb has contributed to him becoming a true focal point for the offense.
"I would say it's a little bit of both," Lamb said when asked if it was either philosophy or Prescott's confidence in him as to why he's gotten the ball more. "I feel like we've built a lot of confidence in each other within the last couple of years playing together."
There's no disputing that having Prescott back in the lineup has been a huge boost, that much is true just by looking at the offensive numbers as a whole. The Cowboys rank third in the league in points per game with nearly 29, fifth in third down efficiency, and eighth in yards per game.
The addition of T.Y. Hilton and his savvy veteran presence in recent weeks has been an added bonus, and Lamb has not been shy about just how quickly the two have begun to click. But in reality, Lamb's emergence is just the next evolution in his growth as he nears the end of his third season.
"It's been very important," he said of the growth he's experienced this season. "I've seen a lot of things mentally throughout a game. Just understanding that if I'm going to want a play to happen, I'm going to have to make that play.
"I know my guys are going to make the play given the opportunity, but when it comes to my opportunity, I have to step up."
Spoken like a true No. 1 receiver.