FRISCO, Texas – Always a good day when Michal Irvin drops by The Star.
Even a better day when he has time to talk about CeeDee Lamb, the resurgent No. 88 during the Cowboys' current two-game winning streak. See, there had been a three-game stretch when Lamb accounted for only four catches in each of those games, two of them losses.
But in these past two games, and no coincidence wins, Lamb has grabbed 19 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. That for sure caught the eye of Irvin, the second in this Cowboys' four-man No. 88 wide receiver club that also includes Drew Pearson, Dez Bryant and of course Lamb, the current No. 88.
"You know, we have a group text that we get to group text each other on, all of us 88s. You know, Drew Pearson, Dez, me, CeeDee Lamb, and of course the honorable Post Malone," Irvin begins. "So, every time CeeDee makes a play, zzzz, because you know we're all watching it. And it is great because I think about the journey of wearing 88, and now it's gotten to this where we are actually on a group text when CeeDee goes off, we're right there giving input: 'That's the way to play.'
"And as it always has been, as it always should be, all roads run through Route 88, and that's what you are starting to see."
For the season, this current two-time Pro Bowl 88 has 46 catches for 633 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 13.8 yards a catch. But it's been in these past two games, wins over the LAs, Chargers and Rams, Lamb has become the focal point of a team scoring 63 points and rising from a 3-2 record, having lost to Arizona and San Francisco in two of the three previous games, to 5-2 and heading to Philadelphia to meet the NFL's leading 7-1 Eagles on Sunday.
And this combination of Lamb and quarterback Dak Prescott has propelled this Cowboys passing attack to levels we've been used to seeing, especially last season when Lamb finished with 107 catches for 1,359 and nine touchdown receptions.
The Hall of Famer Irvin detects what's been the difference of late.
"I love what they've done the last few games," Irvin says, referring to moving Lamb around in the offensive formation, lining him up outside and in the slot. "It's hard for a No. 1 receiver to just play in the slot because all eyes are on him all the time. So they are going to make sure some of those zones are limiting (him).
"They may be zone coverages, but there are going to be three guys leaning towards him. So, if my zone area is here, and if CeeDee is over there, now I'm going to have my area a little closer to him because I know you are trying to get him the ball. But now I put him outside, it just starts messing with everything, and he has that ability. And that's the one thing I said when we first got him. I said he has the ability to be the best 88 out of all the 88s because none of us played both inside and out. None of us did.
The Cowboys are tapping into 88, Dak Prescott owning a 131.6 QB rating when targeting Lamb, third highest drawn by a receiver this season.
- About Time: Sure has taken the NFL a long time to get on board with Cowboys rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey, finally, at last, naming him the NFC special Teams Player of the Week. Overlooked the former soccer player's performance in Week 2 when Aubrey converted five-of-five field goal attempts in the Cowboys' 30-10 win over the Jets, one from 55 yards out, giving him seven consecutively made field goals to start his NFL career. Ignored his three-for-three performance against the Patriots and going two-for-two at the Chargers, including what turned out to be the game-winner in the 20-17 victory. But no longer could they turn a blind eye when choosing the NFC's best special teams performance in Week 8 with Aubrey going two-for-two, including a career long from 58 yards to stretch his streak to 18 consecutively made field goals to start a career, tying the mark set by Cleveland's Travis Coons in 2015. If Aubrey makes his next attempt to get to 19 straight, the record is his. Not bad for a guy who never kicked a football in high school or college, and not competitively until 2022 in the USFL, becoming the Cowboys' first rookie since Dan Bailey in 2011 to win this special teams honor.
- Trade Dust: So, unlike those playing fantasy football or fantasy baseball, the Cowboys didn't budge an inch at the NFL trade deadline to make a move. Not the Cowboys, oh no. They did their wheeling and dealing in the offseason and the end of August. The critics of no movement should give the Cowboys credit for spending a 2024 fifth-round draft choice on March 14 to acquire starting cornerback Stephen Gilmore. How about another pat on the back for trading a fifth in 2023 and sixth in 2024 for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Then a 2024 fourth rounder on Aug. 26 for Trey Lance. They didn't wait until Week 9 of the season to make a move, already getting seven games from both players. Oh, and don't forget they already spent this year's sixth when trading for Johnathan Hankins. And to move into the first pick of the sixth round of this year's draft for cornerback Eric Scott, spent a 2024 sixth. That means they do not have in 2024 a fourth, fifth or sixth. Hard to trade more draft capital without those three picks.
- Iggles Bites: With the Eagles leading the NFL with a 7-1 record, they now have a 21-4 record since the start of the of last season, and when it comes to quarterback Jalen Hurts starting, they are 24-2 in his last 26 starts, going back to Week 15 of 2021, but 1-2 in three starts against the Cowboys, his lone win last season the only game backup Cooper Rush lost in his five starts in place of Prescott … How about this one? The Eagles are averaging the third-most points per game at 28.0, behind just Miami (33.9) and, uh, the Cowboys (28.1) … The Eagles have the NFL's No. 1 ranked rushing defense, giving up just 65.5 yards a game, and have limited opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in seven of their eight games, Washington the first time around gaining 107 … Here is another good one on the continuing saga of DaRon Bland's three pick-sixes this season, becoming one of five players since the 1970 NFL merger to do so and first since Janoris Jenkins in 2012.
And for this week's last word, let's go back to the first word, listening to Michael Irvin pontificate when talking about CeeDee Lamb and his offensive philosophy, comprised with his personal experience playing 12 seasons for the Cowboys, all but one with Troy Aikman at quarterback.
"When CeeDee is outside, or a receiver is one-on-one outside, and I've heard Troy say it, 'Hey, how many times have I had Michael like this one-on-one outside? The play is over, I'm taking my best guy going up against your best guy. Let's go.' But they still continue to design some other things. But now you are getting back to it, you got to get back to it.
"I understand, and I understand the league has gone to it. The league has gone to scheme beating scheme. That's why we have the Mike McDaniel and all the new coaches coming in. You've got to scheme up things now, so they want scheme to beat scheme. But everywhere in a game, every game you play, at some point it has to come down to a man beating a man. And I want my best man, 88, on your best man, whoever it is. And wherever you got your best man, we can put our best man anywhere. That gives us a chance to win.
"Don't just have him inside. Put him outside, and you give him an opportunity to make plays. (Lamb) made plays. Seven for seven, seven targets, seven grabs. One week they came right back with that kind of a game? There is the focal point. We got it, we know it. Let's ride Route 88."
Man, thanks Mike for stopping by.