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Next Man Up: Can Jalen Brooks take next step?


Like many teams around the league, the Cowboys sent a strong message in free agency. However, it wasn't in the form of adding a lot of players or keeping the majority of their own. What seems clear for the Cowboys is their willingness to give opportunities to younger players on the team.

This roster is loaded with players still on their rookie contracts that haven't had that breakout season just yet. Could it be this year? The Cowboys can only hope, especially considering they signed just two players in free agency and currently have just six picks in the NFL Draft later this month.

So the Cowboys have to lean on some of their previous drafts and free-agent signings to help fill out this roster.

Today, we'll continue the series with wide receiver Jalen Brooks.

  • Name: Jalen Brooks
  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Experience: 2nd Year
  • Games Played/Starts: 7 / 0
  • Years Left on Contract: 3
  • How Acquired: 7th round pick, 2023 (South Carolina)
  • Key Stat: Had just six catches for 64 yards in his rookie season.

The Past: It was an interesting rookie year for Brooks, the seventh-round pick of the Cowboys who was described more of a special teams player and not someone who might compete right away for receiver reps. That changed in the offseason practices and then even more at training camp when he was one of the more consistent players in Oxnard. Brooks was routinely making big plays and even though he wasn't as productive in the preseason games, he did enough to stick around. During the regular season, Brooks had a few moments here and there – playing just seven games. He caught six passes, including four in one game against the Giants in a second-half blowout.

The Present: When the Cowboys decided to part ways with Michael Gallup, the first player usually mentioned to step up is Jalen Tolbert. The third-round pick from 2021 had a solid second season and should be ready to be the No. 3 receiver in this offense. But if that's the case, someone has to take Tolbert's role, which included 22 catches for 268 yards and two touchdowns last year. That could easily be Brooks, who should have the chance to compete for regular snaps in the offense, especially with his experience on special teams. Listed at 205 pounds, Brooks is one of the biggest and strongest receivers currently on the team.

The Future: The wide receiver group, like all positions, can look very different here in the next few days. The Cowboys will likely add at least two or three receivers to the mix, either later in the draft or in free agency. One way or another, Brooks will have to keep competing for playing time and reps. If he can make the leap such as Tolbert did from Year 1 to Year 2, and then perhaps build off of that, there could be a role for Brooks in this league for several years, especially if he continues to develop as a receiver.

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