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Science Lab: No QB Drama, Gimme WR Controversy


FRISCO, Texas - Jerry Jones would love a quarterback controversy involving Cooper Rush and Dak Prescott, but not for the reason you think. What the Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager was truly angling at was his hope that Rush doesn't lose a single game, which is essentially what he's paying him for, but what this team should really want (and what they need) is a controversy at wide receiver.

Allow me to explain, and feel free to partake in the complimentary hors d'oeuvres being passed around whilst I do. By the way, I also validate parking, so make yourself at home.

Unlike a quarterback controversy (or one involving the running backs that is entirely created and fueled by social media angst), the outcome of a WR controversy in Dallas would only serve all involved; and in a big way.

Consider the following: this is a team that moved on from four-time Pro Bowl wideout Amari Cooper in March and knew they'd be without another 1,000-yard receiver - i.e., Michael Gallup - for the first few games to begin the season as he worked/works his way back from a torn ACL suffered in late December (Week 17 vs. Arizona Cardinals).

There was no splashy addition made in free agency, but rather the antithesis took place, having [additionally] lost dynamic backup Cedrick Wilson to a larger bag in South Florida. The signing of former second-round pick James Washington on a one-year deal adds more intrigue to the mix, but he's working to return from a broken foot and hasn't yet begun practicing.

But feel free to throw him into this equation as well, when the time comes, which only serves my point that much more vigorously - one I'd like you to take my hand and walk with me on.

Following the upheaval at WR this offseason, only one-fourth of the WR hydra remained in place, namely CeeDee Lamb, instantly becoming the de facto WR1 and tasked with leading a group of young and unproven receivers who had/have the unenviable task of trying to replace a lethal amount of yards and touchdowns that helped make the Cowboys offense the best in the league in 2021.

It's been and up-and-down ride thus far, to say the very least.

Lamb who, on Monday, dropped one of the easiest potential touchdown lobs he'll see in his NFL career, redeemed himself in magnificent fashion in the Week 3 victory over the Giants via one of the best receptions you'll see this season. The "Cool Hand Luke" in the room has been Noah Brown, whose 213 receiving yards (14.2 yards per catch) and 71.4% catch rate in three starts are already career highs, and growing, but this is also a unit that took three weeks to see the debut of rookie second-round pick Jalen Tolbert.

And a disappointing start to the season by promising undrafted rookie Dennis Houston (now waived and re-signed to the practice squad for further development after a stellar training camp) combines with another talented upstart in Simi Fehoko struggling to get going - entering the Sunday matchup against the Commanders with only three catches on four targets for a total of 24 receiving yard the others will place upon themselves to one-up that production on a weekly basis.

So as you can see, unlike what's happening with the success of Cooper Rush being weighed against the career numbers and commanding leadership of Dak Prescott, and unlike the mutual success of both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard on any given week, the wide receiver room in Dallas could benefit from the return of Gallup to a degree that they should hope he goes on to light up defenses in such a fashion that people start wondering if he's the actual WR1, even if it actually isn't.

Because ultimately, in this situation, the who is not as important as the what.

Given the competitive nature of Lamb, Gallup and Brown, you can bet each will make it a personal challenge to be the most destructive on any given week.

Lamb is "absolutely" ready for Gallup to return, genuinely, noting just how much a compatriot he views as his brother means to the ability of the Cowboys to pass the ball. But if Gallup logs a 100-yard game this season before Lamb does, especially considering the latter has a three (or four?) game head start, the fire within Lamb would suddenly put a solar flare to shame. The same goes for Brown, who came close to his first 100-yard game with a 91-yard outing in the 20-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2.

All three want to be more than simply great. They all want to be … The Him.

The more the three (and, to a lesser but still important degree: Washington, Tolbert and Fehoko) battle it out for impact supremacy, the more production the Cowboys will become the beneficiary of over the course of what is a very long season and, as such, the aid it provides for Rush in the interim and Prescott in the long-term will be invaluable to potentially repeating as NFC East champs for the first time since the 1995 and 1996 seasons.

As a related aside, I'd love to throw KaVontae Turpin in this conversation but he presumably won't see the targets needed to become a talking point in a WR1 conversation.

It has to be said that the WR position isn't anything like the one positioned directly behind Tyler Biadasz's backside, because the mantra of "there can only be one" does not apply whatsoever here. Instead, there can be two or three or four, and the 2021 version of this Cowboys offense proved it time and again (see above: they had four).

Friendly competition is productively rampant amongst wide receivers as a position group at every level of the sport, in general, because while there's nothing but love between the ones in Dallas who genuinely want to see their counterparts torch an opposing defense, you'd be lying to yourself if you thought they don't want to be the one holding the biggest flamethrower.

And so it goes:

Lamb is a 1,000-yard receiver, a Pro Bowler and a former first-round pick.

Gallup is a 1,000-yard receiver and a former third-round pick.

Brown is currently on pace to deliver 1,207 receiving yards (twice as much as Wilson's career-best), and he's a former … seventh-round pick (!!) … who is now in his sixth NFL season and finally getting a shot to break out (and taking advantage of it) after willfully and unapologetically doing the grunt work for half a decade to purchase the time needed to get to this moment.

There is also the angle of financial compensation as a motivating factor, with Lamb trying to build toward a massive second contract and Brown clawing his way toward a Wilson-esque offseason in 2023, both having now seen Gallup get rewarded with a five-year deal worth $62.5 million (his motivation being proving to the Cowboys they made the right decision and that he's the same electric player post-injury).

The stage will soon be set for the most venomous three heads of the hydra to compete with each other for the right to say they did the most damage against a respective opponent, sending the others with a playful smile back to the practice field to make tweaks in the hopes of laying claim to that title themselves in the week(s) to follow.

So, yes, I'd love nothing more than to see a WR controversy in Dallas, and I'm willing to bet the receivers in Dallas would as well. And so should you, because the last time there was one, the Cowboys nearly produced three 1,000-yard receivers … in the same season. And if they can continue to utilize Elliott and Pollard as a means of setting up such production, it's a win-win.

Now tell me, with a straight face not littered with crumbs from the tasty hors d'oeuvres, that this isn't what you want to see take place on "America's Team" in 2022.

Exactly, now here's a napkin.

Good talk.

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