With free agency looming in March, roster turnover isn't far away. However, the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.
Today, we begin the series with wide receiver Michael Gallup.
What's Been Good: The Cowboys' third-round draft pick flashed big-play potential on the Cowboys' first drive of 2018 – the Aug. 9 preseason opener at San Francisco – when quarterback Dak Prescott hit him in stride on a go-route for a 30-yard touchdown. By the end of Gallup's rookie season, he had developed into a pretty consistent option for Prescott in the passing game. He posted a career-high six catches for 119 yards in the divisional-round loss to the Rams, and he finished fourth on the team with 33 catches for 507 yards.
2018 Highlight: Gallup seemed to raise his level of play in the biggest games, including the wild-card round against Seattle. He atoned for that Week 3 miscue by catching a perfect back-shoulder pass from Prescott in the end zone that gave Dallas a 10-6 lead just before halftime. More examples? He kept the offense moving in the Rams loss with some clutch catches, and his early 40-yard catch set the tone against the Saints in what was probably the most impressive victory of the season.
What's Been Bad: Gallup had some quiet stretches as a rookie and dropped some would-be catches. In the Cowboys' Week 3 loss at Seattle, a ball bounced off his hands over the middle and got picked off by Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Gallup caught 33 of 68 targets for only a 48.5 catch percentage, though sometimes the definition of 'targets' is misleading. As the season wore on, he did a better job of being aggressive and going up to finish plays.
What's Next: Moving forward, Gallup's speed makes him an excellent complement to Amari Cooper on the outside. The Cowboys love Gallup's approach and commitment, and a moving example was born from tragic circumstances. Despite missing practice on Thanksgiving week, Gallup prepared himself mentally to play after learning of his brother's death four days earlier (immediately following the Cowboys' road win over Atlanta). He got the game ball after the Thanksgiving victory over Washington, and he's bound to get more in years to come.
Want proof that Michael Gallup is headed for big things? The rookie's production rose as the season went on – and he played his best in the biggest games.
Bryan Broaddus' Bottom Line: Coaches made the determination to play Gallup early and often, which paid off in the end. What he was able to get away with at Colorado State didn't always work initially, but he improved each snap. He became more than just a vertical player and now has a better understanding of how he needs to prepare each week in order to play his best. His hands improved along with his balance. You can tell through his play that he took well to what wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal was teaching him, and that knowledge will help him going forward. The kid has a really bright future.