FRISCO, Texas – With so many questions to answer, this series will take a look at each position on the roster, and what choices might face the front office heading into 2021.
Today, we'll finish up this look at the receiver corps with a look at their intriguing potential for 2021.
What Is This Group's Ceiling?
From the moment CeeDee Lamb's name was called back on April 23, 2020, the expectations for the Dallas Cowboys' receiver corps shot through the roof.
How could they not? The Cowboys already employed an excellent pair of receivers, as Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup were both coming off 1,000-yard seasons in 2019. Throw in the rookie wide out that many thought was the best in his class, and the hype was understandable.
The Cowboys themselves didn't even shy away, as they projected some lofty goals back at the outset of training camp.
"The expectation is to have three 1,000-yard receivers this year," Cooper told reporters back in August.
Obviously, that expectation fell short – but it'd be a bit harsh to call it a total failure. For five frantic weeks, the Cowboys were one of the most explosive passing offenses in football, as they took the air to overcome several early deficits.
When he fractures his ankle in the third quarter against New York, Dak Prescott had 1,856 passing yards and nine touchdowns. That's an insane pace that, had he kept it up, would have seen him eclipse 5,000 passing yards and 29 touchdowns.
Obviously, the Big 3 receivers benefited from that pace. At the time of the injury, Cooper, Gallup and Lamb were all on pace for 1,000-yard seasons. Even with the rotation of backup quarterbacks, Cooper still reached the mark. Lamb came tantalizingly close, finishing with 935 in his first season.
It's very fair to point out that five games is not a huge sample size. It's a good guess that Prescott's absurd pace would have fallen off. After all, the first month of the season saw them rally back from two massive deficits, against Atlanta and Cleveland, and get into a 38-31 shootout with Seattle. It's unlikely they would've continued playing such absurd games all season long.
Still, the Cowboys' receivers offered some exciting glimpses of what they were capable of as the season went along.
There's no stronger example than the Week 16 beatdown of Philadelphia, which the Cowboys won by a score of 37-17. After struggling to find week-to-week consistency, the Big 3 all took turns dunking on the Eagles to achieve that lopsided scoreline.
It started with Gallup, who dominated to the tune of six catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns – in the first half alone. From there, Amari Cooper took over with four catches for 121 yards of his own, highlighted by a 69-yard catch and run. Lamb added an exclamation point with two second-half scores – a 52-yard catch and a 19-yard run on an end around.
All told, the Cowboys' receivers bullied the Eagles for 326 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns – and that was with Andy Dalton at quarterback, rather than Prescott.
There were growing pains in 2020, to be sure. Lamb in particular struggled with drops, and Gallup had his share of issues, as well. As impressive as his overall season was, Cooper had three games that saw him fail to eclipse even 30 yards.
Even still, the potential is obvious. It's a fair guess that, given a few more games of quality quarterback play, the Cowboys' Big 3 would have all finished with 1,000 yards even without Dak Prescott.
The overwhelming likelihood is that the Cowboys run it back with Prescott and their Big 3 for 2021 at the very least. If that's what happens, the expectations will be high once again – and they absolutely should be.