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Has the #88 Gone From Blessing to Curse for CeeDee Lamb?

is finally where we've always expected him to be, the primary receiver for the . Anointed as the team's future when he was drafted, especially once given the renowned #88 jersey, Lamb is now up against those lofty expectations and carrying a much different burden in his third season.

After over 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons, it would be unfair to say that Lamb hasn't lived up to being the 17th pick in the . CeeDee hit the ground running and was productive as a rookie despite the tumultuous issues on that year; missed 11 games and the offense was generally in tatters.

But when the Jones family pushed for Lamb to join , , and in the lineage of great Cowboys receivers to wear the #88, they raised the bar awfully high. CeeDee can't just be good now. Greatness is now the floor.

When Dallas gave away last March and re-signed with a known knee issue, Lamb's assumed ascension as an elite receiver was part of the deal. The Jones make interesting choices sometimes but they're not insane. Their entire approach to the WR position was clearly predicated on the belief that CeeDee would emerge as a dominant force in his third season.

Last Sunday's opener was a horrific start to this pivotal point in Lamb's career. With just two catches for 29 yards despite 11 targets, including a crucial drop on 3rd down, CeeDee didn't look at all like a guy who could help his or offense be better. Instead of assuaging the concerns about Cooper's departure, Lamb left us wondering if Dallas even has a true number-one receiver right now.

Again, none of this is fair to the kid. Instead of being free to become the player that talent and circumstances would allow, CeeDee was thrust into being the heir apparent before he even stepped onto an NFL practice field. Controversy about his future started immediately after the draft with his initial choice of wearing #10 in Dallas, which was eventually changed at the behest of ownership.

Sure, Dez Bryant had bad games in his life. Even Irvin and Pearson dropped a critical pass at some point. Nobody is saying Lamb has to be perfect.

But after two years of watching CeeDee benefit from the presence of others, now he's expected to be the benefactor. Whether he's ready or not, the Cowboys' handling of the WR position has forced him into the long-expected role.

Unfortunately, Lamb's quest for redemption from Week 1 will be severely hindered by the absence of Dak Prescott and the likely continued issues the next few weeks. But even if the offense struggles overall, CeeDee could still do things to make 's job easier. He can still prove that he's a catalyst, not an effect, for Dallas' offensive prowess going forward.

It may take the returns of Michael, Gallup, , and of course Dak Prescott for this to find its groove again. We certainly don't expect Lamb to put up numbers under the current circumstances.

There's a major difference between big stats and having a positive impact. CeeDee Lamb doesn't need a gaudy box score, but just to take advantage of the opportunities he's given and show that he can create a few with his own talent. That would be a dramatic improvement from Sunday night, and a vital one for Lamb's perceived value going forward.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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