Arguably the most prominent move Dallas made this offseason was trading wide receiver Amari Cooper, its WR1 in the past three-and-a-half seasons, to the Cleveland browns for just a fifth-round pick (plus a swap of sixth-rounders).
Back on Friday, Jones told Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram precisely that, citing his “production, in the huddle and off the field” as reasons why Lamb is an improvement over Cooper. What he said shocked many, with the majority chalking it down to just another crazy Jerry Jones moment.
But does Jones have a point?
From a statistical standpoint, Lamb and Cooper were about even in 2021. The sophomore from Oklahoma caught 79 passes for 1,102 yards and six touchdowns compared to 68 catches for 865 yards and eight touchdowns for Cooper. Both played about the same amount of games, too, with Cooper’s 15 just ones less than Lamb’s 16.
Lamb’s 13.9 yards per catch and 441 yards after catch trumped Cooper’s 12.7 yards per catch and 235 yards per catch, but Cooper recorded a 116.9 passer rating when targeted, compared to just 91.0 for Lamb. Lamb also finished seventh in the league with eight drops, while Cooper dropped just three passes last season.
Both had similar years in 2021. Lamb was even Dallas’ de facto WR1 when Cooper missed two games due to testing positive for COVID-19. However, he does have sizable shoes to fill. Cooper was the Cowboys’ proven WR1, and Dallas’ decision to trade him for scraps left many scratching their heads.
Quarterback Dak Prescott performed better statistically with Cooper on the field. He completed 67.9 percent of his passes with a 102.9 passer rating with Cooper compared to a 63.5 completion percentage and an 86.1 passer rating without him. During his time in Dallas, its offense was weaker without his presence.
While Lamb was the unquestioned WR1 at Oklahoma, he’s yet to prove he can be a suitable WR1 in the NFL. This season, he’ll get his first opportunity. Prescott and Lamb are already trying to form a true QB to WR1 connection. Their lockers are now next to each other, with Prescott declaring Lamb “the guy” to be Dallas’ new leading receiver on Friday.
Whether you agree with Jones’ take or not, Lamb has shown nothing but an upward trend, coming off his first Pro Bowl selection last season. In 2022, he’ll get a majority of the targets and has a chance to break out as one of the NFL’s elite receivers. Lamb can definitely become the “upgrade” over Cooper that Jones thinks he is. But for now, we’ll have to wait and see.
If Lamb continues to improve and build on his success, he’ll prove Jones right.