It’s rare for a third round pick to come into the league with as much fan-fare as Michael Gallup did in 2018.
A fan favorite before ever putting on the Cowboys uniform, Michael Gallup was expected to be a third round steal by much of Cowboys Nation. And though the start to his rookie season was slow, Gallup finished 2018 strong, catching a touchdown in their Wild Card win and going for over 100 yards receiving in the Divisional Round.
Now entering year two, Michael Gallup is being anointed as the next breakout star for this Cowboys offense. Their future number two across from Amari Cooper, and a trusted target for the young quarterback Dak Prescott.
But is he headed for this breakout year, or will he fall victim to the often discussed “Sophomore slump?”
The Case for a Slump
Let’s start with the negative. Or, the potential for negative.
With Amari Cooper in the fold the Cowboys have their true “wide receiver 1,” playing on the outside and eating up the passing game targets. The real issue isn’t that Cooper will be getting justified targets, though, it’s that there won’t be many passing targets to go around at all.
Since drafting Ezekiel Elliott, or really since the 2014 season and the emergence of Demarco Murray, the Cowboys’ offense has been predicated on running the football. While they take chances and pass when they deem it necessary, running the football to control the clock and inflict “body blows” has been their main priority.
Maybe this doesn’t change in the slightest bit in 2019. Elliott leads the league in touches by a mile, while newcomers like Tony Pollard and Randall Cobb eat up any of the non-Cooper/Elliott targets each Sunday. This leaves Gallup to be nothing more than a shot-player on the outside who may catch the occasional pass on a vert or a slant.
The Case for a Breakout Year
It’s more fun to envision this scenario, isn’t it?
With Kellen Moore as the new offensive coordinator, the Cowboys philosophy on offense shifts a bit. No longer will they run Elliott into the ground and play for third and manageable. Instead, they will value passing on early downs, and get Michael Gallup his deserved opportunities.
With Amari Cooper drawing increased attention from opposing secondaries, and teams needing to account for Elliott and the running game as well, Gallup is left one-on-one with number two cornerbacks every week.
And, he feasts.
Gallup and Prescott continue to develop a rapport, as he uses his precise route running and reliable hands to gain that trust in year two.
So, what’s more realistic?
While both are certainly extremes in their own right, Michael Gallup is more likely headed for that breakout year rather than the slump. He began to look more comfortable in the offense as his rookie season went on, and was playing more like the Michael Gallup we saw in college by the time the postseason came along.
If all goes according to plan, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will be a fearsome 1/2 receiving combination for the Cowboys for the foreseeable future.