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Pro Football Focus: Cowboys Have the Number 1 WR Unit in the NFL

On the offensive side of the ball, the Dallas Cowboys look to be as good as any team in the NFL. Every unit has Pro Bowl players aside from the tight end position. It doesn’t take long before you are amazed by the embarrassment of riches that Kellen Moore has to work within 2020.

While the offensive line often gets the praise as one of the best units in the NFL and Ezekiel Elliott is typically in the conversation as the league’s best running back, it’s the Cowboys wide receiver group that sets the standard heading into the 2020 season.

Yesterday, Pro Football Focus claimed that the Dallas Cowboys have the best wide receiver unit in the NFL.

https://twitter.com/PFF/status/1285545307711975426?s=20

What a difference a little investment makes at one of the more critical positions on the field.

If you recall just two summers ago, the Dallas Cowboys were rolling into training camp with Terrance Williams, Allen Hurns, and Cole Beasley as their top three wide receivers. Rookie Michael Gallup, Noah Brown, Brice Butler, and Cedrick Wilson rounded out the depth chart, but it was hardly a dynamic wide receiver group.

After a 3-4 start to the season, the Cowboys realized they needed to take advantage of the opportunity the Oakland Raiders presented by trading for Amari Cooper. That move turned the page for the Cowboys offense in 2018 as they finished the season 7-1 and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs.

Despite struggling on the road and with injuries in 2019, Cooper was still a very productive player. He caught 79 passes for 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns. Strangely, a season where he had nearly 1,200 yards could be considered a down year. But drops and inconsistency will do that for you.

In 2019, Michael Gallup, who showed flashes of his potential in 2018 while fighting his way up the depth chart, took a big step forward in his progression. Gallup wasn’t very efficient on the targets he saw his rookie season but turned that around in a big way in his second year in the league. Gallup had 66 receptions for 1,107 yards and six touchdowns while improving his yards per reception by more than a yard and his catch rate by nearly ten percentage points.

What’s incredible about the numbers Cooper and Gallup put up in 2019, is that they could have been even better. Michael Gallup led the NFL in drops, and Cooper had his issues as well. Had they cut those numbers in half, they both would have gone over 1,200 yards on the season.

And then, as good as this wide receiver duo looks, the Cowboys went and invested in an area that was already a strength when they drafted the best wide receiver in the draft in CeeDee Lamb at number 17 overall.

Lamb comes to the NFL after averaging more than 17 yards per reception during his career at OU and 21 yards per reception in his final season with the Sooners. He was a dynamic player that could win at every level of the defense, often showing physicality and elusiveness that would allow him to break tackles and take short receptions for long gains.

His ability to play every position in the offense, the slot including, will allow him to get on the field early in his career. With the attention that will be paid to Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, Lamb should see favorable coverages and mismatches in the secondary. He’s too good of a route runner for safeties and linebackers, and he’s too big and physical for most slot cornerbacks. It won’t be long before teams realize they have to pay extra attention to the Cowboys rookie wide receiver, which will open up opportunities for others in the passing game.

Further down the roster, the Cowboys have some interesting options in speedster Devin Smith, versatile big receivers in Ventrell Bryant and Noah Brown, and a player like Cedrick Wilson that could play in the slot and on the outside. There are certainly questions there, and there’s no telling how many players Mike McCarthy will want to keep on his 53-man roster, but they have some intriguing options.

If the 2020 season takes place, the Cowboys offense will be must-see television every single week. With their depth and talent all over the formation, the Cowboys will be able to dictate to defenses what they want to do in both the passing and running game. The Cowboys wide receiver group will be huge for Dak Prescott. Just as important is, they’ll take some of the attention away from the running game and Ezekiel Elliott.

The Cowboys trio will allow them to be in 11-personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) at a league-high rate, which should allow for a more efficient running game with defenses forced to spread out and focus on the weapons on the outside. This will leave fewer defenders in the box for the offensive line and the running game to block. If teams attempt to load the box against the Cowboys, they have the weapons on the outside to take advantage.

Some teams have wide receiver groups that could be in the conversation like the Arizona Cardinals with DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald. Or perhaps the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin or Buffalo Bills with Stefon Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley. Then there’s the Houston Texans with Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, and Randall Cobb or the Cleveland Browns with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. While those units look good and will be formidable, none of them compare to the talent the Cowboys starting trio brings to the field.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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  1. There are two big questions that will have to be answered before this group can be considered the best group. 1. Can Cooper stay healthy? He’s great when he is, the “on the road struggles” could be due in large part to the injury issues, can’t get the same treatments and rest on the road as at home. If he can be on the field and healthy (to the extent any NFL receiver is), no doubt he’s one of the best.

    Can Lamb learn the offense, with no preseason games? Practice can only do so much, as can pure physical ability. Ability, and the lack of NFL game film available for defensive coordinators, means a lot but we’re not talking being a really good player, we’re talking “best in the NFL”. That’s a tall order.

    We’ll see.

  2. I’d still lean towards Arizona because they can actually go 4-deep with Andy Isabella. And if you factor in TE’s then Tampa Bay goes 5-deep with Gronk, OJ Howard and Cameron Brate. Jarwin and Lamb are talented but still unproven. And if talent alone is being considered (over actual production), then Atlanta has Jones, Ridley, and Treadwell (all former 1st round picks) along with TE Hayden Hurst.

  3. Pure hype.
    The Dallas receivers are Cooper who was top 3 in drops and plays badly on the road.
    Gallop was #1 in drops .
    CeeDee is a rookie and has never played a down.
    There are no backups .
    So, come on. It is just ridiculous to call an injured guy with bad hands, a guy with bad hands, and a rookie the best receivers in the NFL.

    • Your out of your mind siempre44. You can lead the league in drops and still have 13 1400 plus yards and double digit tds. Every Wr in the league are professionals playing in the best football league on the planet. A different WR leads the league in drops every year. Cooper is also a top 3 route runner. He can play both outside or inside. He didn’t start struggling at all until his injuries started and still managed to finish as a top 7 WR. Michael Gallup has already showed in just his first two seasons that he’s going to be a force. He can play outside or inside, can make catches in traffic, Can adjust his body, out jump you, over power you, and has sneaky speed. He’s only going to get better with experience. Then there’s the new 88 if you can’t see or already don’t know that Lamb is going to be a stud at any level then your a fool and shouldn’t be talking football anyway. By the way he can also play outside or inside. All 3 can lineup anywhere anytime they want and consistently win. As far as back ups go who cares if your the 4th Wr your going to be open re guard less due to simple numbers when there in 4 wr sets. There going to be in the 11 personnel the majority of the time anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jarwin doesn’t finish as a top ten tight end just because of the WR trio and Elliot. By the way they were the number 1 offense last year why would they take a big step back this season with another year together plus upgrades at WR and tight end due to witten being 50.

      • This rant is fine but I I think you’ve over-hyped and misrepresented what Gallup is. His is not a slot receiver, nor is he being considered as an inside option (though none of us really know for sure what McCarhty has I’m mind, but I’m 2 years in Dallas, Gallup does not line up in the slot). Secondly, he’s not proved himself as a 50/50 guy either. He’s smaller than the average CB and not as fast as most. He’s not out-jumped or out-muscled defenders with any regularity at all. I like the kid, but he looks better to the naked eye because he is in the absolute perfect situation for himself. He’s not even proven he is worthy of WR1 consideration … in fact, most would argue that’s why he may not be long for this team. By the time his contract is up Lamb should be ready to resume the WR1 role and the team will have to choose between Cooper and Gallup. And Gallup may not even want to stay here if he gets WR1 money elsewhere.

  4. As usual u make good points siempre but then you can’t help yourself and have to over exaggerate the weaknesses of our WRs. Some validity to what u say but our receiving core is much better than u give them credit for.

  5. As much as we hear about all of the drop balls, did anyone ever consider some of the passes were either late, wrong shoulder, off target, putting the catcher in a bad position, force throw, weather conditions, to mention a few about other parts of the equation.

  6. Lonnie I hear you foreal. I think they take some of those in consideration sometimes, but damn right Dak struggled making throws allot more times than he’s criticized for. Easy clean pocket throws at that too. It seems like the harder throws, off balanced, and throws on the run that you could see missing were the throws he put right on the money and hit every time. He drove me crazy some sundays

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