So much was made of the Cowboys trio of wide receivers last season, but hopes for all three eclipsing 1,000 yards were dashed when Dak Prescott was lost for the season in week five. With Prescott ready to go, even higher expectations carry over into 2021 for Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb.
Cooper was activated off PUP on Tuesday, and while fans may not see him do much in Oxnard, he's expected to be a full-go for week one. Lamb has been one of the stars of Cowboys camp in Cooper's absence, showing a huge jump from year one to two as he's come down with highlight reel catches.
This leaves Michael Gallup right where he loves to be. The under-the-radar receiver is appreciated much more in Dallas than he is around the league, but Cowboys opponents will have to prepare for Gallup as both an outside deep threat and slot target this season.
Cowboys WR Michael Gallup is enjoying his increased work in slot. “That’s a whole different route tree than playing outside. …Everybody labels me as just a ‘deep-ball threat,’ but I know I can do a whole lot more.” Been focused on route-running, conceptual details this camp.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 9, 2021
A contract season for Michael Gallup, the Cowboys are not expected to extend Gallup until after the season. Gallup told the media that he's labeled as a deep ball threat, and the Colorado State product has led the team in yards per reception among starters in each of his three seasons. (Tavon Austin and Devin Smith had a higher yards per reception in 2018 and 2019, but on just eight and five catches respectively).
Gallup was on pace for 1,114 yards with Prescott through five games in 2020, which matches up closely with his stats from 2019. It's Gallup's technical ability as a route runner that make him so consistent, and playing in the slot will take full advantage of this. Able to burst off the line and take the top off a defense, Gallup also uses his hands well to gain leverage inside and extend away from his frame to make catches in traffic.
The Cowboys offense of a year ago hardly ever resembled the unit that will hopefully take the field against the Buccaneers when the season kicks off in less than a month. There were glimpses of how OC Kellen Moore wants to create mismatches in the passing game, and freeing a receiver like Gallup to play all over the field could be a huge part of it. A lighter Amari Cooper and speedy Lamb on the outside maintain the Cowboys vertical threat, while depth players like Cedrick Wilson and rookie Simi Fehoko may also see reps inside.
Michael Gallup just Mossed Darious Williams. pic.twitter.com/0G5w6D9VZV
— David Helman (@davidhelman_) August 7, 2021
The rest of the Cowboys receivers will have their next chance to stand out in the team's second preseason game at the Cardinals on Friday. With the starters as written in stone as any position on this roster, it's been difficult to find a hidden gem at WR through the offseason thus far – unless this label still belongs to an emerging star in Michael Gallup, even after a catch like the one above.