With the Dallas Cowboys cutting down their active roster to 53-players on Tuesday, there will be much talk about the weakest positional groups for the team heading into the regular season on September 11. All signs point to the offensive side of the ball having the most glaring issues with the offensive line and the wide receiver corps being in the crosshairs.
While the loss of left tackle Tyron Smith due to an unfortunate leg injury will loom large for most of the season, there’s an immediate concern surrounding the team’s crop of receivers. With Michael Gallup still rehabbing from an ACL injury that will likely force him to miss at least a game or two (possibly more) to start the season, much of the discussion during this summer circled around whom might step in and take his place until his full return.
And fans may not like the answers the Cowboys came up. Ultimately, the burden of the receiving duties will fall on the shoulders of third-year wideout CeeDee Lamb and tight end Dalton Schultz. But any NFL defensive coordinator worth their salt will scheme to take Lamb out of the offensive equation, so expect him to see more double-teams and extra attention than ever.
That leaves Schultz and a handful of unproven receivers for quarterback Dak Prescott to rely on. Those names should include rookie wideout Jalen Tolbert, Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko, and USFL MVP KaVontae Turpin, if the roster projections pan out. Throw in running back Tony Pollard into the mix as well, who could line up in the slot if needed.
Still, there is lingering hope the Cowboys might get Gallup back earlier than expected. And the team could possibly even add a veteran receiver in the coming days to help in the interim. But even if the team does make a move, I’m afraid they’ve missed the window to have either Gallup or an unknown addition make a major impact to start the season.
Why? Well, Gallup is coming off a devastating knee injury. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to simply pick up where he left off last year. Even if he’s able to return, let’s say by Week Three, the Cowboys have a history of bringing injured players back slowly. So expect Gallup’s snaps to be limited through those first few games, minimizing his impact.
And if the Cowboys decide to bring in a veteran receiver into the fold right now, how effective can they be without having the benefit of working with the team during training camp and the preseason? How long would it take for them to develop chemistry and trust with Prescott? They would be coming in at a disadvantage. And depending upon how much real football they’ve played as of late, they may just be hitting their stride by the time Gallup is ready to replace them.
An outlier to this theory could be signing a wide receiver who has already worked with Dak Prescott before. Someone like Cole Beasley, who is currently a free agent, might lessen the learning curve significantly because he’s played with Dak and in this system before, although Scott Linehan was the offensive coordinator during his final season in Dallas, not Kellen Moore.
In the end, I believe the Dallas Cowboys did themselves a disservice by not addressing their wide receiver needs much earlier. Now, the team will likely be forced to rely heavily on the unproven talent they’ve been cultivating over the past few seasons. And players like Brown, Fehoko, and Tolbert may be asked to make significant contributions against teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cincinnati Bengals. If this young receiver group can’t step up, the Cowboys only have themselves to blame for not addressing the issue sooner.