Injury update: Cowboys held WR CeeDee Lamb out of team drills Saturday

He returned for the walkthrough, but Lamb’s momentary absence crystalizes the concern about how Dallas built their WR corps this offseason. | From @KDDrummondNFL

The Dallas Cowboys don’t have the league’s deepest WR rotation anymore. After trading away Amari Cooper and letting Cedric Wilson go to Miami in free agency, the unit is taking on a new look in 2022. It is of course spearheaded by emerging superstar CeeDee Lamb, who has over 2,000 receiving yards in his first two seasons. He will be an integral part to their passing offense as it appears Dallas is looking to support him with specialized weapons, at least until Michael Gallup returns to the field following his January ACL tear.

The main component in their plan of course will be Lamb eating up the majority of targets, but that can only happen if he’s healthy. While it’s still July and the regular season is six weeks away, any ding is noteworthy considering the circumstances. So ears perk up as Lamb is not taking part in team drills on Saturday, due to tightness.

Fortunately it looks to be just precautionary as Lamb did participate in walkthroughs later in practice.

The temporary scare outlines the precarious nature of the WR depth chart. With Gallup rehabbing, Dallas is dependent on third-round rookie Jalen Tolbert out of South Alabama to play a major role in the offense. Veteran free agent James Washington is a deep threat, while second-year guy T.J. Vasher appears to be a red-zone target magnet. The team signed USFL MVP Kavontae Turpin to add the speed and trick-play element to Kellen Moore’s offense. The options for QB Dak Prescott are there, including running back Tony Pollard who can split out wide.

But none of that matters if Lamb isn’t on the field for the majority of snaps. Saturday will end up being a blip on the radar, but the concern every Cowboys fan felt when the word first circulates that Lamb isn’t involved will likely be in the back of everyone’s minds all season thanks to the team’s offseason approach to the position.

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CeeDee Lamb makes ESPN’s Top 20 receiver list, Amari Cooper unmentioned

All offseason rankings come with a grain of salt, but the new top dog outranking the old top dog may say something for the decision made. Even if the execution was shoddy. | From @KDDrummondNFL

When the Cowboys decided to trade away Amari Cooper this offseason, the debate raged as to whether or not Dallas was making the right decision. The discussion was two-fold, as there were some who felt the Cowboys were giving up a top-tier wideout, and others who think that while Cooper was good, he wasn’t going to be their true No. 1; the problem was merely the level of compensation they got in the fifth-round pick.

Front and center in that discussion is whether or not Dallas had a top receiver in waiting in 2020 first-round pick CeeDee Lamb. After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, was Lamb ready to take over the mantle as a top option, and just how good could he be compared to other pass catchers around the league if he was the primary focus of Dak Prescott’s targets? According to ESPN’s recent Top 10 rankings, Dallas was wise to bet on Lamb.

Lamb didn’t make the top 10, but he was listed among the honorable mentions. Meanwhile Cooper, now of the Cleveland Browns, didn’t receive a vote among the 22 receivers who were mentioned.

For Lamb, ESPN wrote the following:

Some evaluators think Lamb is on the cusp of the top 10 after 79 catches, 1,102 yards and six touchdowns in Year 2. With Amari Cooper now in Cleveland and Michael Gallup recovering from a torn ACL, Lamb will be the focal point for Dallas’ offense. “He’s so talented that the game comes very easily for him,” an AFC scout said. “He’ll be going through the motions and then suddenly he’s breaking off two guys for a touchdown.”

Fantasy football sites are expecting a target explosion for Lamb, forecasting him to be a top 7 receiver now that he’s the lead dog in Dallas. Could he potentially see Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp or Justin Jefferson-level targets, the top three receivers on ESPN’s list?

If so, Lamb’s year could be insane and it would help ease the loss of Cooper, whose $20 million salary wasn’t suitable for a No. 2 receiver, even if Dallas isn’t immediately spending the space gained by moving on from him.

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Diggs, but no Lamb: PFF’s 2020 redraft exercise leaves Cowboys thin

A do-over of 2020’s first round would see CeeDee Lamb snatched up before the Cowboys’ pick, but would leave them with their star cornerback. | From @ToddBrock24f7

There’s no question that 2020 was, overall, a fantastic draft for the Cowboys. Of the team’s seven picks that year, two have already been to a Pro Bowl; CeeDee Lamb as a 1,100-yard receiver and Trevon Diggs as the league’s interception leader. Tyler Biadasz took over the starting center job a month into his rookie campaign, and Neville Gallimore has become a key contributor in the team’s interior defensive line rotation.

Reggie Robinson II and Bradlee Anae are playing for new teams now, and Ben DiNucci remains buried on the Cowboys depth chart at quarterback, but the hits definitely outweigh the misses when looking at 2020 in hindsight.

Not every team can say the same. Pro Football Focus has done a hypothetical redraft of 2020. Using what we know now, what should teams have done with their first-round picks that year?

Thankfully, it’s just a what-if exercise, because the Cowboys come away with far less in this alternate reality than they got in real life.

CeeDee Lamb’s locker room relo could be huge move in Cowboys’ offseason

With Amari Cooper gone, the third-year WR stands to occupy a new place in the Cowboys’ locker room, both figuratively and literally. | From @ToddBrock24f7

CeeDee Lamb is still getting used to his new place in the Cowboys locker room, both figuratively and literally.

The wideout, entering his third year and fresh off his first Pro Bowl nod, is now the unquestioned No. 1 receiver in Dallas following the offseason trade of Amari Cooper. Many of his teammates will now be looking to him to step up and be a different kind of leader now.

But they may have to look in a different spot just to find him.

That’s because Lamb has a new locker within the players’ facility. It’s a prime piece of real estate, too: right next to Dak Prescott.

So who requested the move?

“Actually, Dak did,” Lamb admitted to media members following Wednesday’s OTA practice session.

Lamb says he previously camped out next to 2021 UDFA Brandon Smith. Now he’s within whispering distance of the face of the franchise at all times. Suffice it to say his new place in the pecking order couldn’t be more obvious.

The quarterback confirmed that he may have pulled a few strings to relocate the 23-year-old.

“My two other locker mates left, so I was a little lonely and decided he’s the guy,” Prescott grinned. “Obviously, just being young, knowing that hopefully he’s my receiver until I’m done playing. Just being able to bring him closer, more conversations since he’s right there, accessible to talk, and just communicate.”

“Yeah, we came together and I kind of need to be next to him,” Lamb continued. “We’ve got to get this ball rolling.”

Lamb looks to build off career-best numbers in 2021: in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. As Rob Phillips points out on the team website, the Oklahoma product has more receiving yards in his first two seasons than any Cowboys receiver except Hall of Famer and Ring of Honor resident Bob Hayes.

It’s that kind of production- and promise- that made Cooper expendable in Dallas. And now Lamb looks to slide into his friend’s former role, both on and off the field.

“Obviously I wasn’t young too long ago, and I was all in Amari’s ear,” he explained. “I’m sure he was tired of me asking questions, but he gave me an answer for every question I needed. So therefore, I want to pass the buck. If those guys need me, I’m already there. They know that.”

Head coach Mike McCarthy acknowledges that a new locker may seem like a trivial detail in the grand scheme of things, but it actually makes a huge statement to the rest of the team.

“So important,” he called it. “Just the fact that Dak and the leadership group are thinking about that thing shows you where we are in the locker room. To me, the locker room connection and brotherhood, that’s all part of the fabric of winning a championship. And so those things are happening. I think it’s great, and if I was CeeDee I think you definitely look at your quarterback a little bit stronger that way, too. So I think that shows the connection that is definitely needed between the receiver and the quarterback, especially between Dak and CeeDee.”

A stronger connection with Prescott should lead to bigger things for Lamb in 2022. Ranked in the top 20 for catches and yards among the league’s wide receivers last season, he stands to finish even higher as the undisputed WR1 within the Cowboys’ high-octane offense.

“This is a great opportunity for him personally,” McCarthy said. “He’s doing all of the little things that are needed to get him ready to be the number one guy.”

A new locker is just one of those little things. But Lamb, Prescott, and the rest of the Cowboys believe that it’s doing enough of those little things that will ultimately be the big thing that puts this team over the hump toward a sixth championship.

And if that happens, Lamb’s relocation- just a few feet within the Dallas locker room, really- could end up actually being the biggest move of their offseason.

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Cowboys CeeDee Lamb to be even more toxic in 2022

CeeDee Lamb’s production through two seasons is above many of the top receivers in the league. How likely is his production to spike? | From @ProfessorO_NFL

Tuesday marked the start of the Dallas Cowboys organized team activities, better known as OTAs, for the 2022 campaign.  This is the first official sneak peek of the club’s new roster.With notable players departing via trade or free agency and new players joining the roster, the team will certainly look different from the 2021 version.

The most intriguing changes happened in the wide receiver camp. The Cowboys traded Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns, lost Cedrick Wilson and Malik Turner in free agency, signed former Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington,  re-signed Michael Gallup to a five year $62.5M deal and drafted Jalen Tolbert from South Alabama with the No. 88 pick of the draft.  Whew.

When the Cowboys selected Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb with the No. 17 pick of the 2020 NFL draft and assigned him jersey No. 88, he was destined for the top rung. Having Cooper on hand allowed Lamb time to develop into the the group leader. The time has come for Lamb to assume the mantle of WR1.

Let’s take a deep dive into Lamb’s resume to see how that may pan out for the Cowboys in 2022.

 

Cowboys’ offensive breakdown: Run-game plus/minus, red-zone shares, personnel tendencies

Who helped the most blocking? Who sabotaged the run game? Who soaked up red-zone targets and who disappointed? @ProfessorO_NFL takes a look at the Cowboys performance on offense in 2021.

The 2022 NFL season will officially begin its league year on March 16 at 3:00pm CT. At that time, any player on an expiring contract will officially become a free agent and hit the open market.  When it comes to the offense, the Dallas Cowboys will need to make a decision on whether to re-sign Dalton Schultz and Connor Williams or not. Those two decisions could have ripple effects on the team determines how the makeup of the starting line will look for 2022.

Those decisions need to be predicated on performance beyond the eye test, and the proof is in the pudding. This analysis will review run-game plus/minus, personnel grouping success rate, red zone targets, and other important stats to evaluate which parts of what information head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore need to focus on as they enter a critical 2022 season.

CeeDee Lamb talks Cowboys offensive woes, potential Amari Cooper departure

Lamb gives his thoughts on why the offense fluttered down the stretch and the possibility of losing the club’s route-running wizard. | From @StarConscience

The Dallas Cowboys’ offense was playing at a supremely high level during the first six games of the 2021 season. They averaged 34.1 points and 460.8 yards over that span and the team posted a 5-1 record. One of the biggest beneficiaries was wide receiver CeeDee Lamb who racked up two 100-yard performances and four receiving touchdowns during that period which included a walk-off game-winner against the New England Patriots in Week 6.

Lamb would only score two touchdowns and reached the 100-yard plateau just one more time over his final 10 games. Most notably, Lamb only had five targets and one reception in the Cowboys’ wild-card round loss to the San Francisco 49ers, which was heavily criticized by Hall of Famer Troy Aikman. That was the culmination of the Cowboys’ inconsistency on offense over the last few months of the season, although they did have a couple of big-time performances sprinkled in. When asked what happened to the Cowboys’ offense down the stretch, Lamb said they didn’t continue what worked at the beginning of the season.

“I just feel like we got away from what we originally started the first 7-8 games,” said Lamb. “When we popped out 6-1, we were very aggressive. … I felt like in the middle of the season we slightly got away from it.”

The former Oklahoma Sooner led the Cowboys in receptions (79), yards (1,102), and yards per catch (13.9) and finished second in receiving touchdowns with six. While those are respectable numbers, if the aggression and consistency in the Cowboys’ offense didn’t falter this season, there’s no telling what Lamb’s production could have been.

The Cowboys have been in offseason mode for about a month and they have some big decisions to make on their multitude of free agents set to hit the open market in March. One potential major departure from the roster isn’t even a free agent though.

Amari Cooper, the team’s top option in the passing game, could be a cap casualty or trade piece due to his $20 million a year salary. Dallas would save $16 million if he’s released or traded, but they could also save up to $12.7 million with a restructure.

The rumblings of Cooper leaving have been running rampant. Lamb has heard the noise but hasn’t bought into the notion it’s a foregone conclusion.

“Honestly, I have no clue about what’s going on right now,” Lamb said. “I’m kinda confused about these (outside) talks. They say a lot of people are leaving. … You never know, what if we get the band back together?”

In a perfect world, the Cowboys would restructure Cooper and keep him alongside Lamb for at least a few more seasons. Cooper has made it known he wants to stay in Dallas, and even stated in December that he had never been on a team like the 2021 version of the Cowboys. That doesn’t mean he’ll be back but it also doesn’t mean he won’t.

With Michael Gallup a pending free agent and coming off a late-season torn ACL, it’s possible the dynamic trio of targets may never hit the field together again.

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Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb officially named to Pro Bowl as replacement for Cooper Kupp

Lamb led the Cowboys in receptions and receiving yards; now he’ll fill in for the league leader in both categories in the all-star contest. | From @ToddBrock24f7

CeeDee Lamb can now officially make his plans for Las Vegas.

The Cowboys’ second-year receiver has been named to the 2022 Pro Bowl in an alternate role. Lamb will be taking the roster spot of Los Angeles Rams star Cooper Kupp, who will be otherwise occupied preparing for Super Bowl LVI.

Lamb’s nod was expected late last week, but the Cowboys traditionally do not announce which of their players have been selected as alternates for the league’s annual all-star game. USA Today did report in late December, though, that defensive end Randy Gregory was also named an alternate.

Lamb led the Cowboys’ top-ranked offense in receptions and receiving yards in 2021. Now he’ll fill in for Kupp, who led the league in both categories.

A promotion for someone was guaranteed, since both teams in the conference championship game featured a receiver with a Pro Bowl invite. (Deebo Samuel was so honored for the 49ers.)

The 22-year-old Oklahoma product will join an NFC receiving corps that includes Samuel, Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson, and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans (who will be filling in for injured Green Bay superstar Davante Adams).

Five other Cowboys players got the Pro Bowl call: Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, and Bryan Anger. The game will be played February 6 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

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Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb expected to be named 2022 Pro Bowl alternate

A spot on the all-start team will open up on Sunday evening, and the second-year receiver will likely slide into the opening. | From @StarConscience

It was a mini-miracle that wide receiver CeeDee Lamb fell to the Cowboys at 17 in the 2020 NFL draft. Despite only playing four full games with quarterback Dak Prescott, Lamb had a productive season with 74 receptions for 935 yards and five touchdowns.

The expectation was for Lamb to make a significant Year 2 jump in 2021. It didn’t quite happen but his numbers went up across the board. He led the Cowboys in receptions (79), yards (1,102), and yards per catch (13.9) and was tied for second in receiving touchdowns (6).

According to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, this production is expected to land Lamb a spot on the NFC’s 2022 Pro Bowl roster as an alternate.

The NFC Championship game featuring the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers is the key to a spot opening up. Cooper Kupp and Deebo Samuel are among the five receivers named to the club, and one of them will become ineligible for the all-star event by virtue of being a part of the Super Bowl. While some teams announce their players who are named alternates when the teams are announced, the Cowboys do not.

Lamb was dominant in the slot as a rookie leading the NFL in several categories. However, with Michael Gallup missing eight games in 2021, Cedrick Wilson became the Cowboys’ primary slot threat and Lamb moved to the outside with Amari Cooper. The Cowboys’ offense flourished with this lineup for a large part of the season and led the league in points per game and yards.

Lamb has a drop issue that he needs to get under control but no matter where he lines up he produces, and he still hasn’t reached his potential yet.

 

Advanced stats say surging 49ers present formidable foe for Cowboys

Cowboys scored over 100 more points and allowed less points than SF, but the 49ers hold a slight edge in key win indicators. @ProfessorO_NFL dives into DVOA, EPA, ANY/A and Toxicity.

The 2021 NFL regular season officially ended with the 12-5 Dallas Cowboys dominating the Philadelphia Eagles in a record-breaking night for quarterback Dak Prescott. The Cowboys were short-handed due to injuries and COVID-19 cases but able to win on Saturday then watch to see if they could move up in NFC seeding. With the Seattle Seahawks beating the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers upsetting the Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys were able to move from the four seed to the three and will have their sights on the 49ers this Sunday in the opening round of the playoffs.

The 49ers ended their season on a high with a come-from-behind victory. They finished the season third in their division with a 10-7 record but with the sixth seed. They will fly into Dallas with similar momentum as both teams have won four of their last five games.

This matchup features several intriguing storylines, however the one that is sure to garner a lot of attention will be the matchup of Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn facing off with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for Quinn’s Atlanta Falcons during their best days that included a trip to the Super Bowl. Their knowledge of each other’s schemes and thought processes presents an interesting meeting.

Each week we open up the Advanced Stat Notebook to analyze how each team ranks in EPA, DVOA, ANY/A and Toxic Differential. These four key metrics have a high correlation to win probability.