Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones calls CeeDee Lamb a No. 1 WR upgrade over Amari Cooper

·5 min read
Julio Cortez/AP

There are natural questions about the quality of the Dallas Cowboys receiver corps in 2022 following the departures of Amari Cooper (via a trade to the Cleveland Browns) and Cedrick Wilson (in free agency to the Miami Dolphins) as well as the understanding that Michael Gallup will miss the first two or three games recovering from an torn ACL.

Owner Jerry Jones, however, doesn’t believe the team will take a step back at the top of the group.

Jones told the Star-Telegram that CeeDee Lamb will be an upgrade over Cooper as a true No. 1 receiver in the Cowboys offense.

Jones said he was trying to slight Cooper, who the team traded to Cleveland Browns in March in part because his production didn’t match his $20 million practice tag.

But Jones acknowledged Cooper had his issues and that Lamp is the makings of more a complete No. 1 receiver in terms of “production, in the huddle and off the field.”

He said he is very excited to see what Lamb does in 2022.

It’s an opportunity that Lamb has been looking forward to since he was picked in the first round by the Cowboys in 2020 and given the legacy No. 88 jersey, as it was always the team’s expectation for him to be elevated to the top.

The time is now and he can’t wait.

“It’s a dream that I’ve always wanted to live and now that I’m actually living it, I feel like it’s my opportunity to fulfill it,” Lamb said. “So I’m looking at it as an opportunity.”

“I’ve been ready.”

Why?

“That’s just me and my competitiveness,” Lamb added. “That’s in my nature. It’s kind of how we grew up playing football. I’m always ready for my name to be called.”

Lamb’s name and number were called a lot in 2022 when became the Cowboys leading receiver in terms of production.

Lamb led Dallas with 120 targets, 79 receptions and 1,102 yards and made his first Pro Bowl.

Contrast that to Cooper, who was the team’s primary receiver on most passing plays and was the league’s highest paid receiver with a $20 million annual salary.

After back-to-back 1,100-plus yard seasons in 2019 and 2020, he recorded 865 receiving yards on 68 catches with eight touchdowns in 2021.

He was third on the team receptions and second in targets. Cooper also missed two games (both losses) in 2021 due to COVID-19. He was one of just two unvaccinated players on the team and was fined by the NFL for violating the league’s COVID protocols.

The Cowboys felt they weren’t getting a suitable return on their investment and that the money could be best used elsewhere.

In March, Cooper and a sixth-round pick were traded to the Browns for a fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick.

The rise to No. 1 was a natural progression for Lamb, who was second in targets (111), catches (74) and yards receiving (935) behind Cooper as a rookie in 2020.

Lamb will move to the flanker position and play the Jerry Rice role in the Cowboys’ West Coast offense under coach Mike McCarthy.

He will be the No. 1 option and McCarthy said has no choice but to be ready for a bigger role in 2022.

“This is a great opportunity for him personally,” McCarthy said of Lamb. “I think just the way we’ve established the offense, particularly in the passing game, the ability for those guys to play different positions, to create matchups and make it harder on the defense to double you and those type of things — my point is, playing in the slot a lot last year and now playing the flanker position (where Cooper played).

“And we understand his rise in Year 3 that he’s going to get a lot more attention from the defense. But he’s doing all of the little things that are needed to get him ready to be the No. 1 guy.”

Among the little things is paying more attention to detail in his route running and using the offseason to gain a better report with quarterback Dak Prescott, who moved Lamb’s locker next to his in the Cowboys locker room.

“I decided you know he’s the guy,” Prescott said. “Just me knowing that hopefully he’s my receiver until I’m done playing. Just bring him closer. More conversation since he’s right there accessible to talk just communicate.”

Prescott said Lamb has grown so much in the playback and his knowledge of the game in his first two seasons. Being the No. 1 receiver is just the next step and he’s ready.

“Wherever we put him he’s locked in and he’s getting better and he’s growing,” Prescott said “So we’re always taking a step and now for him to step in the shoes of the No. 1 receiver I know he’s excited to wear those pants I guess you could say and make the most of it.”

Let Lamb tell it, he’s grown into the job in more ways than one this offseason.

He said he measured in a half inch taller and is now 6-foot-3 in height and he has added 10 pounds of muscle weight, thanks to his Manwell Hoppie, a local Dallas chef who also cooks for Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.

He also plans to be more of a vocal leader as a receiver on and off the field, another upgrade from the quiet Cooper.

Just ask the Cowboys owner.

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