FRISCO - When discussing goals for the 2020 NFL season, Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl pass-catcher Amari Cooper uses simple words to express an extravagant expectation.
"The expectation,'' Cooper told the DFW media in a Tuesday conference call, "is to have three 1,000-yard receivers this year.”
If achieved, Dallas would be just the sixth offense in NFL history to produce three 1,000-yard receivers in same season. But more specific to the point: If rookie CeeDee Lamb teams with Michael Gallup and Cooper to each get to 1,000, it'll mark only the fourth time in NFL history that one team has boasted three wide receivers with those numbers.
Is it realistic to project three Cowboys’ wide receivers producing 1,000-plus yards receiving in the same season? Interestingly, as our Richie Whitt and his research have pointed out, despite the likes of throwers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman and Tony Romo and catchers Bob Hayes and Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin, the Cowboys have never enjoyed a 1,000-yard threesome.
The only times it’s happened in the NFL (again, with wide receivers): 1989 Washington Redskins (Art Monk-Gary Clark-Ricky Sanders), 2004 Indianapolis Colts (Marvin Harrison-Reggie Wayne-Brandon Stokely) and 2008 Arizona Cardinals (Larry Fitzgerald-Anquan Boldin-Steve Breaston).
“I’m not so sure we’ve had a draft with only one (first-rounder), one that I feel any better about,” owner Jerry Jones said after nabbing Lamb, the sixth-rated player on the team's April NFL Draft board, with the 17th pick. “It doesn’t take much to get me feeling good. But, seriously, this is really one of the best.”
For the Cowboys to make history – and, likely, the playoffs – Lamb simply has to be a smidge better than Randall Cobb. That’s because in 2019, the Cowboys were already this close.
Cooper caught 79 passes for 1,189 yards. Gallup 66 for 1,107. And Cobb – who replaced Cole Beasley in the slot but has since signed as a free agent with the Houston Texans – 55 for 828. With quarterback Dak Prescott coming within one yard of Romo’s single-season yardage record, it was the most productive receivers’ season in franchise history.
The trio combined for 200 catches, 3,124 yards and 17 touchdowns.
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The best comparable year for Romo was 2012, when Dez Bryant-Miles Austin-Kevin Ogletree produced 190 catches, 2,761 yards and 22 touchdowns. Troy Aikman’s top season in 1992 featured Irvin-Alvin Harper-Kelvin Martin posting 145 catches for 2,317 yards and 14 scores. Staubach’s pinnacle came in 1979, when receivers Pearson-Tony Hill-Butch Johnson registered 121 catches for 2,193 yards and 19 touchdowns. And Danny White’s most productive season came four years later, with the same targets catching 137 for 1,907 yards and 15 scores.
Receiver-exclusive numbers, as we allude to above, can be wonky, skewed by the presence – for two decades – by a prolific tight end like Jason Witten, carry-worthy runner like Emmitt Smith or pass-catching backs such as Ron Springs and Preston Pearson. With Witten (replaced by a younger, more athletic Blake Jarwin) off to the Raiders, Ezekiel Elliott returning as an elite running threat, two Pro Bowl veterans (Tyron Smith and Zack Martin) on the offensive line and Prescott out to prove he deserves top quarterback money, the Cowboys’ 2020 receivers should be set up for success.
With his size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds), speed (4.5) and aggressive yards-after-catch elusiveness, the Cowboys are counting on Lamb to further strengthen their strength.
“He’s natural fit for how we want to play offense,” new head coach Mike McCarthy said of Lamb. “Dynamic with the ball in his hands. Really enjoy the way he goes after the football.”
Lamb is the new toy. Gallup may be underrated. But Cooper is the top of the totem pole here. With the 2018 trade for Cooper and the selection of Gallup and Lamb, in the last three drafts the Cowboys have spent two first-round picks and a third on receiver. It’s a bold strategy, one that better pay off in one of the best passing offenses – not only in the 2020 NFL – but in league and franchise history.
Cooper, of course, had a chance to chase greatness elsewhere, but the spring free agent re-upped in Dallas with his new $20 million APY deal.
"I just like everything about being a Dallas Cowboy,'' Cooper said. "Everything we created here, the atmosphere."
And the chance for - or, really, "expectation of'' - three 1,000-yard receivers.