DALLAS — When their top players are on the field, the Dallas Cowboys have one of the best offenses in the NFL. The return of quarterback Dak Prescott, and a second season under Mike McCarthy, means that the offense should be able to pick up where they left off before Prescott’s injury tossed cold water on the 2020 season.
With Prescott under center last season, the Cowboys averaged over 31 points per game, a total that only two teams maintained by season’s end last year. That kind of scoring output can be achieved again this season. Few teams can match Dallas’ firepower on offense.
The Cowboys sport a top-tier QB, one of the premiere offensive lines in the league when healthy, a dynamic one-two punch at running back, arguably the league’s best receiving group, and a solid tandem at tight end. You’d be hard pressed to find a better all-around offense when all of the pieces are all in place.
It’s also an offense poised to become even better. Kellen Moore steps into his third year as offensive coordinator, and second under McCarthy. With a full offseason with lessened restrictions to iron things out, the sky's the limit.
The passing game in particular could further blossom and turn the Cowboys into an even more explosive team. After all, Dallas is one of the few teams that can boast having two No. 1 type wide receivers in Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb.
Cooper has been one of the better receivers in the game since he entered the NFL and has five 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. The former Alabama star has been everything the Cowboys needed him to be when they traded for him in the middle of the 2018 campaign.
The offense and Prescott coveted a true No. 1 WR after the departure of Dez Bryant, and Cooper has answered that bell. Cooper hasn’t missed a game, despite dealing with nagging injuries, and has 19 touchdowns in his 2.5 years in Dallas.
Cooper will also only be 27-years old when the season begins, so he’s still in his prime. There’s little doubt that Cooper will continue to produce like one of the better receivers in the league.
However, it might be possible that Lamb will surpass Cooper as the team’s top WR in 2021. NFL players usually make their biggest improvements from year one to year two in the league, and it sounds like Lamb is poised to break out in his sophomore season.
It was a great rookie year for Lamb, who finished second to Cooper in yards (1,114 to 935) and receptions (92-74), while the tandem tied for the team lead in receiving scores with five apiece. More consistent quarterback play is all that kept Lamb from reaching the 1,000-yard plateau in his first season. With Prescott back, and a year under Lamb’s belt, the former Sooner standout might dwarf his rookie numbers.
Lamb’s got the skills to do it as there’s a reason that Dallas passed up on a defensive pick to select Lamb No. 17 overall out of Oklahoma at the 2020 NFL Draft. Lamb is a smooth route runner who excels with the ball in his hands. As a rookie, he was at his best from the slot, but with the Cowboys expanding where they line him up, Lamb will become even more difficult to defend.
Already an explosive weapon, Lamb led the team in plays of greater than 25 yards with 18. With his elusiveness, the Cowboys also use Lamb as a runner or on short passes to get him in space.
The ascension of Lamb wouldn’t necessarily mean a setback for Cooper. There are more than enough balls to go around, and Cooper’s consistency allows for another receiver to thrive. In Cooper’s five healthy seasons, he’s averaging 80 catches, 1,106 yards and just over six scores a year. That leaves plenty of room for Lamb to grow and see both shine.
Cooper is also good enough to take some of the defensive attention away from Lamb, allowing the second-year receiver to see single coverage. Having to deal with less double teams is another reason that Lamb could be in line for a big season.
Both Cooper and Lamb excelled in a year where their elite starting QB missed most of the season, so the expectations are high with Prescott’s return. It’s not difficult to see both receivers eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark, having double-digit scores and becoming the consensus top WR duo in the league.
However, don’t be surprised if it’s CeeDee Lamb overtaking Cooper as the top receiver on the Cowboys. The expectations are high for Dallas’ offense and Lamb is a major reason for optimism.
Do you think that CeeDee Lamb will become a Pro Bowl-caliber wideout for the Cowboys in 2021? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.