OXNARD, Calif. — The Dallas Cowboys are making their fans nervous with their receiver situation.
The Cowboys' response to losing Cedrick Wilson in free agency and trading Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns in the offseason was to sign former Pittsburgh Steeler James Washington and spend a third-rounder on South Alabama's Jalen Tolbert.
While the rookie may eventually become a viable target during the course of his four-year contract, it is dubious to expect him to be effective at a veteran level by September. Throw in the Jones fracture for Washington, and the Cowboys' receiving corps conjures memories of the 2018 group — a unit that spurred the Cowboys to cough up a first round pick for Cooper during the club's Week 8 bye.
That year, Dallas released All-Pro wideout Dez Bryant just after 2018 free agency began, and the moves they made included signing Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson. They even had their sights set on underachiever Sammy Watkins but lost out to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Cowboys shored up their receiving corps in Round 3 of the 2018 draft with Michael Gallup and again in Round 6 with Wilson. However, they weren't expected to be big contributors immediately — not enough to help Dallas make a realistic push for the postseason.
Quarterback Dak Prescott started all 16 games that season, and doesn't believe the current receiving corps, amid all its ambiguity, is anything like the 2018 version.
"Very, very different," Prescott told reporters on Aug. 4. "And just to start off, we've got a guy. We've got a guy that, in CeeDee [Lamb], to start the camp off that we didn't have like that that year. That's a big difference there just to begin."
Lamb was arguably the Cowboys' No. 1 receiver even last year. The former 2020 first-rounder from Oklahoma led the Cowboys in targets (120), catches (79), and yards (1,102). Only Cooper and tight end Dalton Schultz had more touchdowns than Lamb (eight to six). Being the official No. 1 is merely the bestowing of a title, not uncovering a hidden truth.
Prescott also notes his own development as a field general in the past four seasons as reason to believe the passing game won't have the same pre-Cooper hiccups as the 2018 team.
"As well as my growth and my maturity as a quarterback and just this whole game, as well as elevating these other guys," Prescott said.
The Cowboys could have candidates on the team to burst from the darkness as Wilson did, such as former 2017 seventh-round pick Noah Brown. Schultz, who had 78 catches for 808 yards, is playing under the franchise tag and looks to make his case for a long-term deal. Dallas also has big plans in the passing attack for running back Tony Pollard, who is in the final year of his contract.
"So yeah, we'll be fine," Prescott said.
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