When the Cowboys took wide receiver CeeDee Lamb with the 17th overall pick in 2020, it was clear that the organization had plans for him to eventually be the No. 1 option at his position fairly soon. That process suddenly reached completion when the Cowboys traded Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns.
Lamb now sits at the head of the table in the Cowboys’ receiver room and an entirely different set of expectations have been placed on his shoulders. His quarterback, Dak Prescott, has full confidence that he is ready to be the top guy in the passing game.
Lamb himself, recently talked about how becoming the top option elevated his bar as a player.
“That’s a lot to take in. It kind of happened so fast, but I feel like that’s a situation I’m ready to take on,” Lamb said. “Honestly, it kind of, in a sense, raised the standard. Obviously, I hold myself to a high standard already, but obviously, at this moment, there’s nothing else you can really do but take it on. That’s the energy I have.”
The most important thing for any organization is to see constant progression in its biggest stars, especially around their third season, which Lamb is entering. Lamb’s rookie campaign with the Cowboys wasn’t a smooth one with COVID wiping out the offseason program and a multitude of injuries to the offensive line and Prescott. However, Lamb managed to haul in 74 passes for 935 yards and five touchdowns.
Lamb caught 72.4% of his targets from Prescott in the four full games they played together. He finally had his opportunity for a full season with Prescott in 2021, and the combination didn’t disappoint. In the 15 games, Prescott completed 65.1% of his passes to Lamb, continuing the chemistry they built from the previous year.
Prescott hasn’t been able to have a full offseason worth of preparation since 2019 with COVID and multiple injuries derailing the last two years. With his health intact, Prescott’s connection with Lamb will only reach higher levels. Prescott has a football field at his house, and with the Cowboys on a break until late July when training camp starts, now may be a perfect time for them to take advantage of that additional resource.
Lamb will need to hit the ground running this upcoming season. Yes, not having Cooper has made Lamb’s responsibility greater, that’s a given. However, Michael Gallup will likely miss the first month of the season as he rehabs the torn ACL he suffered in January, which means Lamb will be the only established threat at wide receiver for the Cowboys for quite a while.
Life for an NFL receiver changes once he takes over the mantle at his position on the team. The frequent double teams and extra attention that Cooper once garnered will shift to Lamb, but the former Oklahoma Sooner is up for the challenge.
“I’ve been ready,” said Lamb last month. “That’s just me and my competitiveness. 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.
“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. So I’m looking at it as an opportunity.”
That dream is now a reality for Lamb. He’s got the keys to the car at receiver in Dallas, and it’s time to rack up some mileage.
Feature image via Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports