What appeared destined to occur after the Dallas Cowboys chosen CeeDee Lamb within the first spherical in 2020 and gave him the hallowed No. 88 jersey is now a actuality: Lamb is the Cowboys’ clear-cut prime large receiver.
“I really feel like that’s simply a part of me, simply being that man and kinda being accountable for all the pieces,” Lamb mentioned after the primary organized crew exercise final week. “If I don’t get going, nothing will get going, truthfully. That’s how I strategy the sport. Simply having this stress, if you’ll, on my again, it’s no matter.”
Lamb may not really feel the stress in Might, however come September when the video games are actual, issues might be totally different.
“I feel CeeDee is in a state of affairs the place hastily, he’s going to have much more consideration on him and the way he offers with that may inform the story,” Corridor of Fame receiver Tim Brown advised ESPN. “There’s going to be a man over you and a security creeping over and meaning you bought to go to work. You’ve acquired to discover ways to do this, discover ways to beat double protection after which generally triple protection. I feel that’s going to be a giant adjustment for him.”
It’s not that Lamb hasn’t seen further consideration his first two years, however there was all the time the consolation that more often than not he was enjoying with fellow receivers Cooper (68 catches for 865 yards in 2021), Cedrick Wilson (45 catches, 602 yards) and Gallup (35 catches, 445 yards), who would draw consideration themselves.
Firstly of this season, the Cowboys may have James Washington, who had 24 receptions a 12 months in the past for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and third-round choose Jalen Tolbert as their Nos. 2 and three receivers whereas Gallup recovers. Wilson signed with the Miami Dolphins in March.
Final season, Lamb led the Cowboys with 79 receptions for 1,102 yards and eight touchdowns and was added to the Professional Bowl. In his first two seasons, he had 2,037 yards, which is topped in crew historical past solely by Corridor of Famer Bob Hayes (2,235 yards in 1965-66).
Lamb’s rise to the No. 1 is paying homage to Dez Bryant, who wore No. 88 earlier than Lamb. The Cowboys by no means thought Bryant can be accessible the place they picked within the 2010 draft, however moved up from No. 27 to No. 24 to get him; simply as they by no means thought Lamb can be accessible to them in 2020. As a rookie, Bryant had Miles Austin because the No. 1 receiver and moved up within the rotation till changing into the bona fide No. 1 in his third season.
From 2012-14, Bryant averaged 91 catches for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns with Tony Romo as his quarterback.
“It is a nice alternative for him personally,” coach Mike McCarthy mentioned of Lamb. “I feel simply the best way we have established the offense, significantly within the passing sport, the power for these guys to play totally different positions, to create matchups and make it more durable on the protection to double you and people kind of issues — my level is, enjoying within the slot loads final 12 months and now enjoying the flanker place (Cooper’s place).
“We perceive his rise in Yr 3 that he will get much more consideration from the protection. However he is doing the entire little issues which might be wanted to get him able to be the No. 1 man.”
There’s additionally tangible change, and that’s the place Lamb’s locker is situated. Quarterback Dak Prescott moved Lamb proper subsequent to him, a spot Cooper used to carry.
“My two different locker mates left so I used to be a little bit lonely and I made a decision, you understand, he’s the man,” Prescott mentioned. “So simply me realizing that hopefully he’s my receiver till I’m carried out enjoying, simply deliver him nearer, extra dialog since he’s proper there, accessible to speak, simply talk.”
It took Brown time to become the Raiders’ No. 1, though a few of that was due to a left knee damage his second season and Al Davis’ need to maintain him as an elite punt returner and third-down receiver. In 1993, Mervyn Fernandez acquired damage, and that began Brown’s run of 9 straight 1,000-yard seasons.
Brown’s job was a little bit harder as a result of he mentioned he had 20 totally different quarterbacks with the Raiders, though the Cowboys had 4 totally different beginning quarterbacks in Lamb’s rookie season.
“I did quite a lot of speaking to these guys, particularly the younger guys, making an attempt to allow them to know to belief me and as soon as they full it, then they’re good they usually can all the time return to that,” Brown mentioned. “However you need to be on the identical web page together with your quarterback as a result of that might be a pick-six actual simple in the event you’re not.”
There was a pure connection between Prescott and Lamb nearly from the start. His two 100-yard video games as a rookie got here with Prescott because the quarterback for seven of the eight quarters in these video games. They’d two extra 100-yard video games final 12 months, together with Lamb’s breakout nine-catch, 149-yard, two-touchdown effort, together with the additional time winner, in opposition to the New England Patriots.
Not solely are their lockers subsequent to one another, they sit in the identical row throughout offensive conferences.
They know the small print matter.
“We’re persevering with to work on them and it’s a course of,” Prescott mentioned. “He talked about that as a result of that’s one thing this entire offense has hung our hat on is getting higher within the particulars as a result of these are the issues that present up late within the 12 months.”
Due to his success at Oklahoma, his draft standing and his No. 88, Lamb has by no means gone unrecognized, however in 2022 he is aware of the Cowboys will want extra.
“Most significantly, simply stepping up no matter any state of affairs, first down, second down, simply all the time being that man that everybody can rely on,” Lamb mentioned. “And by everybody, I imply everybody on this locker room. I need to be accountable. I need to be that man.”