OXNARD, Calif. — CeeDee Lamb’s importance to the Dallas Cowboys in 2022 has never been clearer than after training camp’s third practice session. It wasn’t what he did on the field. He didn’t.
Lamb didn’t take snapshots in team exercises. He’s only 24. He’s entering his third season. He has no history of injuries.
“I was confused,” Lamb said. “They told me I was done practicing. I mean, I didn’t know what else to do with myself. I’m not used to this.”
Coach Mike McCarthy’s personal history shows that players in the third or fourth practice session at camp are more likely to suffer soft-tissue injuries.
“It was just a recount, conscious,” McCarthy said. “Physically there was nothing. Trust the numbers, GPS from the past. That was intentional.”
The Cowboys opted for a one-trade move from Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns in March, partly because of his $20 million salary and partly because they believe Lamb is poised to be the No. 1 wide receiver and the legacy of the No.88 jersey they gave him after being selected in the first round in 2020.
On Monday, Lamb’s importance in the Cowboys’ offense grew even more when James Washington suffered a fractured right foot that multiple sources say will keep him out for six to 10 weeks. Additionally, Cowboys second receiver Michael Gallup is continuing his recovery from a left knee anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in January and will miss at least the season opener.
The only other sane receiver to catch a pass from quarterback Dak Prescott in a regular season game is Noah Brown.
The move to the No. 1 role doesn’t worry Lamb, who has 153 receptions for 2,037 yards and 11 touchdowns and one Pro Bowl appearance in his first two seasons.
But it’s the work that Lamb, Prescott, the coaches and the front office believe will propel him into the top tiers of NFL wide receivers.
After a day of red zone work, Lamb spent additional time with Prescott working on timing routes near the end zone and perfecting the strides and ball placement that they hope will become second nature when the season in September begins.
“We kind of did that all offseason, just together,” Lamb said. “Things are a lot different when you have a body in front of you and not in the air. So I just have to add a few little nuances here and there and then just implement it in the game.”
For a few days in early July, Prescott had Lamb, Jalen Tolbert and tight ends Dalton Schultz and Sean McKeon in Miami for training at the University of Miami facility. It’s a trip Prescott has made with his pass catchers in the past, but it was Lamb’s first time involved in one.
COVID-19 prevented a road trip in Lamb’s rookie year, though they met at Prescott’s home to work on the quarterback’s backyard field. In 2021, Prescott was still in rehab after a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle.
Lamb called the time in Miami “phenomenal.”
“Just having that kind of experience with your quarterback just builds character and builds better days out of training camp,” Lamb said.
Lamb had his usual flashy plays, like a one-handed shot of a pass near the touchline. On Monday, he and Prescott connected with the receiver on five of the six pass attempts. Three were in traffic with defenders on all sides of Lamb. All three settled for what would have been a first down.
Prescott said Lamb made progress “everywhere.”
“He’s just a guy who loves to work — whether it’s in the movie room, out here in the field practicing, or alone,” Prescott said. “He will continue to improve and all recipients can follow his mentality.”
McCarthy has been part of this wide receiver progression before. In his nearly ten-year run with the Green Bay Packers, he saw Donald Driver hand the role of No. 1 receiver to Greg Jennings, who handed it to Jordy Nelson, who handed it to Davante Adams, as Lamb did with the Cowboys .
“The light is brighter internally in terms of the responsibilities and opportunities that will be given to him, but also the way the defense will respond to him,” McCarthy said. “If you look at CeeDee and these receivers in Green Bay, it’s very similar to how we do it here in Dallas. The ability for recipients to play indoors and outdoors is paramount to me. If you only play one or the other, you make it much easier for the defense to take it away.
“CeeDee’s experience of playing the slot so much last year will only help him now that he’s with flanker. … We need to move him to create more opportunities for him.”
Unlike the Packers’ receivers, Lamb won’t have any proven players around to divert attention somewhat. At least not until Gallup returns or when the Cowboys add a high-profile receiver through free agency or a trade. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he sees no urgency in adding an experienced receiver because of Washington’s injury. Washington’s loss is significant because the Cowboys are built up at receiver, but he only had 24 catches for the Pittsburgh Steelers last year and never more than 44 in a season.
“I have a feeling I’m going to affect the game anyway,” Lamb said of his lineup on the field. “And since I’m number 1, the attention will be on me and I’m kind of prepared for that. It doesn’t really change anything about my game. I’ll just do a play.”
Since dating Lamb in Oklahoma, defensive tackle Neville Gallimore knows him better than most on the Cowboys roster. They had lockers next to each other and often talked about their NFL dreams.
“I know if you put him in a situation, if you throw him in the fire, he always comes out on top,” Gallimore said. “So I know he’s more than ready for this opportunity and I won’t talk about it too much, but I’m excited. Not because he’s my teammate, but he’s a good guy. But, man, this guy will get it. He has a lot to bring to the table and doesn’t even scratch the surface. You best believe you can expect something special from him this season. Without doubt.”
Prescott has no doubt. When Lamb first spoke to reporters at camp, the quarterback walked behind the scrum with a message:
“CeeDee is that guy.”
If not lamb, then who?
https://www.espn.com/blog/dallas-cowboys/post/_/id/4775270/ceedee-is-that-dude-cowboys-counting-on-lamb-to-help-carry-offense ‘CeeDee is that dude’: Cowboys counting on Lamb to help carry offense – Dallas Cowboys Blog