Michael Gallup has taken his fair share of criticism this season. The 26-year-old receiver was re-signed in the off-season to serve as the Cowboys WR2 for the foreseeable future. His presence, combined with CeeDee Lamb’s development, made Amari Cooper somewhat expendable.
The club didn’t mind the fact Gallup was recovering from offseason knee surgery after tearing his ACL in Week 17 last season. The brass swore he would be ready to go by opening day and thanks to that set the expectation Gallup would pick up the slack left by Cooper.
As sane ones could imagine, the season started slowly for Gallup. Despite playing in 14 games, Gallup posted a career low in receiving yards. Twice before Gallup played 14 or few games and both of those times his production exceeded his modest totals in 2022.
Explosiveness and speed have been called into question throughout the season with some wondering if Gallup will ever be a legitimate weapon again this season.
While he’s unlikely to regain his pre-injury form in however many games Dallas has left, his performance against Tampa Bay had him reemerging as a weapon on this Dallas offense and an asset for quarterback Dak Prescott heading into the divisional round.
Exhibit A: Momentum starter
As many will remember, the Cowboys started their Monday night affair off-target and out-of-rhythm. The Dallas offense went nowhere on their first two possessions. It wasn’t until Gallup pulled in a tough ball on Dallas’ third possession that things began to steady on offense.
On 2nd-and-5, Prescott delivered a 15-yard bullet to the Dallas 40. The pass was high and fast and to pull it in Gallup need to plant, leap, and extend.
The effort looked “old hat”, but was a rare sighting in 2022; a sight for sore eyes for everyone watching. Previous to that play, Prescott was 0-3 with a sack coming on his fourth dropback. The Cowboys needed this play.
Gallup’s effort appeared to calm Prescott and it set the tone on offense. From then on, the needle was firmly pointed up for all things non-extra-pointy.
Exhibit B: Tight window – special ability
Much has been said of Gallup’s inability to gain separation this season. According to Next Gen Stats, Gallup’s 2.4 average yards of separation in 2022 are the eleventh lowest in the league.
While some could see this as indication he’s far away from his pre-injury self, in reality it’s par for the course. Gallup averaged the same yards per separation last season before his injury. His explosiveness and speed may not be back to where they were before, but Gallup has never relied on extreme separation to make plays.
Gallup’s third-quarter touchdown catch was a highlight for the year. Not only did he tippy-toe the baseline of the end zone to make the grab, but he caught the ball off a deflection. The level of difficulty on this cannot be understated.
What to expect vs San Francisco
Gallup may not have his speed back yet, but he can still operate in tight windows with the very best of them. That will be pivotal for Dallas when they meet up with the 49ers on Sunday.
Tampa Bay’s perfectly-covered play percentage was just 24.24 percent per Pro Football Focus. San Francisco’s perfectly covered play percentage last weekend was 34.09 percent. That’s a significant jump in coverage which means the Cowboys receivers will have to win plays that are otherwise perfectly defended.
The windows are getting tighter but Gallup knows how to operate in tight windows. He showed his prowess in Tampa Bay, and on Sunday, he’ll be asked to show it again.