Pressure Cooker: Cowboys wideout must be better in 2024

Brandin Cooks heads into the 2024 slotted as the No. 2 receiver on the Cowboys offense. With CeeDee Lamb locked in as the alpha and Jalen Tolbert the aspiring, young No. 3, Cooks is in an important role. Not only must he offer the stability absent from the unproven Tolbert’s game, but he keeps pressure off Lamb who figures to again vie for All-Pro status.

Secondary WRs are one of the more underrated positions in the NFL. A common feeling is that anyone can fill a WR2 role when an elite player is in place at the top. This line of thinking couldn’t be more wrong since WR2s and WR3s have a stronger correlation to a team’s passing EPA that the WR1. It divides a defense’s attention and exposes depth issues in a secondary.

There are plenty of teams who have an elite cornerback on their roster but not many who have depth down the ranks. The real match-up advantages for the Cowboys come against a defense’s second or third CB because the drop off in talent at CB is s significant and single coverage at some point is inevitable.

Cooks’ 2023 season was, in some ways, the worst of his career. His yards/game marked a career low, and his 81 targets were far below his career average of 104.5. Still, the Cowboys passing offense hummed. Not only did they finish second in the NFL in EPA/dropback, but Dak Prescott finished second in league MVP voting.

It showed the Cowboys didn’t need him to be elite for the passing attack to be elite. It also showed the Cowboys had enough weapons behind Lamb to not be dependent on any one player.

That was then and this is now. Dallas parted ways with Michael Gallup over the offseason and as mentioned earlier, Tolbert is the likely replacement. It’s possible Tolbert replaces Gallup seamlessly, but the Cowboys have to prepare for the worst even if they’re hoping for the best. That means Cooks should be ready to pick up the slack this season and carry a bigger load than he did in 2023.

Even at age 30, Cooks has high-end speed at the WR position. His route running and overall consistency are noteworthy and something Prescott could lean on if Dallas struggles at WR3. The pressure for Cooks to carry a bigger load is rather significant but all indications are he’ll be up to the task if called upon.

An offer for Cowboys fans

For the best local news, sports, entertainment and culture coverage, subscribe to the Austin American-Statesman.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire