Cowboys fans are focused on what players like Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper can do for them this season. The truth is that triumvirate will need some help to make a deep postseason run. Free agent signee Randall Cobb needs to have a big year if Dallas is going to fulfill their sky-high expectations.
Jerry Jones and his front office made a clever move to sign Cobb on a one-year, $5 million deal this offseason. He’s the perfect player to provide Prescott a valuable weapon in the slot. Cobb isn’t a player who should be deployed as a starter on the outside, but he can do a lot of damage working the interior of the field for the Cowboys offense.
This season represents the first time that Cobb has played outside of Green Bay. The Packers drafted him after his collegiate career at Kentucky and employed him for eight seasons. He had some electric years with the Packers, but Aaron Rodgers never seemed to be fully satisfied with his play. If Cobb can earn Prescott’s trust, he could be a Comeback Player of the Year candidate in 2019.
Cooper’s presence on the outside is going to garner a lot of attention from opposing defensive coordinators. It’s safe to expect him to see double teams on almost every obvious passing down. If he’s drawing multiple defenders, it will be very difficult to deploy anything other than a one-on-one matchup against Cobb.
He may not have the devastating speed that he showcased early in his career, but he’s got more than enough gas left in the tank to punish that type of coverage. Cobb might struggle against elite slot corners, but he’ll toast anyone else who tries to combat him with single coverage. In particular, he should make some big plays for the Cowboys with his ability to make plays after the catch.
The biggest danger to Cobb’s production this season is the uncertainty about who will line up as Dallas’ No. 2 wide receiver. Cooper is clearly going to be Prescott’s No. 1 target. 2018 third-round pick Michael Gallup is currently slated to be the starter on the other side. He’s got the natural ability to be a productive NFL receiver, but he only caught 33 passes in his rookie season. Gallup needs to double that number to provide Cowboys solid production at his starting spot in 2019.
If Gallup struggles to hold down that position, Jason Garrett and his staff might be tempted to slide Cobb into the role. That would be a huge mistake. Most of Cobb’s struggles in Green Bay occurred when he was miscast as a boundary player. At this stage in his career, he should be used exclusively in the slot. Cobb can be an above average receiver on the inside, but he becomes a below-average option when he’s deployed near the boundary.
Some Cowboys fans might view the status of the team’s starting slot receiver as a relatively minor detail. That would be a mistake. The sheer percentage of the time Dallas will use three receivers this season makes Cobb an integral part of their offensive attack. Ignoring such an important position would be a great way to derail what could be a special season in Dallas.
Interestingly, oddsmakers don’t seem to be entirely convinced of the Cowboys’ prospects this season. Currently, their over/under for total wins this season stands at a very modest total of 8.5. The intense competition in the NFC East could cost Dallas a few potential wins, but there’s too much talent on this roster for Garrett’s team to miss the postseason.
Cobb’s ability to revive his career in Dallas also will have a significant impact on Dak Prescott’s chances to win the MVP Award. The Cowboys quarterback currently gives betters an interesting long shot to play. Odds for Prescott winning the prestigious award currently sit between +3300 and +6500. If Cobb can go over the 1,000 yard mark this season it means Prescott is throwing for more yards than ever before. That, combined with a division title would make Prescott a very compelling choice to take home MVP honors.
The Cowboys always get plenty of action due to their popularity, but this team has the potential to enjoy a special season. Cobb won’t get a ton of headlines, but his numbers will be a strong indicator for how the team’s offense is functioning. A big year from Cobb will mean a big year for his new team.