The Dallas Cowboys have been witnessing a resurgence in star receiver CeeDee Lamb’s production over the past two weeks. With 349 receiving yards generated in that period, it’s evident that the bye week was a catalyst for his increased involvement in the “Texas Coast Offense.” However, despite Lamb’s impressive performance, the Cowboys fell short in a painful loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, with a final score of 28-23.
In this game, Lamb’s target share increased, but it was not just him who was heavily targeted. Tight end Jake Ferguson and receiver Jalen Tolbert also received a substantial number of targets. In fact, the trio combined for targets on 31 of quarterback Dak Prescott’s 44 attempts.
One notable absence from the target list was veteran receiver Brandin Cooks, who only saw two targets in the game. This game continued a trend of underwhelming performances for Cooks and is on track to be one of the least productive seasons of his career.
Cooks has largely gone unnoticed in the box scores throughout the season, leaving fans wondering about the reasons behind his lack of involvement. Is it due to his age, a breakdown in the team’s offensive strategy, or simply an unfortunate stretch of performances? The answers to these questions remain unclear.
When asked about Cooks’ limited involvement, head coach Mike McCarthy provided a somewhat defensive response, stating, “I don’t play fantasy football. We have game plans … our system is built on making the quarterback successful. That’s the way this passing game is taught. It’s the way I’ve learned it. It’s the way it has always been the last 30 years.”
Critics argue that McCarthy’s response to concerns about resource allocation was unnecessary. His reference to fantasy football appeared to be an attempt to deflect criticism, a strategy reminiscent of Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, who has previously cited fantasy football as a means to question his play-calling abilities.
Smith has also been dismissive of those inquiring about the opportunities provided to the Falcons’ top offensive talents. Cooks may not demand star-level opportunities anymore, but it is concerning when he receives just two targets, especially when Prescott threw for 374 passing yards, providing ample opportunities for passes to Cooks.
In a pivotal fourth-down play during the Week 9 loss, Cooks did not appear to be part of the progression, and Prescott chose to target receiver Jalen Tolbert instead, resulting in a turnover on downs. Tolbert had been competing with Cooks and Michael Gallup for snaps in recent weeks.
Despite the lack of receptions and yards after the catch, McCarthy defended Cooks’ role in the game, stating, “He was a big part of the production, and Brandin and all the guys are a part of that. I get it…”
When asked about the reasons behind Cooks’ limited involvement, McCarthy responded with a touch of defensiveness, saying, “Nothing ‘happened.’ But when you throw for (374) yards and you got to come in here and answer questions about someone not getting the ball, I mean, come on, I don’t think that’s a real evaluation.”
Cooks has yet to surpass 50 receiving yards in a game this season, with just 17 receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns in a half-season’s worth of games. His underwhelming performance provides valid reasons for Jalen Tolbert to receive more playing time. However, in a division rivalry game where the outcome falls short of expectations, the focus inevitably turns to the players expected to make crucial plays.
In Week 10, Cooks will have the opportunity to make a significant impact as a Cowboy when they face the New York Giants, while McCarthy will have the chance to emphasize the distinction between “real football” and the world of “fantasy” football.