Cowboys vs. Raiders: ‘Under the radar’ players
Dallas Cowboys: WRCedrick Wilson Jr.
Las Vegas Raiders: WRHunter Renfrow
Let’s make no mistake about it: Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson did not do much to help Dak Prescott against the Chiefs.
Then again, no one else really did either.
Let’s toss Wilson’s performance up to more of an anomaly after his track record so far this season.
The Cowboys receiving group is going to be extra thin come Thursday. Wide receiver Amari Cooper will be out due to a positive COVID-19 test, and fellow wideout CeeDee Lamb is going to have to clear concussion protocol extremely quick to have any chance to play. There are reports he is feeling well and the front office believes he has a chance to play, but that is still up in the air.
Even if Lamb plays, the game plan should incorporate Wilson as evidence by the lack of weapons against the Chiefs.
Fellow wide receiver Michael Gallup has responded nicely since his return the last two weeks but is going to draw the lion’s share of attention against the Raiders as the No. 1 threat. With a solid safety duo of Johnathon Abram and Tre’von Moehrig, the Cowboys will need to win some matchups with the Raiders’ cornerbacks and get open.
There’s potential success moving Wilson into the slot to get some mismatches and give the outside reps to Lamb and Malik Turner. Perhaps Dallas should give Turner the reps outside over fellow pass-catcher Noah Brown, who did have a couple drops against the Chiefs, but this is more so due to the fact he is a blocking receiver and Turner has a bit more speed and ability on the outside. Turner has performed nicely, and there is some untapped potential there.
Wilson needs to be consistent and find ways to win to help this offense as the “next man up” in a game some top dogs could be out. Wilson is a gamer and has been all year. He may not explode in yards, but we could see something along the lines of seven catches for 84 yards with a touchdown, with five or six catches resulting in first downs.
The Raiders’ main offensive weapon is their tight end Darren Waller who has propelled himself into a top-tier tight end in the league. The Cowboys know this. They will look to lock him up with cornerback play as Waller can run pretty well.
So, who else could hurt the Cowboys?
I won’t even try to hide it here, I am such a fan of Hunter Renfrow. Being a former slot receiver myself who wasn’t always the tallest, or fastest, or strongest, I have an immense amount of respect for Renfrow’s ability to consistently win routes with leverage, deception, and a football IQ that is off the charts. He beats defensive backs who are faster, stronger, and better in just about every area.
Nearly half of his receptions are resulting in first downs, and he is catching 77 percent of balls he is targeted on. He is a safety net for Derek Carr to look to when Waller is taken away, and he needs a big completion. The same Wilson can be the Cowboys’ drive extender, Renfrow offers that same ability.
The Cowboys need to lock up Renfrow on third downs to limit the Raiders offensive success.