Can Cowboys’ Jalen Tolbert top Michael Gallup’s rookie output from 2018?

Jalen Tolbert (Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Jalen Tolbert (Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) /

What was the Dallas Cowboys‘ greatest strength in 2021 has now become one of the biggest question marks on the roster. We’re referring to the receiver position, which lost Amari Cooper via a woeful trade and Cedrick Wilson to free agency.

For whatever reason, the Cowboys felt it was necessary to move on from Cooper, but CeeDee Lamb’s expected emergence as one of the game’s premier receivers should soften the blow of Dak Prescott losing his favorite weapon.

Having said that, there are real questions about whether Lamb is a true No. 1 and the options behind the former No. 17 overall pick leave a lot to be desired, especially with Michael Gallup’s status for Week 1 up in the air as he continues to recover from February ACL surgery.

With Gallup unlikely to be cleared for training camp, third-round pick Jalen Tolbert is expected to assume a big role as a rookie. In fact, The Athletic’s Jon Machota reported Tolbert should be in the starting lineup come Week 1.

Just four years ago, Gallup was in Tolbert’s shoes, so let’s determine whether the budding rookie can top Gallup’s rookie output from 2018.

Can Cowboys third-round pick Jalen Tolbert top Michael Gallup’s rookie output from 2018?

If you remember, the Cowboys acquired Cooper mid-season in 2018, so Gallup entered his rookie year as a starter alongside Cole Beasley and Allen Hurns.

To his credit, the then-third-round pick out of Colorado was up to the task. In eight starts, Gallup compiled 33 catches for 507 yards and two touchdowns. He could’ve posted better numbers, as his 68 targets ranked fourth on the team, but Prescott struggled prior to Cooper’s arrival. That could explain Gallup’s 48.8% catch rate.

With Prescott now firmly entrenched as a top-10 quarterback, coming off his finest season to date, and two years removed from his devastating ankle injury, it’s reasonable to assume Tolbert will get better QB play than Gallup.

Not to mention, Cooper won’t be around to hog the target share, so Tolbert should draw plenty of volume as the No. 2 behind Lamb. If Tolbert can earn Prescott’s trust early on — the rookie certainly made a strong impression at OTAs — he should still see a healthy amount of looks after Gallup returns to the lineup.

If everything goes according to plan, Tolbert should outperform Gallup’s 2018 numbers. Assuming health, the South Alabama standout should log north of 40 catches for 650+ yards and anywhere between 4-6 TDs this year.

The Cowboys will replace Cooper’s production by spreading the wealth, and Tolbert should play a big part in that as a rookie. With Prescott in the prime of his career and Gallup unlikely to dress in Week 1, the stage is set for Tolbert to emerge as one of Dallas’ most important offensive weapons in his first year.

Is the rookie ready for the challenge?