Cowboys OTA News: Can Jalen Tolbert Thrive at WR3 Alongside CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks?

The Cowboys didn't add a veteran wide receiver to replace Michael Gallup, which gives Jalen Tolbert a golden opportunity to step up as the WR3.

The Dallas Cowboys haven’t been shy about their youth movement plan for 2024. With several big-time contracts looming large, Jerry Jones and Co. have made it clear that they need their young guys to step up big this season.

One player they’re counting on the most is none other than third-year WR Jalen Tolbert, who heads into 2024 facing a pivotal point in his young career.

Huge Opportunity for Jalen Tolbert in 2024

With the Cowboys not aggressively pursuing a replacement for Michael Gallup in free agency or the NFL Draft, all signs point to an increased opportunity for Tolbert this season.

The former Southern Alabama star was taken in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, with many people around Cowboys Nation excited about what he could bring to an already high-octane offense. However, it hasn’t come to fruition through two seasons.

In his rookie year, Tolbert was essentially a non-factor for the Cowboys’ offense, appearing in just eight games and tallying two receptions for 12 yards on the season. It was a year that Tolbert admits was a bit of a confidence shaker.

“My rookie year, I think I lost almost every bit of my confidence. Coming off a hamstring injury in OTAs and then trying to catch up, and then just moving around, playing every (WR) spot, I was thinking way more than I should instead of just going out there and having fun, knowing that I belong here, that I’m valuable at this level and can play very high at this level. That’s something that I had to build back up,” Tolbert told the media last week.

In Year 2, while the stats won’t wow you, you began to see glimpses of a man who was putting it together on the field. The young WR finished the season with 22 receptions, 268 receiving yards, and the first two touchdowns of his career.

The Cowboys and Tolbert hope it can help catapult him to new heights in 2024, as he will be called upon for an increased role as the pole favorite to win the WR3 job behind CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks.

“That’s my goal, to go out and prove to myself; I am who I say I am,” Tolbert said last week, via ESPN.

“Obviously, you hear that all the time. But just go out there and chase greatness. I have two guys who ride along with me in CeeDee (Lamb) and (Brandin) Cooks, and I’m looking forward to following in their footsteps and doing what I can to create value on this team.”

With a clear path to an opportunity and production, Dallas needs Tolbert’s best if they’re hoping to get over the hump this season. For his career, which has been largely uneventful to this point, Tolbert may need it more than the team does.

MORE: Dak Prescott Opens Up About Contract, Trey Lance, Missing CeeDee Lamb

To make the most of the opportunity, Tolbert has embraced the mentorship he’s received from Cooks. Since his arrival in Dallas and firmly planted as the Cowboys’ WR2, Cooks has taken on a side quest to help Tolbert.

The two have worked together side by side for much of the offseason. Cooks’ years of knowledge and expertise playing the position at a high level make him a valuable resource for Tolbert at a pivotal point in his career.

It isn’t just about support and hope that Tolbert can be a quality NFL wide receiver. If you ask Cooks, it’s something he truly believes is destined for the young wideout.

Speaking to the media from Cowboys’ OTAs, Cooks likes what he’s seen from Tolbert.

“He’s ready to go,” Cooks said of Tolbert. “Whatever the expectation is for him out there, I’m telling you he’s going to crush it. He’s ready.”

Cowboys’ WR Depth Chart

When looking at the Cowboys’ pass catchers, the top two spots are clear. Lamb is one of the NFL’s brightest young stars, and Cooks has been doing his thing for over a decade now. The question for Dallas, though, begins after the mention of those two names.

With Tolbert squarely in the mix at WR3, he’s not the only one vying for that role right now, however. Speedster and special-teams weapon KaVontae Turpin has been productive in limited opportunities and should not be forgotten when it comes to that third spot.

While most of his damage is downing kicks and punt returns, Turpin did tally three touchdowns on offense last year to go with 12 receptions and 127 receiving yards.

Turpin’s development as a true pass catcher is much like Tolbert’s in the sense that the best may be yet to come. Yet, the speed and skill set Turpin possesses cannot be taught. He may not get the ball enough, but with a chance to elevate his worth, Turpin may be the biggest threat Tolbert has to sitting in the WR3 spot.

Another name worth mentioning is second-year WR Jalen Brooks. The former seventh-round pick from South Carolina didn’t see much action last year as a pass-catching option, but those around the team are excited about his future. They’re also sure to mention his name with the other guys above when talking about opportunities this season.

KEEP READING: Breaking Down the Cowboys’ 2024 Schedule

Dallas’ WR group is rounded out by this year’s sixth-round selection Ryan Flournoy, an intriguing second-year UDFA in Jalen Moreno-Cropper, and veteran Tyron Billy-Johnson. If the Cowboys are going to keep six or even seven WRs on this year’s 53-man roster, at most, only two spots are open for a young crop of guys to fight for.

There may not be many household names at the bottom of the Cowboys’ WR room, but there is some quiet optimism surrounding this group and its potential to make plays this year and beyond.

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