Three Cowboys With The Most To Prove Going Into This 2022-23 Season

September 3, 2022
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The 2022-23 Dallas Cowboys are going to look different in many ways compared to this previous year. One is the youth movement the front office seems to be giving the green light to.

Today we highlight three players who have the most to prove on this Cowboys team, that seem to have more questions than answers about themselves at the moment. 

Wide Receiver: Ceedee Lamb

Ceedee Lamb is coming into the ’22 season as a bright 23-year-old wide receiver with first-round draft capital in the 2020 NFL draft. He was drafted to be the future WR1 option for quarterback Dak Prescott after whenever Amari Cooper would move on from Dallas.

Well, the future is now. Lamb’s expectation for a third-year breakout season is high. The sky is the limit for Lamb’s ceiling. His potential could very well be in the stratosphere of Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings or Ja’Marr Chase of the Cincinnati Bengals

Are those lofty expectations? Yes, no doubt. Especially since both of those former LSU receivers have walked into the league as top ten and arguably top five wide receivers. Nonetheless, Lamb has shown flashes with his speed, strong hands, and crisp routes. 

Lamb has had two solid seasons as the Cowboys’ second wide receiver. The ’21 season was an improvement from his rookie campaign, but Lamb hasn’t seen the targets that first options in the league see. Lamb saw 120 targets and caught 79 of those. That ranked 24th for targets and 22nd for catches in the league last season. 

Expect both of those numbers to skyrocket this upcoming season now that the Cowboys lost Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson plus Michael Gallup is still recovering from a torn ACL. 

This untapped potential from Lamb should be ready to explode after being in the shadow of Amari Cooper for the last two seasons. Now is the season to prove to the Cowboys that he can be a bonafide star wide receiver in this league. 

Right Tackle: Terence Steele

The former undrafted free agent has made impressive strides of improvement throughout his young NFL career. In both the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Terrance Steele was mainly a swing tackle who was set to back up right tackle La’el Collins. That role changed fast as Steele was thrown into the starting line-up after a hip injury took out Collins for the entire ’20 season. He had a rough rookie year as he let up nine sacks along with a low PFF (profootballfocus.com) blocking grade of 50.3. 

In the ’21 season, Terrance Steele was again set to start after La’el Collins was suspended five games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy regarding a missed drug test. He would keep the right tackle spot for most of the season until he had to move to left tackle for three games after Tyron Smith got injured. Steele greatly improved to only letting two sacks in the entire season. 

In this past off-season, the Cowboys cut La’el Collins. This move solidifies Steele to be the clear starter at right tackle with no competition behind him. As he goes into his third year with confidence from the front office. Now Steele needs to prove that they made the right move in cutting Collins and trusting him to be an anchor on the Dallas offensive line.

Cornerback: Kelvin Joseph

The Cowboys’ former second-round pick from the 2021 draft had an underwhelming rookie year, to say the least. Kelvin Joseph came into the ’21 season injured with a groin injury and eventually missed the first six games. He finished with 13 solo tackles and zero interceptions through ten games. As a top 50 pick in his draft, he didn’t come close to the expectations Dallas had for him when joining this defense. 

This past April, news broke that Kelvin Joseph was involved in a murder case. He was with a group of men that shot victim Cameron Ray on March 18th. He was questioned and investigated by police but was cleared of any charges in June. With a rocky rookie year and a serious off-field issue, Joseph is looking to put the past away and fight for a larger role for this upcoming season. 

The Cowboys are decently deep at the cornerback position with Trevon Diggs leading the pack, Anthony Brown set to be the opposite starting corner, and veteran Jourdan Lewis going into his sixth season. 

Kelvin Joseph needs to show that he can use his length standing at 6’1’’ and be the confident playmaker the Cowboys expected him to be. There’s no question that Joseph should be seeing the field as an athletic cornerback since the NFL is in the most pass-happy era of its existence. In the NFC east division alone getting new additions at wide receiver: AJ Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles, Wan’Dale Robinson being drafted to the New York Giants, and Jahan Dotson being drafted to the Washington Commanders.

Another lacking year would be very disappointing for the sophomore corner that could lead him to be completely phased out for a new cornerback, whether they would join the Cowboys in 2023 through the draft or free agency. Joseph has to show out this year in order to keep himself from receiving the “bust” label and looking for more playing time.

Honorable Mention: Left Guard/Tackle: Tyler Smith

Tyler Smith being a rookie gives him leeway for this 2022 season. It’s a challenge to adjust well and be a great offensive lineman in the NFL trying to block oversized grown men. That doesn’t take away the pressure he has on him going into the season though.

Smith was drafted as the fifth offensive tackle off the board in his class. He is a raw prospect with great strength, but his expectations were to be the future left tackle after Tyron Smith moves on. That expectation has been sped up very fast after Tyron Smith tore his left hamstring last week. 

It hasn’t been confirmed that Tyler Smith will start at left tackle yet but there is speculation that he will be lined up there in week one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unless the team does go through with signing a veteran off the streets. 

Wherever Tyler Smith lines up on the opening night, he still has a first-round pick pedigree connected to him. That alone comes with something to prove to the team after they took him with their first pick in the draft.