With the departures of both Amari Cooper and Cedric Wilson this offseason the Cowboys’ wide receiver group has taken a significant blow. The two pass catchers combined for 113 catches, 1467 yards, and 14 TDs. With their production missing the Cowboys will have to rely on their remaining receivers to pick up the slack, especially Ceedee Lamb. While many are expecting Lamb to take over as the primary outside receiver he may be more efficient in the slot.
Lamb has had plenty of experience operating out of the slot position in the NFL even dating back to his rookie season. During the 2020 season Lamb logged 621 snaps at the slot position. This accounted for 84.7% of Lamb’s total snaps.
While his overall usage in the slot decreased to 32.3% in 2021 this was primarily due to the injury of Michael Gallup forcing him to play on the outside. Once Gallup returned from injury Lamb’s slot usage ballooned from 16% to well over 60% upon his return.
Cooper Kupp has already proven receivers can be dominant while playing a majority of their snaps from the slot position. Kupp had a record setting season, accumulating 145 receptions, 1947 receiving yards, and 16 TDs. He was able to achieve this while playing over half his snaps at the slot position, lining up there 518 times which accounted for 52.4% of his total snaps.
Playing in the slot can be very advantageous for receivers especially Lamb. Teams best defensive backs generally operate on the outside boundary. By playing in the slot it would force defensive coordinators to make a choice. They would either trust their nickel back to cover Lamb or they would be pressured to place one of their boundary corners in the slot in attempt to slow him down. Staying in the slot also makes it harder to double team a receiver allowing more one on one matchups.
Up until this point Ceedee Lamb has not had to contend with opposing teams’ best cornerbacks or double teams on a consistent bases. By staying in the slot the Cowboys can still get #1 receiver production from Lamb while partially avoiding an increase in resistance from opposing defenses. Lamb will be burdened with leading the Cowboys passing attack this year and it is up to Dallas to do everything in their power to make his transition from supporting cast to leading man as easy as possible, even if that means leaving him in the slot.