Neither literally nor figuratively, No. 88 is going nowhere.
After teasing a single-digit jersey number switch, the Dallas Cowboys sophomore wide receiver affirmed that he will be “sticking with” the digits bestowed onto him by team owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
“I’m sticking with 88 it grew on me just that fast,” Lamb said, via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News. “88 is definitely my number. I love No. 2 for sure. I’m going to retire that in my mind but 88 is definitely it for me.”
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Lamb was strongarmed into rocking No. 88 upon being selected in the first round of the 2020 draft. He became only the 12th player in franchise history to don the number — the first since Dez Bryant — which is associated with some of the greatest players in team and league lore, including Hall of Fame WR Michael Irvin and Ring of Honor inductee Drew Pearson. It’s also an homage to Jones’ close friend and former college teammate Jerry Lamb, who passed away in 2019.
“Just like Michael [Irvin] and Dez [Bryant] and those guys, and we’ve got us a wide receiver,” Jones said after snagging Lamb, via Blogging the Boys. “And let me tell you one thing: if he’s got the competitiveness and heart of that Jerry Lamb, he’ll be bad to the bone.”
But Lamb explored moving to No. 2 — his number at Oklahoma — following the revelation that the NFL is expected to relax its strict jersey rules. He was among several Cowboys players, including fellow WR Michael Gallup and linebacker Jaylon Smith, who teased such a move.
So I guess it’s jersey number day on Cowboys Twitter, whether I like it or not 😂 pic.twitter.com/dakZnA4Rvz
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) April 6, 2021
According to Mike Fisher of SI.com, the Cowboys’ front office, which assumingly must greenlight the ventures, has “not been approached about a single-digit jersey switch.”
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Lamb dazzled as a rookie despite the loss of franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, posting 74 receptions for 935 yards (12.6 yards per catch) and five touchdowns. He added 10 rushes for 82 yards and one TD as well as 24 punt returns for 172 yards — an explosive jack-of-all-trades.
Going forward, coinciding with the return of Prescott and in conjunction with Gallup and Amari Cooper, the newly-turned 22-year-old’s future “is about as bright as any player in the NFL and certainly any player on the Dallas Cowboys,” per the team’s official website.
Fans don’t know what next season’s highlight plays will look like, but they can be confident that plenty of them will come from Lamb assuming he stays healthy. Amari Cooper is locked in a long-term contract and Gallup and Lamb are still on their rookie deals. The Cowboys have the type of weapons to win a quarterback an MVP and be an offensive juggernaut. Last year was an example of how talented playmaking can go to waste if enough other things go wrong for a team. Some of those problems will hopefully remedy themself when players return from injury, but one aspect of having three great playmakers is that none of them are likely to have the impact individually that they would have as the clear-cut No. 1receiver. Lamb seems to be a great fit as a slot receiver, so it’s safe to assume they will keep playing him in that role going forward, but they’ll still be looking to maximize his skills in whatever opportunities they can create for him. It will probably be a training camp decision every year whether they want to utilize him as a punt returner, but it seems to be an easy way to get the ball in his hand. Expect him returning punts in 2021.
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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL