Cowboys' CeeDee Lamb isn't weighed down by No. 88 expectations

FRISCO, Texas -- Expectations are not new for wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. He knew he would have them wherever he would play as a first-round pick, but they get heightened when you wear No. 88 for the Dallas Cowboys.

Through four games, Lamb has 21 catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns.

  • Drew Pearson, who made the No. 88 famous for the Cowboys, had one catch for 15 yards in his first four games in 1973.

  • Michael Irvin, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who also wore No. 88, had 11 catches for 228 yards and a TD in his first four games.

  • The next No. 88, Dez Bryant, the Cowboys' first-round pick in 2010, had 17 catches for 180 yards in his first four games.

No rookie receiver in team history has had more catches in the first four games than Lamb. Only Hall of Famer Bob Hayes had more yards (324) and touchdowns (four) in the first four games.

"The games are coming to me," Lamb said. "There's no need to rush everything."

Lamb is making an impression not made by a Cowboys rookie since running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott in 2016. Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys' 2018 first-round pick, made the Pro Bowl and set the team's rookie record for tackles in a season (176), but he started in one of his first four games with Dallas.

Lamb is one of six rookies in NFL history to open his career with at least five receptions in each of his first four games. He leads all rookies in catches and touchdowns and is second to Minnesota's Justin Jefferson in yards (348).

"CeeDee is a very passionate guy. He loves the game and he studies his tail off. He works hard," Prescott said. "I mean, that's the way you get respect in the NFL is by doing those things. He's done that from Day 1 he's been here. You don't necessarily think when he speaks or says things in big moments that he's a rookie."

Elliott and Prescott proved early on they were special. Elliott had two 100-yard efforts in his first four games and three total touchdowns. Prescott did not have an interception in his first five games. They led the Cowboys to a 3-1 record after four games and a 13-3 record overall.

With the Cowboys at 1-3, Lamb is halfway to the loss total he experienced in three seasons at Oklahoma.

"It's just, man, it's a long season. A lot of people will say it, but I mean, it goes to [Week] 17," Lamb said. "And we're only at Game 4. So a lot of things can turn around."

The Cowboys never expected Lamb to be available with the No. 17 overall pick. They were eyeing Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell, who was selected a spot ahead of Lamb by the Atlanta Falcons, and LSU pass-rusher K'Lavon Chaisson, who went to the Jacksonville Jaguars three picks later. Given the Cowboys' defensive struggles through four games, one might expect some remorse that the team did not draft a defender, but there isn't any.

"CeeDee, he just has the ability, and on top of that, he has the heart and he plays hard," Elliott said. "That's the one you can't teach."

Lamb's transition has been eased by having Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup to play alongside. He did not have to come in and immediately lift a struggling pass game.

The structure of the wide receiver group is something coach Mike McCarthy had with the Green Bay Packers. When the Packers selected Jordy Nelson in the second round in 2008, the team had Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. When they selected Randall Cobb in the second round in 2011, they already had Nelson, Jennings and Driver. When they selected Davante Adams in the second round in 2014, they had Cobb and Nelson.

"It was a huge benefit for us in Green Bay. Donald Driver was the established veteran and we brought in Greg and then Jordy and then James Jones and Randall Cobb and then Davante," McCarthy said. "There's a passing of the torch. There's the veterans taking care of the young guys, showing them the way. ... Veteran leadership in every position room is important ... when the veterans can take care and help educate the younger guys, not only just on the scheme of what to do but how to do it, how to train and all of those nuances that take place with these professionals."

Lamb has felt the benefit.

"For one, it takes a lot of pressure off me. For two, I feel like you can't double any of us. And three, you get a lot of man-to-man coverages. That goes back to No. 2," Lamb said. "You learn from guys like that, that have great enough experience, you know, any question I ask, they have the answer to. And they're young. It don't get no better than that, just having young, older guys on the field with me, guiding me. They've seen everything that I've seen."

In his second game with the Oakland Raiders in 2015, Cooper had his first 100-yard output -- seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens. In Lamb's second game, he had his first 100-yarder -- six catches for 106 yards against the Falcons.

Lamb made the key play on the winning drive with a 24-yard reception. Before Greg Zuerlein’s game-winning kick, Cooper tapped Lamb on the shoulder and told him to look at the overhead digital board that displayed his stats. It had Cooper thinking back to his second game.

"For me, it just gave me that assurance that I can play in this league," Cooper said. "That 100 yards is that code where a receiver can claim he had a good game, so I felt my second game of my career I had a good game and I felt like that was something I could continuously do."

So does Lamb.

"I got that photographic memory locked in my head," he said. "I'm hoping to see it again and again. I'm excited. I can't wait."