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Here's why the Cowboys can't give up on Jalen Tolbert

When the Cowboys selected Jalen Tolbert with the No. 88 in the 2022 NFL draft, fans generally responded with approval. While Tyler Smith in the first and Sam Williams drew a fair amount of ire on social media, Tolbert’s selection evoked support.

Since Dallas had a significant need at the WR position and Tolbert was one of the last top-ranked receiver prospects remaining on the board, there really wasn’t much to hem and haw about at the time. That’s a status that has changed significantly over the past nine months.

Tolbert arguably was the Cowboys most disappointing rookie from the draft class. He struggled picking up NFL route concepts and as such, struggled to get onto the field as a rookie. Despite the plethora of opportunities in the receiver ranks, Tolbert never saw meaningful reps in practice and was only game-day active eight times.

The jump from South Alabama to Dallas was significant, and like many receiver prospects who came before him, Tolbert struggled to make an impact as a rookie.

In his first year, Tolbert logged 89 offensive snaps (53 special teams snaps), was targeted three times and made two receptions.  He was given one career start as a rookie but wasn’t targeted once in those 25 snaps against Chicago.

The 6-foot-3, 190 pound Tolbert came to the Cowboys as a big-play machine. He didn’t run a nuanced route tree and often beat opponents by simply being more athletic. Tolbert has the attributes and ability to be an NFL receiver but he needs to develop as a route runner and will need better decision-making and confidence before he put his skillset to work in Dallas.

Tolbert will turn 24-years-old this spring so even though he’s just entering his second season, the clock is ticking. But when considering the jump from South Alabama, and how raw as a prospect he entered the league, struggles were expected.

But Tolbert wasn’t alone in his low-profile performance. While the top prospects met expectations, most of Tolbert’s Day 3 brethren struggled to find footing as well.


As long as Tolbert can show improvement as WR and continue to be an asset on special teams, he will be given time to develop. His rookie season was undeniably disappointing but it was also understandable. It’s far too early to throw the bust label around and in a Cowboys WR room that is likely to churn considerably this off-season, more opportunities for Tolbert will be on the way.

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