After falling just short in their furious comeback at Washington, the Dallas Cowboys fell to 3-4 on the season on their way into the bye week. The offense had been putrid for the majority of the first seven games, and the team had yet to win on the road. It was painfully obvious the bill of goods the front office had sold us about not needing a true number one receiver wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. Thankfully, they weren’t too proud to admit they were wrong and take immediate steps to correct it.
While most felt Amari Cooper was a solid talent to add to the receiving corps, most felt the first round price tag Dallas gleefully paid to Oakland was a bit rich considering how good this team has been in drafting first round talent in recent years, as well as the fact that Cooper simply hadn’t produced over the past year and a half the way he had in his first two seasons, both of which earned him Pro Bowl appearances.
Things would get off to a bit of a rocky start as, despite Cooper hauling in 5 catches for 58 yards and a touchdown in his Cowboys debut against the visiting Titans, Dallas would fall 28-14 and drop to 3-5 on the season. With half the season officially in the rear view mirror and a five game stretch against the likes of Philadelphia (twice), Atlanta, Washington, and New Orleans, things certainly looked bleak. But rather than fade away, the Cowboys dug their heels in and trusted the offense would figure things out with time.
Through six games with Amari Cooper, the Cowboys have a 5-1 record. During that time, Cooper is tied for 7th most receptions league-wide and is first in receiving yards and touchdowns. In total, he’s amassed 642 yards (107/game) and 6 touchdowns, with days of 180 and 217 receiving yards against the Redskins and Eagles respectively.
Amari Cooper is not only a polished route-runner, but at 24 years old, the best years of his career are all still ahead of him. He possesses 4.4 speed and at 6’1 presents a bigger target for quarterback Dak Prescott than most of Dallas’ other receivers.
The addition of a true number one receiver opens up the offense because it changes the way defenses have to play the Cowboys. Whereas before teams would stack the box with 7, sometimes 8 men to minimize Ezekiel Elliott, they no longer have that ability due to the damage Cooper is capable of inflicting on any play. Able to burn you with short, mid, and deep plays, Cooper presents a threat that must be accounted for every play. That makes Zeke better, which makes Dak, and the Cowboys as a whole better.
To quantify that, since becoming teammates, Cooper and Elliott have been targeted 98 times, hauling in 80 receptions for 969 yards and 8 touchdowns. As a result, Prescott has averaged better than 285 yards/game (1,714), compared to the 202/game (1,417) he averaged through the first 7 contests without Cooper.
While the strength of this team remains its defense, the offense has enough talent between Cooper, Elliott, and even Prescott to do their part most weeks. And that first round pick Dallas paid for Cooper? That looks to be somewhere around pick 25 presently. I’d say the cost was well worth it for Jerry Jones and company.
Sitting now at 8-5 with effectively a 3-game lead in the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys have approximately a 99% chance to make the playoffs. That’s pretty, pretty good with 3 games left to play. So good, in fact, a win next week at Indianapolis would clench the division and potentially allow them to rest some key starters the last two weeks of the regular season. It’s a reality no one could’ve seen coming five weeks ago, but thanks to Cooper, the Cowboys aren’t just red-hot, they’re legitimate contenders.