Will Cooper help Dallas?

De­cline, Prescott cloud WR’s out­look

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Nate Davis

For­mer all-pro re­ceiver — and the per­son­nel around him — might not be enough to jump­start the Cowboys.

Maybe you’ve heard this be­fore?

The Cowboys have ac­quired a for­mer Pro Bowl re­ceiver — one who en­tered the NFL as a top-10 draft pick and was in his mid-20s at the time of the deal — in a pack­age that will cost Dallas a fu­ture first-round se­lec­tion.

It hap­pened at the trade dead­line 10 years ago, for for­mer Texas Longhorns star and one-time Detroit Lions Pro Bowler Roy Wil­liams.

It also hap­pened Oct. 22, this time for two-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper, for­merly of the Oak­land Raiders.

Maybe you’ve also heard this one, given it’s only been two weeks since Cowboys owner Jerry Jones claimed his team has lacked a No. 1 wide­out for some time.

“That hasn’t been our case here for sev­eral years now,” Jones lamented on a Dallas ra­dio show. “Not a true No. 1. My def­i­ni­tion of a No. 1 re­ceiver? It is Julio Jones, DeAn­dre (Hop­kins). There are not a lot of those guys around the NFL.”

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we all know Jones got fleeced in the Wil­liams swap and — while the jury will be out for some time on the Cooper gam­ble — it’s safe to say you still don’t have a No. 1 target for third-year quar­ter­back Dak Prescott.

Some thoughts ...

By Jones’ own stan­dard, Cooper isn’t top tier, lack­ing the pro­duc­tion and/or phys­i­cal dominance of Hop­kins, Julio Jones, An­to­nio Brown, A.J. Green or Odell Beck­ham (when he’s prop­erly en­gaged). And let’s throw out some more names: Da­vante Adams, Keenan Allen, Brandin Cooks, Ste­fon Diggs, Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill, T.Y. Hil­ton, Al­shon Jef­fery, Jarvis Landry, Golden Tate, Adam Thie­len and Michael Thomas. If Cooper is among the NFL’s 20 best at his po­si­tion — and that’s a very op­ti­mistic sce­nario given cases could be made for Doug Bald­win, Ju­lian Edelman, Larry Fitzger­ald and oth­ers with ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances — then he’s 20th. At best.

Cooper ex­ceeded 70 re­cep­tions and 1,000 yards in each of his first two sea­sons (2015 and 2016), hardly mind-blow­ing out­put but de­serv­ing of those Pro Bowl nods. Yet his de­cline be­gan well be­fore head coach Jon Gru­den reap­peared this sea­son. Cooper had just 48 grabs for 680 yards in 2017 along with a mis­er­able 50% catch rate. This sea­son, he’s caught 22 balls for 280 yards, putting him on pace for 59 and 747, re­spec­tively, over 16 games. In fair­ness, Cooper was vic­tim­ized by a bru­tal (and un­flagged) hit in Week 6 against Seat­tle. But ac­quir­ing a player so re­cently in the con­cus­sion pro­to­col is ap­par­ently an­other risk that didn’t de­ter the Cowboys.

Cooper is highly un­likely to make Dallas’ pass­ing game flour­ish or frame Prescott as the franchise quar­ter­back he most cer­tainly is not — at least not at this stage, Jones’ overly rosy eval­u­a­tion that Prescott isn’t merely a “bus driver” notwith­stand­ing. Cooper came into the league with 4.4 speed, and five of his 19 ca­reer TDs have cov­ered more than 50 yards. How­ever his only score of 2018 spanned just 8 yards, per­haps be­cause he bulked up to 225 pounds ear­lier this year even though his 6-1 frame typ­i­cally car­ries about 210.

Prescott isn’t spe­cially ac­cu­rate — his com­ple­tion per­cent­age rate has dipped in each of his three NFL sea­sons, now down to 62.1 per­cent — and Cooper doesn’t have the catch ra­dius, a la Jones or Evans, that will mask his mis­fires. He wasn’t able to make an im­pact for Oak­land, rank­ing 71st league-wide in re­ceiv­ing yards per game (46.7), even though Derek Carr was av­er­ag­ing nearly 40 throws (yes, many of the shorter va­ri­ety) per week.

There’s also the mat­ter of learn­ing a play­book and build­ing chem­istry, tasks that typ­i­cally re­quire at least one full off­sea­son.


Wide re­ceiver Amari Cooper had two 100-yard games but just one touch­down for the Raiders be­fore the trade to the Cowboys.

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