Will Cooper help Dallas?
Decline, Prescott cloud WR’s outlook
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.