Amari Cooper added a new dimension to the Dallas Cowboys' offense when he arrived around midseason in 2018, and he racked up 725 yards and six touchdowns in his nine games with the team. In his first full season with the Cowboys in 2019, Cooper set career highs in yards (1,189), touchdowns (8), and yards per catch (15.1). Last season, despite playing with four different quarterbacks, he set a career-high with 92 receptions.
With Dak Prescott making his return from a season-ending ankle injury that cost him 11 games in 2020, the expectations for what Cooper would be able to accomplish this season were sky-high. After missing most of training camp due to the effects of offseason ankle surgery, Cooper's first test would be against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that was a top-five unit a season ago. A tall task for sure, but Cooper was more than ready.
The former first-round pick caught each of his first 10 targets on Thursday night. By games end, Cooper had amassed 13 receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns. It set a career-high for him for receptions in a game and also set a record for the most catches by Cowboys receiver in a season opener.
One knock on Cooper heading into last season was that he didn't play well on the road. He didn't do much to help his case in 2019 with just 27 receptions for 320 yards. Last season, despite the quarterback carousel and 13 different offensive line combinations, Cooper had 48 receptions for 448 yards on the road. So, with his record-setting performance against one of the league's best defensive units on Thursday, Cooper has put the notion that he's only a top-notch performer when he plays in AT&T Stadium to rest.
Cooper's Week 1 numbers were a continuation of the unreal connection he's developed with Dak Prescott. Over the last 17 games that they've played together, Cooper has hauled in 108 passes for 1,443 yards. Over that span, he's had six 100-yard games and five games of double-digit receptions. Also, over the last five full games Cooper has had Prescott under center he's caught 50 out of 67 targets (74.6%).
Cooper is known as one of the best route runners in the NFL. That was on full display against the Buccaneers. According to Next Gen Stats, Cooper caught passes on seven different routes on Thursday night.
Amari Cooper showed off his versatility with a reception on 7 different routes.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 10, 2021
Although he was lights out in the season opener, Cooper wasn't satisfied with his performance.
“I feel like I could've cleaned some stuff up,” said Cooper. “I had a lot of catches, but I always focus on the ones that didn't go my way that could've helped the team. There were some big plays that I left out there, some important plays that I left out there that I need to clean up.”
That's the mark of a great player. To never be content and to keep pushing for more, no matter how much you stuff the stat sheet, especially in a loss.
2020 saw the emergence of rookie CeeDee Lamb as one of the NFL's best young wide receivers. His 935 yards and five touchdowns made some think he had already surpassed Cooper as the Cowboy's top option in the passing game. Well, after what he did against the Buccaneers, Cooper proved those thoughts were extremely premature.