Before the 2018 season, you could go back as far back as 2014 to find a time when the Dallas Cowboys had a reliable number one receiver. Dez Bryant missed seven games of the 2015 season with a broken foot and 3 games in 2016 with a hairline fracture in his knee. He never fully gained the chemistry with Dak Prescott before his release in April of 2018, leaving the organization in dire need of a number one option in the passing game.
This was highlighted even more in 2018 during the Cowboys first seven games as the aerial assault was rather pedestrian and the team went 3-4. However, Owner Jerry Jones would pull off a shrewd business move before a week 9 match up with the Tennessee Titans. He acquired Wide Receiver Amari Cooper for a 2019 first-round pick. The price of a first-rounder seemed a little much to most when this move was made. But as quickly as Cooper was brought in he also changed the view of the critics of this transaction just as quick.
Even in a loss, Cooper’s debut in the blue and silver gave hope as to what he could bring to the table. He caught 5 passes on 8 targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. By seasons end, he totaled 53 receptions for 725 yards and 6 touchdowns with the Cowboys. If you take his averages over his first nine games in a Cowboys uniform and multiply them by sixteen you get 94 receptions for 1,289 yards and 11 touchdowns for an entire season. We’re talking all-pro/pro bowl level production here.
You can bet no one was happier about the addition of Cooper than Dak Prescott. In the first seven games last season, he averaged 202 yards and completed 62.1% of his passes. In the nine games with Cooper, however, those numbers skyrocketed to 274 yards a game while completing 71.2% of his passes. If you look at just specific passes to Cooper the numbers are still impressive. He completed 53 of 76 attempts (69.7%) which is almost three completions every four passes. This connection was highlighted in weeks 12 through 14 as the duo hooked up for 26 receptions on 30 attempts (86.6%) for 473 yards and 5 touchdowns as the Cowboys won all three games. Amazing chemistry considering they only started playing together midseason.
All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has lead the NFL in rushing in two of his first three seasons (2016,2018) and lead the league in yards per game with 98.3 in the other (2017). Travis Frederick, who missed the entire 2018 season as he battled Guillian-Barre Syndrome, got his first full-contact in a game situation in Saturday’s preseason opener against the 49ers. He’s on track to be ready and back to his all-pro level of play at Center by the time the regular season starts. If this is the case the Cowboys will have their three all-pros on the offensive line together again with Frederick alongside Zack Martin and Tyron Smith.
Cooper isn’t by himself, though, as the Cowboys have a few more weapons in the passing game. Veteran Randall Cobb was signed during free agency as an upgrade over Cole Beasley who went to Buffalo. During the early days of training camp, he’s showing there’s plenty left in the tank and is continuing to build the trust between himself and Prescott. Michael Gallup has taken a huge step forward in his timing with Prescott as well during the offseason.
The Cowboys defense was one of the NFL’s best in 2018. They finished 5th against the run and 7th in fewest points and overall defense. Add that to all the offensive firepower mentioned earlier and what do you get? A team that won eight of it’s final eleven games including the playoffs last year and returns this season as one of the favorites in the NFC. They have one of the youngest rosters in the league and are set up to be competitive for the foreseeable future, but make no mistake about it, adding Amari Cooper increased this organization’s chances of winning a sixth Lombardi trophy dramatically.