Most of the offseason contract chatter, once DeMarcus Lawrence's contract was signed, began to focus on the next group of stars due for big-time money, most notably Quarterback Dak Prescott. For good reason as the quarterback is generally regarded as the most important player on the team. While Prescott has been important to the team's success over the last three seasons, few players made as much of an impact on the 2018 Dallas Cowboys than Amari Cooper.
The Dallas Cowboys front office is working on deals for Prescott and Cooper. Both will get new contracts at some point before they're scheduled to hit free agency in March of 2020, but one could argue that getting Amari Cooper's deal done is more important than Dak Prescott's.
Prior to the arrival of Amari Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys offense struggled and was inconsistent. In the seven games prior to the trade that brought Cooper to Dallas, the Cowboys went 3-4 and scored more than 20 points only three times. In wins over the New York Giants, Detroit Lions, and Jacksonville Jaguars they averaged 28.67 points per game, highlighted by a 40 point outburst against the Jaguars in week six. In their four losses on the season they averaged 13.5 points per game. Over the first seven games, they averaged 20 points per game.
In the nine games, the Dallas Cowboys played with Amari Cooper, the Cowboys averaged 22 points per game. They scored more than 20 points in all but three games; losses to the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts and a win over the New Orleans Saints.
If you remove the 40 point game against the Jaguars from the scoring average over the first seven games and the shutout loss to the Colts from the scoring average over the final nine games, the scoring average changes dramatically. Without the Jaguars game, the Cowboys only averaged 16.67 points per game in the other six contests, decreasing their scoring average by more than three points per game. Conversely, if you remove the shutout loss to the Colts from the scoring average over the last nine games, the Cowboys averaged 24.87 points per game. That's nearly a three-point difference.
Even if you remove the best (week 17 against the Giants) and worst (week 15 against the Colts) games of the final nine games from the scoring average, the Cowboys averaged 23.3 points per game. removing the best (week six against the Jaguars) and worst (week one against the Panthers) games from the first half of the season, the Dallas Cowboys averaged only 18.4 points per game in the other five games.
So Amari Cooper was worth between two and 4.9 points per game. That may not seem like a lot, but that's a huge difference in a league where so many games come down to a single score.
The impact offense as a whole is noticeable, but what about on Dak Prescott.
Dak Prescott only averaged 202 passing yards per game and had a passer rating of 87.4 with eight touchdown passes and four interceptions in the first seven games prior to Amari Cooper's arrival. Prescott only completed 62.14% of his passes in the first seven games of the season.
Over the final nine games of the season, Dak averaged 274 passing yards a game, threw for 14 touchdowns and only threw four interceptions. Prescott had a passer rating of 103 and completed 71% of his passes.
In the first half of the season, Prescott only had a passer rating over 100 two times, while he had a passer rating under 90 three times. Over the final nine games with Amari, Prescott had a passer rating over 100 six times and had only two games with a passer rating under 90.
Not only did Amari Cooper make a significant impact on the passing game, but the running game led by Ezekiel Elliott saw a dramatic increase in his production once Amari Cooper arrived.
In the first seven games of the season, Ezekiel Elliott averaged only 19 carries a game and 88.4 yards rushing per game. He was averaging 4.69 yards per carry. Through the air, Elliott caught 3.6 passes per game for only 25 yards with seven yards per reception.
After Cooper's arrival, Elliott got more opportunities and found more room to run as well. he averaged 21.5 carries per game, rushed for 101.9 yards per game. He more than doubled his receptions per game with 6.5 and averaged 49 yards receiving per game, nearly doubling his first half of the season totals.
It's no coincidence that the run and pass games saw increased production after bringing in one of the better young receivers in the NFL. The overall impact of Amari Cooper led to the Dallas Cowboys going on a 7-2 run to finish the season to win the NFC East. Prior to the trade, the team looked dead in the water. After the trade Dak Prescott looked like a completely different quarterback. The team was hitting big plays, converting on third downs, and scoring tons of points on the way to winning lots of games.
Dak Prescott is going to get his contract finalized, of that, I have no doubt. While I feel good about his upward trajectory as a player, I feel a lot better about it knowing that Amari Cooper is about to get a contract too.
Amari Cooper is an excellent talent. His route running precision makes opposing defensive backs look foolish and the separation he creates makes a quarterback's job that much easier. Cooper is like having Cole Beasley in Dez Bryant's body with sub-4.4 speed.
Just turning 25 years old, Amari Cooper is one of the bright young stars at the wide receiver position and is about to enter his prime. Unlike players like Dez Bryant, who rely on physicality and athleticism, Cooper is going to age much more gracefully as route running is one of those things that doesn't drop off near as quickly as athleticism. Just look at Jason Witten.
The Dallas Cowboys need to not mess around with Amari Cooper. Because having him for his prime and for the same timeframe that you are extending your franchise quarterback will make the next six years of their respective careers much more productive. The best way to take care of your franchise quarterback is to give him an offensive line to protect him. The second best way is to give him a wide receiver that can get open for him.
Amari Cooper is a quarterback's best friend and will be worth every penny he gets in a contract extension. In the Cowboys 2018 run to the playoffs, there were few players as important to that success as Amari Cooper. In this offseason of contract extensions and signings, few still, are as important to the Cowboys success as Amari Cooper.
Get him signed, so he can go play football.
Safety Darian Thompson Set to Start in Place of Injured Jeff Heath
Dallas Cowboys Safety Jeff Heath has been a starter for the defense since the beginning of the 2017 season. A streak of 35 games is likely coming to an end for Heath as he's been dealing with a shoulder issue this week. What this means for the Dallas Cowboys is that Darian Thompson, who's been filling in for the Cowboys as Heath's dealt with injuries each of the last couple of weeks, is set to start for the Cowboys this week against the Detroit Lions.
Thomspon, a former third-round draft pick of the New York Giants is finally getting an opportunity to play full-time with the first unit since coming to the Cowboys before the 2018 season. He's primarily been a special teams player as Xavier Woods and Heath have manned the safety spots but has been solid over the last couple of weeks. This will be Thompson's second start of the season after he filled in for Xavier Woods against the Miami Dolphins back in week three.
Against the New York Giants, Thomspon recovered a pivotal fumble that was forced by Xavier Woods that helped turned the tide in that game in the second half. In the Giants game, Thompson played 56% of the snaps and he played 80% of the defensive snaps against the Minnesota Vikings.
He's made some plays over the last couple of weeks piling up two stops per Pro Football Focus. PFF defines a stop as a tackle that prevents a play from gaining enough yardage to be deemed a successful play. In the passing game over the last two games, Thompson's been targeted three times and has only allowed one reception that went for seven yards.
Though he missed a couple of tackles last week against the Vikings, a lot of Dallas Cowboys missed tackles in week 10. Dalvin Cook is one of the more difficult players to get to the ground.
Thompson's challenge this week will come in the passing game against the Detroit Lions plethora of receiving targets. Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard expressed confidence in Thompson's ability to fill in for Heath because of his mental and physical makeup.
While it's intriguing to see what Thompson has to offer, many who follow the team continue to wonder when Donovan Wilson will get the chance to play.
Wilson's preseason was as good as you could hope for from a rookie. He had three interceptions playing part-time snaps in four preseason games. The Cowboys have been in desperate need of a guy who has the knack for making plays on the ball that Donovan Wilson showed in his limited playing time during the preseason.
Thompson, with more years of experience under his belt is the more trusted option right now for the Cowboys and he has an opportunity to carve out a role with another start this week. Though he may not be the safety that we've been clamoring for, this could be a net positive for Dallas this week and moving forward depending on how he plays. How the defense looks with Darian Thompson in the lineup will be one of the big questions facing the Cowboys secondary in this week's matchup with the Detroit Lions.
Report: Cowboys G Connor Williams to Undergo Arthroscopic Knee Surgery, Expected to Miss a Few Weeks
The Dallas Cowboys received a bit of bad news today. According to ESPN's Todd Archer, Guard Connor Williams will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday.
Connor Williams will have surgery on his knee Tuesday but the hope is he will be able to return after a few weeks. Xavier Su'a-Filo will likely move into the left guard role, which is how the Cowboys handled Williams' absence last year because of a knee... https://t.co/M55eVtYCIJ
Williams suffered the injury in Sunday's 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. This is a minor procedure but will keep Williams sidelined for a few weeks. Backup Guard Xavier Su'a-Filo is expected to fill in during his absence, just like he did in 2018 when Williams missed time with a knee issue. More to come.
Report: Cowboys’ WR Amari Cooper Expected to Practice Friday
Per Todd Archer from ESPN, Amari Cooper's MRI didn't reveal any structural damage in his knee and was diagnosed with a bruised knee. Cooper's now expected to practice on Friday as the Dallas Cowboys get ready to play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football.
Amari Cooper is expected to practice Friday and play Sunday against Minnesota after an MRI revealed he has a bruised knee, according to a source. Cooper was examined by the team doctors on Thursday and did not practice after being listed as a limited... https://t.co/jNps7m7ThL
This is excellent news for the Dallas Cowboys. Since acquiring Cooper from the Oakland Raiders last year, his presence has made a huge difference. There's been a noticeable difference when Cooper hasn't been in the lineup and they can't replicate his ability on the field in the slightest. He changes everything for Dak Prescott and the passing game.
Cooper's been dealing with minor injuries since training camp and has had to miss time in some games, sitting out nearly all of the loss to the Jets. Getting Cooper back the next week against the Philadelphia Eagles had a huge impact on the outcome of the week seven game. While Michael Gallup's taken a huge step forward in 2019, he hasn't proven to be capable of flying solo as the lead receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.
Against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys offense will need to get off to a hot start and click on all cylinders against the Vikings number four ranked defense.
Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper have had an excellent connection in Cooper's now 17 games with the Dallas Cowboys. He's averaging 5.6 receptions for 83.9 yards and 0.7 touchdowns per game. His per 16 game average would be 89 receptions for 1,342 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those are elite numbers in a really good passing game.
The Minnesota Vikings pass defense is only allowing 225 passing yards per game. Against the likes of Julio Jones, Davante Adams, Darren Waller, Allen Robinson, Alshon Jeffrey, Marvin Jones, and Tyreek Hill the Vikings have allowed 8.42 receptions for 93.85 and seven touchdowns.
Against the Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, and Kansas City Chiefs in three of the last four weeks the Vikings have allowed 291.3 passing yards per game.
Amari Cooper and the Dallas Cowboys passing game could be in for a field day.
Each week, following Amari Cooper's injury status, is one of the most important reports. Getting good news on Cooper heading into the Cowboys final practice of the week on Friday is big news for the Cowboys in this huge NFC matchup.
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