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Narrative Buster: Amari Cooper’s Drop Problems have been Greatly Overstated

John Williams

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Cowboys' Revenge Against Atlanta Hinges on These 3 Key Matchups 1

In the NFL and in other realms of life, it's easy to get caught up believing a prevailing narrative about a person, or in our case a player. Narratives can be positive or negative. They can be both true and untrue. Generally once a narrative gets applied to a player, it's very difficult for said player to shake it.

Consider the narratives on Tony Romo. For years people told us that he was a choke artist, yet he has one of the better passer ratings and countless fourth quarter comebacks to state otherwise, yet the narrative persists, even after his retirement. Conversely, Sean Lee's been tagged with the "injury prone" narrative, and given the bad luck he's had in his career, it's easy to see why.

One such narrative I want to tackle today, is that of Amari Cooper and drops.

Leading up to the trade that led to the Oakland Raiders sending Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys, , the word on Cooper was that he struggled with drops. Honestly, it's a narrative that I bought into even before the rumors of the possible trade went down.

The narrative is real. Even this week, Raiders fans were jumping on social media to gloat about drafting Jonathan Abram with the 27th overall pick. Those fans argued that Cooper wasn't a good receiver because he drops the ball. You don't want to see your wide receiver drop the ball, but I'd argue they aren't as important a stat as some make it out to be.

In 2015, Cooper's rookie season, he led the NFL with 18 drops. He still managed 72 catches for 1,070 yards, and six touchdowns. For a rookie receiver in the NFL that's a really, really good stat line. In 2016, Cooper only had four drops on 127 targets. That second season he posted 83 receptions for 1,154 yards, and five touchdowns.

Unfortunately, drops reared their ugly head again in the 2017 when Cooper finished with 10 drops on the season. In 2018, he was able to limit his drops to six between the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys.

The problem with looking only at the numbers is the subjectivity in what could be dubbed a catchable pass. The general rule is if a pass hits a receiver in the hands, he should catch it. I've been guilty of this standard at times, but it's not so cut and dry.

There are times when a wide receiver makes an incredible effort and is able to get his hands on a ball that he probably shouldn't have. I think back to a pass last season that was "dropped" by Tavon Austin on a high throw from Dak Prescott. If Austin were a couple inches taller, he probably makes the catch, but he isn't and he didn't. However, he made an incredibly athletic play to get his hands on the football and nearly came down with the catch.

At the time, I argued that play was a drop, though that was a heat of the moment take. The throw was good enough to be a catch, but too high for Austin to reasonably be able to make a play.

Drop numbers can be subjective, depending on who is scoring the play. Two different people could call an incompletion two different ways.

Just like every quarterback misses throws (that for another time), every wide receiver drops passes, even the elite ones.

Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Julio Jones has averaged eight drops a season for the last four years. Tampa Bay's Mike Evans is averaging 8.25 drops a season in that same time span. Julian Edelman, the MVP of the most recent Super Bowl -- and according to Patriots fans, future hall of famer -- averaged nine drops per season over the last four years.

Amari Cooper's 9.5 drops per season sounds like a lot, but when you compare to some of his contemporaries, it's on par with two of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Yes, he had the high season of any of those players mentioned above, but he also had the low with four in 2016.

Julio Jones is widely considered a top five wide receiver in the NFL. Many would argue that Mike Evans is there too. However, if drops are so important, then how come we don't kill those players for their supposedly faulty hands.

In Cooper's nine games after the Dallas Cowboys acquired him in 2018, he only had three drops with a 4.1% drop rate on 72 targets. In that same time frame here are a few notable player who dropped the ball more often than Amari Cooper from week nine to 17.

  • Calvin Ridley: 6 drops on 57 targets for a drop percentage of 10.5%.
  • Alshon Jeffrey: 4 drops on 47 targets for a drop percentage of 8.5%.
  • Julian Edelman: 5 drops on 89 targets for a drop percentage of 8.3%.
  • Mike Evans: 4 drops on 68 targets for a drop percentage of 5.8%.
  • Julio Jones: 5 drops on 89 targets for a drop percentage of 5.6%.

The only thing that people can criticize Amari Cooper's play for are his drops. Yet, compared to some of the best wide receivers in the NFL, Julio Jones and Mike Evans in particular, Cooper had fewer drops per target in second half of 2018.

In the 2018 NFL Draft, many in Cowboys Nation wanted the Cowboys to draft Calvin Ridley instead of Leighton Vander Esch. Ridley and Amari Cooper are roughly the same age, yet Cooper's been in the league for four seasons now, has made three Pro Bowls, and has three 1,000 yard seasons to his name. Ridley dropped the ball more than twice as often as Cooper did in the second half of 2018.

In the modern NFL where passing has become king, more value has been placed on the wide receiver position. If you've paid attention to the salaries that wide receivers are getting, they are nearly the same value as pass rushers in the league.

Drops, however, are not a good indicator of wide receiver play. Do they matter, maybe, but not nearly as much as yardage, yards per route run, touchdowns, first down receptions, yards of separation at the catch point, yards per catch, yards after the catch per reception, and catch percentage.

Amari Cooper may not be the best wide receiver in the NFL. There are a few guys who could reasonably make that claim. However, the reason isn't because he drops footballs. Amari Cooper is one of the best route runners in the NFL and as we saw in the second half of last season, can absolutely change the game.

Don't buy into the "Amari Cooper is a bad receiver because he drops footballs narrative." As soon as you do, you better turn around and argue that Julio Jones is not a good wide receiver because he drops footballs too.

Amari Cooper is one of the 10-15 best wide receivers in the NFL. He does so many things well and can make so many things happen after the catch. Dropping the ball should be the least of our concern as the Dallas Cowboys look to get a contract extension done with their WR1.

2019 will be a fun season to watch as Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper get a full offseason of work. With Cooper heading into his age 25 season, he's about to enter his prime years. If his first nine games in Dallas are any indication, "Get your popcorn ready," because he's going to put on a show.

Amari Cooper has Final Say on Trade Compensation in Cowboys Win 1



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Tight End

Jess Haynie

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Jason Witten
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The shocking return of Jason Witten is a feelgood story for the 2019 Dallas Cowboys, but will it really mean on the field? How will Witten's big presence impact the tight end position during the upcoming training camp and beyond?

Before we ever knew Jason would come back from retirement, Blake Jarwin was stirring up excitement as the new starting TE this year. His huge three-touchdown game in Week 17 last year, while an extreme example, showed the kind of receiving threat he might be going forward.

Still, before Witten announce his return to football, some wanted the Cowboys to invest more in the position. Whether it came in the form of a veteran free agent like Jared Cook or Tyler Eifert, or a high draft pick, there was the thought that Dallas needed to guard themselves against Jarwin being a flash in the pan.

But once we heard that Jason was back, we knew that there wouldn't be any big moves at TE this offseason. The Cowboys are hoping that some combination of Witten's actual return to the field, or his mentoring of their young prospects, will elevate the position from last year.

Here is our projected TE depth chart for the 2019 training camp:

  1. Jason Witten
  2. Blake Jarwin
  3. Dalton Schultz
  4. Rico Gathers
  5. Codey McElroy

While Jarwin may wind up having the most snaps and targets of any TE this season, it's a safe bet that Witten will get some deference as a Cowboys legend. That's why we're making him the starter right now, even with a year away.

The balancing between Blake and Jason as the top two will be something we watch all season. Not only does it impact the 2019 offense, but we want to know if Dallas has a TE of the future in house or will need to make a big move next year to solidify the position.

Dalton Schultz

Dallas Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz

2018 4th-round pick Dalton Schultz may have something to say about the presumed top two. If he's made some strides in his sophomore season, Schultz could force a full-blown committee approach at tight end.

From a financial standpoint, Dallas would love for Schultz to take over the position in 2020.  He is signed through 2021 on a cheap rookie contract, while Jarwin will be a restricted free agent next year.

Predicting who emerges between Jarwin and Schultz is hard to say, but what isn't hard to imagine is that these may be Rico Gathers' last few weeks as a Cowboy.

Now entering his fourth season, the basketball-to-football transformation project has not been able to break through. He has expressed frustration with the TE depth chart during the offseason, and a one-game suspension to start 2019 isn't going to help matters.

Dallas may just be keeping three tight ends this year. They have WR Noah Brown and FB Jamize Olawale who are built to do play like smallish TEs. If they only keep three, it won't matter how much Rico has progressed.

If the Cowboys go with four tight ends that last guy may not be Gathers. They signed prospect Codey McElroy this offseason, who spent last year as an undrafted rookie with the Rams. McElroy may be their new developmental project.

Dallas' 2019 camp will offer plenty of new insights into the TE position. How do they split the workload between Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz? Can Rico Gathers do anything to fight his way into the conversation, or will he lose his spot to Codey McElroy?

We look forward to getting some more answers in the coming weeks.

~ ~ ~

OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS



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Dallas Cowboys

Guillain-Barre Syndrome: Travis Frederick’s Health Still a Concern?

Brian Martin

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Concerns About Travis Frederick's Health Still Justifiable
George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It's been nearly a year since Dallas Cowboys Center Travis Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), an autoimmune disease. And although all signs are pointing towards him making a full recovery and regaining his starting job, there are still some lingering concerns about his health.

Travis Frederick didn't miss a start in his previous five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before being diagnosed with GBS. He was an Ironman and was the anchor for the Cowboys talented offensive line. But battling injuries and an autoimmune disease in which there is a lot of unknown about still are two different animals. It's the unknown here that still carries some concern.

What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) occurs when the body mistakenly attacks its own nerves, specifically the peripheral nervous system, which connects the brain and the spinal cord to the rest of the body. This can result in a wide range the nerve-related symptoms, including tingling, prickling, or pins and needles sensations; muscle weakness; difficulty walking, talking, chewing, or swallowing; pain; and, in severe cases paralysis, which can become life-threatening if breathing is affected.

As with many autoimmune diseases, experts don't fully understand what causes GBS. There is still a lot of unknown about this disease, and that includes how to treat it and recover from it. However, when diagnosed early, like in Frederick's case, the chances of stabilizing sooner rather than later are pretty good. Although, the recovery process can be a slow one, anywhere from a few weeks to a few years.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome Cure and Recovery Time?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for GBS at this current time. There are a couple of treatments which has shown some success, although patients respond differently which makes determining a person's recovery time nearly impossible.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most people recover within 6 to 12 months. However, about 30% of people still experience lingering weakness three years after a diagnosis, reports the Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and about 15% continue to have weakness long after that. Hence, the lingering concern about Travis Frederick and his future health.

Travis Frederick's Optimism

Despite all the unknown with GBS and how it's affected Travis Frederick's life, he sounds pretty optimistic his health is trending in the right direction.

"I feel really good about where I am at. Both in recovery from Guillain-Barre syndrome and the offseason surgeries that I had done. We are just starting to get to the end of the shoulder rehab. That will start to free up a little bit of my activities. But as far as (Guillain-Barre syndrome) goes, I feel really, really good. It's gonna be hard to tell whether I'm back exactly 100 percent until I can go against another player at full speed in full pads. I don't think we're actually going to know until training camp. But all signs are currently pointing to really good things."

As if we didn't already have enough to keep an eye on once the Dallas Cowboys start training, Travis Frederick certainly jumps to the top of the list. How he is able to respond in some "live-action" practices should help determine where he's at healthwise. Hopefully for his sake, and the sake of the Cowboys, he's back to 100% or as close to it as possible.

Are you concerned about Travis Frederick's health heading into 2019?



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Report: Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott Planning Training Camp Holdout?

John Williams

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Ezekiel Elliott: NFL's History with Domestic Violence Shows Inconsistency, Hypocrisy 2

All offseason, the possibility of a new contract for Dallas Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has been a hot button issue among media and fans alike. Not because Ezekiel Elliott isn't a great player and worthy of top running back money, but because the idea of paying running backs north of $15 million a year isn't as simple as, "Is he worth it?"

There is significant evidence that the running back position experiences a significant decline in production around their age 28 season and few running backs play into their 30's with good to elite production. Ezekiel Elliott, though he's experienced heavy usage in his first three seasons, could be the exception to the rule.

Well, knowing his worth to the Dallas Cowboys he's expecting a heavy payday at some point in the next couple of seasons. Elliott is under contract through 2019 and the Cowboys picked up his rookie option for 2020. So, technically, Elliott wouldn't be a free agent until the 2021 offseason. However, much like in the case of Todd Gurley, Elliott's looking to get paid early to maximize his prime years as the Dallas Cowboys running back.

Within the last hour, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk released a report that Ezekiel Elliott is planning on holding out of training camp if he doesn't receive a new contract, per a "league source." It should be noted that Mike Florio has had some missteps in his reporting of Dallas Cowboys news, most notably the perpetuating a rumor that Dez Bryant was caught on videotape doing something at a Wal-Mart, that would have a "Ray Rice type of impact." A tape that has never been discovered or produced and a story that's completely died off since it was originally reported in 2015.

Given the recent news that Melvin Gordon is planning a training camp hold out, it should come as no surprise that Elliott is being mentioned similarly. ESPN even mentioned the idea of Elliott and a looming contractual holdout in a piece earlier today, but their prediction pointed to 2021 and wasn't a report based on fact or a source, but a prediction for next year.

The two-time NFL rushing champ is scheduled to count $7.9 million in 2019 and just over $9 million in 2020 against the salary cap. His salary for 2019 is only $3.8 million. Elliott certainly has earned the right to be paid like Todd Gurley ($14.37 million per year), Le'Veon Bell ($13.13 million per year), and David Johnson ($13 million per year) despite having two more years on his deal.

In looking at the long-term impact of Elliott's contract, I've advocated that if the Dallas Cowboys intend to pay Elliott, now's the time to do it. A contract extension now, that adds three or four more years onto his existing deal would get Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys to his age 28 or 29 season. In a well-structured contract, they'd have opportunities to get out at the back end if Elliott experienced a significant decline in production.

Ezekiel Elliott's contract is going to continue to be a hot button issue until he's either signed to an extension or it's made known that the Dallas Cowboys have no intention of extending him. Currently, there aren't any other sources confirming Elliott's plan to hold out of training camp, which starts July 27th, but it's a story that we'll continue to follow here on InsideTheStar.com.

Update: 7/16/2019 10:42 am.

Charles Robinson, Senior Reporter for Yahoo! Sports provided some insight into the thinking of Elliott and his representation.

It certainly seems like holding out is on the table for Ezekiel Elliott and his representation, but no decision has been made at this point.

Check back with us for updates on Ezekiel Elliott's contract extension. 



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