The Dallas Cowboys have turned their season around with a change of direction on offense, spurred by the acquisition of Wide Receiver Amari Cooper. The Cowboys traded away a first round pick for the former fourth overall selection, instantly seeing results from the ex-Raider as his connection with Quarterback Dak Prescott has blossomed.
Prescott and Cooper connected twice on touchdown plays of 40 and 90 yards in the Cowboys most recent win on Thanksgiving over the Redskins. With the victory, the Cowboys reclaimed first place in the NFC East, improving to 4-1 since the Cooper trade. Of these four wins, two have come on the road, where the Cowboys were previously 0-4 prior to coming out of Philadelphia and Atlanta victorious.
All signs point to the 24-year old Cooper being part of the Cowboys long-term future, though the Cowboys have every reason to be focused solely on the present with Amari under contract through 2019.
The Raiders picked up the fifth year option on Cooper's rookie contract prior to trading him, giving the Cowboys the gift of time when it comes to evaluating their overnight success at the top of the WR depth chart.
According to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Cowboys have not discussed any contract extension for Cooper at this time. The team's current plan is to wait until after the season for these discussions.
Cowboys and WR Amari Cooper have yet to engage in any contract extension talks, but those are expected to occur after this season, per sources. https://t.co/fDUWQObbqr
Just how long this roller coaster of a Cowboys season has to go on for to determine Cooper's value is a fascinating inquiry. For a team that spent the offseason puffing their chests over their ability to play offense without a number one receiver, only to lose ground in a weak division early, the Cowboys deserve credit for correcting their mistakes on the fly.
Trading for Cooper is not the only move that's worked wonders for Dallas, as the transition from Paul Alexander to Marc Colombo as offensive line coach has elevated the play of the Cowboys line - as well as Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott snapped off 121 yards on 26 carries with three backup offensive linemen starting for the Cowboys against the Redskins. It was his third straight game with at least 100 rushing yards, as Elliott's yards per attempt have increased from 4.69 to 5.35 since Cooper arrived.
It is hard to understate how difficult life was for the Cowboys offense without a player like Cooper on the roster, and how equally impressive it is that he's performed so well this quickly.
With Jerry Jones all but confirming a Dak Prescott contract extension every chance he's given, and the Cowboys returning to their roots of running the football well in three straight wins, it's logical that Cooper is becoming just as important a cog in this Cowboys offense.
He's be the key to the Cowboys leading the league in third down conversions since his first game in week nine. For an offense that prides itself on staying on the field in order to punish defenses with physicality, this is surely a stat Cooper's agent has bookmarked for any contract discussion.
None of this is to say that Head Coach Jason Garrett nor Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan will remain with the team through 2019. Clearly pleased with the return they're receiving on Cooper, the Cowboys brass should expect this team to sustain their current level of play and contend in the playoffs should they make it.
Anything short of this could shake up the Cowboys coaching staff significantly prior to Cooper's final contract year, leaving a new voice to influence the Alabama product's future impact on the offense.
The Cowboys were criticized heavily for overpaying for Cooper originally, now being lauded for their overall resilience at 6-5 with everything to play for in the NFC playoff picture. Paying the star receiver that's made this possible will cost them even more, yet should be understandable as Cooper becomes the latest player out of Oakland to thrive away from the Raiders.
The Cowboys philosophy to roster building has focused heavily on retaining proven players already on the team. Though the way they acquired Cooper was unconventional for them, the Cowboys welcomed him with open arms, and will prepare to embrace Cooper as a cornerstone to the offense at the right time.
Maliek Collins Playing Excellent for Cowboys Defense
For the Dallas Cowboys on the interior, a lot of the news consistently surround the availability of Defensive Tackle David Irving, but Maliek Collins is playing excellent right now. While I'm willing to be very patient with Irving because of the elite talent he brings, Maliek Collins should continue to start for the Dallas Cowboys at 3-technique defensive tackle.
Collins has been a player that the Cowboys have bounced between the nose tackle and the 3T position with the hopes of getting their best players on the field, and because of the lack of a consistent presence at the 1-technique or nose tackle position. Well, with Antwaun Woods taking control at the 1T, Collins has been able to play at the position where he's at his best. The 3-tech.
He hasn't put huge numbers in the sack column this season, but that doesn't mean he's been absent from being the disruptive player he's been through his first two and a half seasons.
During the Dallas Cowboys five game winning streak, Maliek Collins has led the Dallas Cowboys defensive tackles in total pressures with 13, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF combines sacks, quarterback hits, and hurries into their "pressures." Collins hasn't recorded a sack during the winning streak, but he has four quarterback hits and nine hurries. He's tied with Tyrone Crawford for third in total pressures behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory over the last five weeks.
Over the last five weeks, Collins leads the defensive tackles in solo tackles with five and is tied with Crawford and Antwaun Woods with three run stops on defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Collins has also has two tackles for loss in the last five games and recovered Tyrone Crawford's force fumble on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Collins had six sacks in his rookie season when he played primarily as the 3T, which allowed him to see more one-on-one blocks against opposing interior offensive linemen. Especially with the way the rest of the defensive line is playing.
With the Cowboys on the road to face the Indianapolis Colts this week, Collins is going to have a tough matchup with a very good Colts offensive line, in particular, rookie Quentin Nelson. Collins ability to get pressure on Andrew Luck on the interior is a huge key for the Dallas Cowboys this week. We know that Gregory and Lawrence will get their pressures, but if Andrew Luck is able to step up into a clean pocket, it will make for a much more challenging game for the Cowboys secondary.
Collins has proved to be up to any task over the last five weeks and if he's able to keep playing at such a high level, he'll make the Cowboys coaching staff, and the rest of Cowboys Nation forget about using other defensive tackles. For the Cowboys to make a deep push in the playoffs, they'll need Collins to be a big time player for them moving forward.
Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018
For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.
After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote
As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.
Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.
Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.
His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!
David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle David Irving, once a key member of the team's defense, will not make his return after all against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. For the second straight week, Irving was reportedly trending towards suiting up before being ruled out. The Cowboys haven't missed his unique presence for 13 weeks (playing against the Jaguars and Redskins), including through an ongoing four game win streak that began with a win against these Eagles on the road.
In that road win, veteran Tyrone Crawford recorded a sack and three tackles, while Antwaun Woods added two for a Dallas defense that held Philadelphia to 23 first downs and 71 rushing yards. The Eagles managed to cross the Cowboys' 30-yard line just four times.
There are many scenarios in which the Cowboys could have cut ties with Irving for not being worth the off-field trouble he's caused - beginning the season with a four game suspension. The absolute best case scenario is what they've realized amidst this turnaround, with other defensive linemen taking advantage of the opportunity left behind by Irving.
While it can still be true that Irving would make more splash plays than the likes of Crawford, Woods, Maliek Collins, and Caraun Reid, this defensive tackle group deserves praise for their ability to step in. Pass rush ability is one thing teams can't have enough of, and the Cowboys are missing some with Irving, finding ways to win thanks to the other traits these defenders bring to the table.
Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard may effectively be the team's defensive coordinator with an emphasis on the back seven, but DC Rod Marinelli's impact is still felt - particularly up front. Regardless of where they're lined up and deployed, the Cowboys front four is expected to be disruptive on every snap, something this scrappy unit excels at.
Prepared once again to play on the edge this season, Crawford is thriving at his original position of 3T-DT. Crawford has two sacks, nine total tackles, and three other hits on the quarterback over the past four weeks. Leading by example with a relentless spirit on every play, Crawford has meant just as much to the Cowboys defensive ends as Irving could.
In a short period of time, the Cowboys have gone from building up Irving thanks to his transcendent ability to make those around him better to simply -- and importantly -- being better across the defense.
Led by DeMarcus Lawrence as their premier rusher, the Cowboys defensive line is a lot for opposing offenses to contain. The "Hot Boyz" work up front has allowed Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to play fast and make plays all over the field.
Maliek Collins, battling back from his second broken foot in three years, is proving again he's a patented Marinelli guy. Collins' play speaks for itself when considering if the Nebraska product is best as a 3T or 1T tackle. Wherever he's asked to play, Collins creates penetration with an explosive first step and can finish at the quarterback with an array of power rush moves.
At 7-5 and fighting for their playoff lives, the Cowboys are done making excuses on the 2018 season. Their strides on defense speak for themselves, and with a group that keeps Dallas in every game they'll play, the door remains open for David Irving to earn snaps again when ready.
The Cowboys don't know any better than their play without Irving right now, and as winners of four straight, it's worth questioning if we'll see Irving over the last three weeks of the regular season.
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