Week 9 Players To Watch: Cowboys vs. Titans
Newly-acquired Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper is not Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
No one is saying he is.
At least, not yet.
But as far as the Cowboys’ fledging pass offense is concerned, this long-sought No. 1 receiver, who came over in a trade from the Oakland Raiders during last week’s bye, will be treated as such with a certain number of targets headed his way.
It is akin to what the Minnesota Vikings used to do with Moss when current Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan worked there as the quarterback coach and play caller from 2002-2004.
Linehan says Cooper has big-play ability and the Cowboys are going to do everything they can to take advantage of it, hopefully making opponents pay for focusing on running back Ezekiel Elliott while opening things up for the other receivers.
“It’s a factor. Everybody team has that approach when they have (a No. 1 receiver),” Cooper said. “It’s going to be fun for us. I am looking forward to it. You have to like that guy who is the No. 1 target in the offense. When they take it away, everybody benefits from that. But it helps when you start with that.”
It will start with the Cowboys trying to get the ball to Cooper early and often in his first game, Monday against the Tennessee Titans.
Linehan said they will not ease him in against the Titans and there is no limit to how they will use him.
“He’s going to be starting at wide receiver and playing a significant amount of snaps,” Linehan said. “How many those are we’ll determine that a little bit more the day before the game. We’re not really easing him into the situation. He’s got a pretty big workload and we’ll just keep an eye on him and see where he is and how much he plays in some situations. Right now there is no limit with what we do with him.”
Quarterback Dak Prescott is equally excited. He says the two used the bye week, time in practice and extra time on the phone to gain an understanding of what each other likes in terms of routes, ball placement and checks at the line.
It is already paying dividends on the practice field as Prescott said they connected on five deep balls in practice last Thursday.
He said Cooper has unique speed and a special natural twitch that allows him to get open unlike any receiver he has had with the Cowboys since joining the team in 2016 and certainly different than anyone on the revamped receiver corps they started the season with.
Asked why he felt he and Cooper are going to click on the field faster than he did with free agent signees Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson, who both have struggled to gain chemistry with Prescott through the first seven games, he pointed to the former Alabama star’s superior athleticism and abilities to get open and separate.
Prescott said every pass will no longer have to be a contested catch.
“A great player like that, he’s going to get space, going to be open,” Prescott said. “It’s on me to give him the ball.”
Prescott could hardly contain his excitement about Cooper’s skills as well as his knowledge of the game and ease in which he picked up the offense.
“We talked over the phone and then our lockers are what, two away from each other so any time we’re sitting between meetings, we’re going over different signals, whatever it may be and he’s a sharp guy,” Prescott said. “He’s not just someone who you’ve got to sit there and go over it a bunch. Honestly, we went over it one time, come back and next time I asked he’s already picked up on the stuff, asking in-depth questions about our offense. He’s a smart guy and knows football.”
“The things we’ve talked about we’ve actually went out there and executed and the ones we didn’t we cleaned up and had another chance back at the play, executing the way we want to. I’m excited to get out there in the live action, where it’s all real.”
Linehan is of a similar mindset after watching Coooper in practice, which is why he didn’t blink when asked about the Randy Ratio for Cooper.
“You just see the great skill at all levels, obviously runs well and a very smooth athlete,” Linehan said. “He transitions and tracks the ball well. He’s a guy who people respect his speed down the field. He can get behind defenses. He’s been doing it his whole life. It’s good to build a guy’s route tree off of that starting point. When you have deep speed and you have quick transition skills there’s really no part of your game that isn’t there, for me at least seeing him. We get to know him better each day out here.
“I think people respect him. They know who he is. He’s a guy who can hurt the defense in a lot of ways with his skill set.”
Just like Randy Moss.