The Dallas Cowboys offense has drastically improved since the addition of receiver Amari Cooper in a bye-week trade with the Oakland Raiders.
While there is no question having a No. 1 receiver like Cooper has been boon to quarterback Dak Prescott, whose has more efficient across the board since his arrival, owner Jerry Jones said the Cooper effect has been just as important in boosting Ezekiel Elliott and the running game.
Jones compared Cooper’s impact on Elliott to the one Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin had on the NFL’s all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith during those Super Bowl title years in the 1990s.
“Well, I think I’m going to go back to Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin. Emmitt had a lot of his runs where he wasn’t touched for the first three or four yards,” Jones said Wednesday morning on the NFL Network. “It’s because [Quarterback Troy] Aikman and Irvin had them backed off, and they knew if they didn’t stay back then Aikman, Irvin and [Tight end Jay] Novacek would take them right down the field. Well, Cooper has done that for us. We got to keep them back off. When we do, then Zeke can basically have the kind of days we want him to have as a running back. So it’s a balance thing. It always has been.”
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It’s been especially evident during the Cowboys two-game streak heading into Thursday’s first-place NFC East showdown against the Washington Redskins.
The league’s second-leading rusher with 953 yards, Elliott has rushed for 273 yards the past two games.
He had 151 and 122 in back to back wins over the Philadelphia Eagles (27-20) and the Atlanta Falcons (22-19), respectively.
The Cowboys have gone to more three wide receiver sets since Cooper’s arrival three games ago. He seen less stacked boxes as teams have been forced to use more defensive backs, allowing Elliott to feast on the smaller defenders in the running game.
Per Pro Football Focus, Elliott has 15 broken tackles over the past three games and is averaging 4.5 yards after contact compared to 12 broken tackles through the first seven games and an average of 2.9 yards after contact.
Prescott and vice president Stephen Jones have said similar things about Cooper’s impact on the running game without invoking the Hall of Fame names of Smith and Irving.
“Definitely. I’d say so. We’ve talked about that for a couple weeks now,” Prescott said. “The way teams are playing us and the way they’re playing Amari [Cooper] and adjusting their coverages has given us favorable boxes. The offensive line is doing a great job of taking advantage of that. [Ezekiel Elliott] Zeke’s finding holes and making people miss.”
Said Stephen Jones: “I think you’ve got to give some credit to Amari Cooper. I think they’re aware of it. They know he’s out there. They’re having to back into him on double coverage quite a bit, and I just think that it’s certainly loosening up, the defenses that we’re seeing, in terms of the number of players in the box, those type of things.”