The Dallas Cowboys already had a young duo to build with for the future in quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
But they needed a third star and it appears they got in receiver Amari Cooper who made his official debut as a foundational trio in Thursday’s 31-23 victory against the Washington Redskins.
Cooper caught eight passes for 180 yards and breathtaking touchdown receptions of 40 and 80 yards. He was complemented by Elliott rushing for 26 times for 121 yards and a touchdown and Prescott completing 22 of 31 passes for 289 yards with the two touchdowns passing and one touchdown rushing.
It conjured images of the famed Triplets of quarterback Troy Aikman, receiver Michael Irvin and running back Emmitt Smith who led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in the 1990s and now all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Owner Jerry Jones wouldn’t go that far yet but said he is ready to build with Elliott, age 23, Cooper, 24, and Prescott, 25, for the future.
“Well, I don’t want to make those comparisons because those are three Hall of Famers, but in their own right (against the Redskins), those three guys can carry the mail,” Jones said. “I think we can build around them. They’ve got it going. They have a good rapport. I think that can happen here, yes, and I think Amari can be a big part of this for a long time to come. He’s found his home.”
The Cowboys, who riding a three-game winning streak and are now back in first place in the NFC East with a 6-5 mark, are 3-1 since Cooper was acquired in a bye-week trade from the Raiders as he has more than given them what they were looking for.
He has opened up the running game for Elliott, who has now rushed for 100 yards in three straight games while making Prescott more efficient, more comfortable and more confident.
Prescott’s performance against the Redskins was easily his best of the season.
“We just felt we had an opportunity to improve our team,” coach Jason Garrett said on the decision to trade for Cooper. “We just felt that someone like that could help us and provide some more balance to our offense, help make our passing game a little bit more explosive and all the reports we had about him as a person were off the charts, we felt really good about what his physical ability was and how we could fit it in our offense. I think the other guys have benefitted from this, I think our running game has benefitted from and I think the other receivers have done a really nice job and they have gotten an opportunity. It’s really helped us to get a little more potent on offense.”
Said Prescott: “He makes this whole transition easy. The elite player he is, he gets space and he creates space himself with the route-running that he has. As you saw tonight, he did that and then went and got a lot of yards after catch. That’s what big-time receivers do and that’s what he did.
“He does it all- his route-running, his creating space, his strength as we see him making him contested catches. Not only that but breaking tackles. As you saw, his speed in the open field to run away from people. It makes him dangerous. He is an explosive player. He is only going to help this offense and help this offense grow all the way around.”
Elliott said the Cooper has been the missing piece as the offense started clicking when he arrived.
Cooper is just happy to be with the Cowboys after the things soured in Oakland following back-to-back 1,000-yard season in his first two years.
“I don’t want to prove the Raiders wrong,” Cooper said. I just want to prove the Cowboys right. They traded for me and I’m going to be a good player for them. I tried to come in here and be an asset as soon as possible.
Cooper said he has clicked with Prescott from the beginning.
“I realized it from the first practice,” Cooper said. “I just love his delivery. I love the way he throws the ball. It’s an easy ball to catch. We’re on the same page when I talk to him about something. It works. He’s just a great guy to have as my quarterback.”
It all has resulted in natural comparisons to the original Triplets who came to the Cowboys as young stars and grew into champions.
Jones is not ready to go that far because the Cowboys still have a long way to go. But he says excited about the trio, if not the Triplets, made plays together against the Redskins.
“Yeah it’s like I said, to make the plays,” Jones said. “You look at their talent level. You look at how we depend on them for their contribution. I am optimistic about the future when I see Amari, I see Zeke, I see Dak. So I feel real good about this from the standpoint of them together.”