Amari Cooper has just 13 catches for 83 yards the past three games to go along with a dropped pass and a fumble in the season finale against the New York Giants.
So why do Cooper and Dallas Cowboys think he will be an impact player in the playoffs and the difference maker in the rematch against the Seattle Seahawks in Saturday’s wild-card game?
“They brought me here to make plays,” Cooper said. “I believe I can do that … Very excited to get things rolling.”
Cooper was not with the Cowboys when they lost to the Seahawks, 24-13, on Sept. 23 in Seattle. Dak Prescott had his worst game of the season, completing 19 of 34 passes for 168 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 54.5.
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Tight end Geoff Swaim led the Cowboys with five catches. But most glaring was the lack of weapons Dallas had on the outside. Cole Beasley was the top wideout with three catches for 46 yards.
It prompted the trade for Cooper during the bye week that jump-started the passing game. Cooper has 53 catches for 725 yards and six touchdowns in nine games with the Cowboys. The yardage was more than all but seven receivers in the league.
When asked what difference Cooper will make the second time around, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan made it plain.
“He will be on the field,” Linehan said. “That is going to be a big advantage for us.”
The Cowboys believe it will be a huge advantage because of the style of defense that Seattle plays. Unlike the past three games when the Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Giants gave him a lot of attention with the Cover 2 zone to prevent the big play or double coverage, the Seahawks play more man coverage with a single-high safety.
“There’s a lot of excitement because there’s a lot of opportunity,” Cooper said. “When teams play two-high, kind of gets more difficult to catch passes over the top and things like that.
Prescott could barely contain himself.
“You seen the difference he has made to this team,” Prescott said. “How he has helped this team over the last eight weeks. We are fortunate to have him. Knowing what they like to play. They like to play a lot of single high. That offers a lot of one-on-one matchups with him. So excited for that matchup.”
Linehan said Cooper will draw attention from the Seahawks as they do all highly targeted receivers and it’s going to take the entire team to make plays.
But he said Cooper is going to have a big impact either for what he does or what he opens up for the other receivers.
Tight end Blake Jarwin has 20 of 27 catches the past four games, including seven for 119 and three touchdowns in the season finale against the Giants. Beasley had his best three-game total since Cooper’s arrival over the last three weeks, topped by a six-catch, 94-yard output against the Giants exclaimed by a 32-yard game-deciding touchdown.
“His effect has opened up some things in the offense,” Linehan said. “Beasley can tell you that. Blake … that has been the effect of having 19 (Cooper) as your top target.”