Amari Cooper is set to make his Cowboys debut on Monday night football against the Tennessee Titans. With all the hype surrounding the Cooper trade, questions have arisen regarding the impact of Cooper on the offense, how many targets he will get, etc. To predict how the Cowboys use Cooper, we have to understand what makes Cooper a potential pro-bowler wide receiver.
Cooper possesses many strengths. From his speed, good height, and overall athletiscm. But above all, Amari Cooper’s greatest trait is his smooth route running. I believe this is the main reason the Cowboys invested a heavy sum for Cooper. The front office and coaching staff wanted a “Dak friendly receiver”– someone who can get open early in his routes and create separation throughout the entirety of the pattern. Check this route out by Cooper:
Cooper is running a post route. The defender lines straight up with Cooper, not giving any leverage to onside or the other. Amari works his hips even with the defender, jabs inside, plants his foot, and digs up the field. Next, he acts like he is going to cut toward the middle of the field by varying his foot speed as well as planting his left foot like he is breaking on an inside route. He continues to maintain speed throughout the entire route. Now onto the stem of the route: He gives a head fake as if he is running a corner right as he plants his left foot and breaks inside, leaving the DB in the dust to make the catch.
Cooper is able to execute double moves quickly and smoothly. Especially later in his career with the Cowboys, Dallas had Dez Bryant run double moves to get down the field, quite frequently. Even this year, the Cowboys have favored double moves regularly (Gallup’s touchdown most notable). The Cowboys will be able to run more double moves with Cooper. His most dominate route is arguably his sluggo route.
Cooper is so quick early in his release, DBs will get beaten on quick slants, drags, or outs. The sluggo route will use the corner-back’s aggressiveness against them. A sluggo is a simple slant and go, or dig and go. Look at this great double move- sluggo route against the Eagles:
Hopefully, this will be a familiar sight against the Eagles. Cooper releases with a hesitation, moves vertical for 2 paces, and drops his hips and cuts hard inside. Most inexperience route runners will take a jab inside and go up the field, but Amari understands the amount of cushion the corner is giving him. The corner is not wanting to get beat outside, so he will be a little hesitant to jump on any quick breaks inside. However, when Cooper jabs, he continues in for a few steps, which forces the defender to respect the slant route. Literally, as soon as the corner breaks on the slant, Cooper plants and goes up field, causing great separation and catches the ball for a big time touchdown.
The main focus for the coaching staff will be getting the ball to Cooper early and often. If Dak can find a way to get Cooper a few catches early, defenses will have to back up, or double Cooper. Whether it’s quick slants, screens, or a jump ball down the sideline– just convince the opposing defense that Cooper is a focus for this offense. They will have to take safeties out of the box which should open up room for Zeke, and for play calling in general. Maybe, the jet sweep role could become part of Cooper’s game (Cooper came into the league running sub 4.4 speed)? Who knows? But, the coaches have pressure from the fan base, but most importantly, Jerry Jones to give Cooper a chance to prove he was worth a first round pick. In Scott Linehan’s career, he has found ways to make Calvin Johnson and even Dez Bryant to have success. If Amari Cooper can average 6 catches, 75 yards, and around a touchdown a game– this offense should look way different. If the coaches do not create ways for Cooper to impact the game, shame on them. There are a lot of “ifs” for this offense. But one thing is for sure. This trade proved Jerry has a “win now” mindset, and is not going to settle having his stud-receiver he spent an expensive fee for, wasted by ignorant coaching.
For readers who want to jump on the hype train, check out this highlight reel: