A BLOCKBUSTER TRADE! Those are words we don’t normally use when describing transactions the Cowboys’ front office makes. But boy did they finally decide to pick up the phone and make an all-in move at a position of need that desperately needed upgrading.
It was announced on Monday that the Cowboys had traded their 2019 first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for 24-year old receiver Amari Cooper. Since entering the league in 2015, Cooper has hauled in 225 receptions, 3,183 yards, and 19 touchdowns. Let’s take a look at the film to see exactly what the Cowboys are getting in their new shiny toy, that will try to get the Cowboys offense back on track.
Cooper brings something the Cowboys lack... separation
The one thing that stands out with Amari Cooper is how good of a route runner he is. Cooper creates consistent separation using his route running ability, and his physicality at the top of his routes. The Cowboys receivers have struggled to create consistent separation throughout the year, and the addition of Amari Cooper will certainly help make things easier for quarterback Dak Prescott.
Amari Cooper will join the Cowboys WR corp that has averaged 2.2 yards of separation when targeted this season, worst in the NFL.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 22, 2018
Cooper has averaged 3.8 yards of separation on 31 targets, 4th-highest among 64 wide receivers, min. 30 targets.#DallasCowboys #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/ug5ln2Klk3
Though his numbers have been down in 2017 and 2018, Cooper’s route-running level hasn’t dropped. Cooper still does an amazing job creating separation, and picking up yards after the catch. Cooper does most of his damage in the middle of the field out of the slot, but also does a very good job of making big plays lined up on the outside, down the field. What makes Amari Cooper most effective is that he is not a one-trick-pony. Cooper makes plays in all three levels of the field and can make plays after the catch.
Amari Cooper does a lot of his damage deep, and in the middle of the field. Two areas the #Cowboys have struggled creating big plays in.— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) October 22, 2018
Cooper uses his right hand to fight off Mitchell's punch which allows him separation out of his break. pic.twitter.com/0Zx8jQAcmR
As you can see from the clip above, the Browns are lined up to stop the run with an eight-man box. That leaves Cooper on an island with Browns’ cornerback Terrance Mitchell. Cooper is able to win his matchup on a nice “post route” using great hand placement at the top of his route. The Cowboys offense sees a ton of loaded boxes, and so far this year they have yet to find a receiver that can consistently win one-on-one against man coverage, Cooper can do just that.
Cooper runs a variety of routes that Dallas must incorporate
There are few receivers in the NFL who have developed route trees. A lot of guys nowadays win using their speed, size, or the ability to perfect just a few routes. Cooper brings in a developed route tree that will allow him to get open in a variety of ways. One of Amari Cooper’s best routes is the “sluggo”, which stands for slant-and-go. The concept around this route is similar to the simple double move that Michael Gallup scored on against the Redskins.
Nice "Slug-go" route here from Cooper. Sells the slant with quick stutter, and head/eye fake, then gets vertical. pic.twitter.com/s19zC2taas— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) October 22, 2018
During the route, Cooper does an excellent job of selling the inside slant with a quick stutter (forcing the DB to play the slant), selling the slant with shoulder turn, and head/eye sell to the middle of the field, then he’s able to plant off his inside foot and turn upfield in a hurry. Cooper is able to find so much success with this “sluggo” route because of how well he runs the normal slant route.
Another really nice "sluggo". Amari Cooper killed the Browns with this exact route multiple times.— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) October 22, 2018
USE IT. pic.twitter.com/1qaTjmxuT4
Here is another example of Cooper making a big play running the “sluggo”. We rarely see this route ran in Dallas, but hopefully they are watching his film as well and see how successful he is running the route. This route will make defenses fear the deeper level of the field, but also have to respect the slant route as well that Cooper also likes to run.
Here is another scenario where Cooper wins one-on-one coverage against a loaded Chargers defensive front. Cooper doesn’t do anything special here, but he’s able to round the route off nicely and uses his upper body to protect the football and shade the defender away from his catch radius. The slant was a big part of the Cowboys offense for years, but the lack of success with it recently has led the Cowboys to shy away from attacking the middle of the field. Let’s hope that changes now that they have a receiver that is comfortable in the middle of the field hauling in the football.
The threat of Cooper, should help Dak, Zeke, and the offensive line
There’s no denying the lack of weapons at receiver for the Cowboys through the first seven weeks of the season. Cole Beasley has been very good, but his damage normally comes underneath, and converting on third downs. Michael Gallup has started to play with much more confidence, but has yet to be consistent enough to be considered a weapon just yet. With Cooper, they now have a true weapon that defenses must respect. Even with his numbers being down over the last few seasons defenses still show him a ton of respect.
They do so by shading a deep safety over to his side of the field, which will take an extra man out of the box, or by using a linebacker who will also take an extra man out of the box. While this doesn’t happen on every snap, it happens enough to where Ezekiel Elliott will have one less man to make miss when running the football. With less men in the box, that also makes it easier for Dak Prescott to read the field without dealing with as much pressure. Taking defenders out of the box opens up the middle of the field which is where Cole Beasley and Ezekiel Elliott do their most damage.
Not only was the Amari Cooper trade made to help out the Cowboys receiving corps, but it was put in place to help the offense as a whole. Yes, trading a first-round pick for a guy whose numbers have been trending down is always a risk, but Cooper has loads of talent, is only 24-years old, and plays a position that just wasn’t performing well enough to get it done. The Cowboys are trying to win now, while also setting themselves up for future success with a young talented wide receiver.