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Cowboys coach has realistic expectations of Amari Cooper: “We just want guys who can get open”

Cowboys coach Sanjay Lal talks about the latest addition to his receiving group.

NFL: International Series-Oakland Raiders Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys made a big move to acquire the services of Amari Cooper earlier in the week. After trading away a first-round draft pick to the Oakland Raiders, the Cowboys are hoping that Cooper is the missing link to an offense that has struggled to find it’s way. There are many different thoughts about whether this was a good move or not, but most of that won’t be known until we see what Cooper does for this team on the football field. Recently, Cowboys receivers coach Sanjay Lal answered questions about his new offensive weapon and what he offers the team. Here’s what he had to say...

“He brings a first-round skill set”

The Cowboys had a chance to select a first-round wide receiver talent when Calvin Ridley was still available at pick 19 in April’s draft, but decided that linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was the guy they wanted. Not a bad choice as LVE has looked very impressive in recent weeks.

Passing on Ridley meant the Cowboys had a big hole at the wide receiver position. Ridley is a young player with a first-round pedigree. Whether or not that translates into stardom in the NFL remains to be seen, but the skill set is certainly there and he is already producing in his rookie season.

And that is what this team is hoping for when they made the deal for Cooper. Lal was very direct about how there is still plenty of work to do with his new receiver.

“He’s someone who can really be developed into a high caliber player. He’s very polished on some routes, and not as polished on other routes. There are some routes where I wished we could go back to April, but then there are others were he’s really good I’m like ‘okay, this is really dialed in’ he’s really good at this route.”

The potential to be better is there, but Cooper brings with him the talent that has already been demonstrated at the NFL level so we can rule out any “bust” factor risk with him. He’s proven. And it’s not like he’s this aging veteran with so only much tread left on the tire. Cooper is young at the age of 24. And even though this is his fourth year in the league, he’s only six months older than Ridley.

The Cowboys got an Alabama star receiver who was born in 1994, it’s just not the one fans thought they’d be getting back in April.

“We just want guys that are open”

The Cowboys front office isn’t trying to be cute here. This isn’t a big dice roll that brings with it a bunch of uncertainty. They’re not trying to take a shortcut or trying to pawn him off as an elite guy to be designated as their new no. 1 receiver. In fact, coach Lal scoffed at the notion that number one receivers are just out there for the taking.

“A number one is just a guy you try to feed over and over and over again, a Calvin Johnson, one-in-every 10 years type guy. We just want guys that are open. We say ‘get separation and maintain separation’ and let the QB find you. So each week in this league it’s going to be different. It might be Beas one week, and if they double him, it’s gotta be the next guy, the next guys got to make the plays. But to say there’s a number one - I personally don’t like that label. Unless the guy is just so elite - he’s 6’4” runs a 4.3 and can catch everything. There’s not very many of those guys.”

Defenses “fear what could happen”

We’re all going to be on the edge of our seat waiting for Cooper to catch passes and show that he was worth the investment. While those plays are going to be a sight for sore eyes, what he does without the ball can be equally effective. Coach Lal talks about what having a talent like Cooper can do to the defense.

“Sometimes in this league, a guys reputation changes how defenses play you. Whether he’s done anything or not, they fear what could happen. So I think the immediate benefit could be that.”

What quarterback doesn’t like easy throws? Dak Prescott definitely does.

Cooper wasn’t brought over to be a decoy, but he will change how defenses play the offense. And if defense don’t pay him enough attention, he will burn them.

“He’s got great hands”

Nobody is perfect and Cooper certainly has his own flaws. One of the things he’s struggled with during his pro career is drops.

While Cooper ranks up there in drops, that doesn’t mean it’s going to plagued him his entire career.

Coach Lal isn’t worried in the slightest and thinks this will be something Cooper will improve upon under his watch.

“He’s got great hands so honestly, you don’t make this an issue. It really isn’t. He’s got 10-inch hands, he’s a great catcher. If you coach him like the way we coach all our receivers, which is ‘eyes to the tuck on every catch,’ and be diligent about that and never let that wane, he will be just like the rest of them.”

And how are the “rest of them” exactly? Well, say what you want about the Cowboys receiving group, but they don’t drop a lot of passes. Maybe all that brick carrying is paying off.

Amari Cooper is not going to blow up this Cowboys receiving group and turn them into an offensive juggernaut. Sorry Jerry, but the Los Angeles Rams offense, this team is not. Cooper is just going to be another guy out there running routes. He just so happens to be good at it. He was brought to Dallas to create separation to help this Dak Prescott-led offense. He has the raw ability to be a great receiver in this league and we’ve already seen him put it on tape for the better part of his young career. This alone will pose a threat and keep opposing defenses more honest and that will in turn take the pressure off the other guys.

Coach Lal is excited about his “new student,” but he has a very realistic perspective on things. Nobody is trying to set the table with these huge expectations. Cooper is a talented player and will make this team better, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to make this offense potent again.

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