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Cowboys news: Early praise for Amari Cooper, what he brings, and no more excuses for Dak Prescott

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking All 25 Top 10 Pick Additions Since 1989 - Nick Eatman, Dallas Cowboys
The Mothership takes us on a stroll down memory lane where we revisit all of the former top 10 draft picks from other teams who joined the Cowboys by either trade or free agency.

Coaches and teams are always willing to give high draft choices a closer look just because of their history and with the hope that whatever the reasons were that slowed the progress from their first team, it can be corrected in time to resurrect their career. The Cowboys are no different. In fact, since 1989, the team has acquired 25 players who were Top 10 picks by another team. Some of them panned out and had better success in Dallas, while others were at the end of their career and just played for one season, or a few games, or in a couple of cases, no games at al.

Amari Cooper is the 26th player who was originally drafted in the Top 10 but joined the Cowboys either through free agency or a trade since Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989.

BTB’s own Tony Casillas makes the list.

Cowboys mailbag: Realistic expectations for Amari Cooper - Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
The Athletic takes a moment to answer some questions from the fans, including what we should expect from Cooper this season.

What should be the realistic expectations of Amari Cooper for the remainder of the season?

I doubt he’ll get 1,000 receiving yards, but say Cooper produces 700 yards with seven touchdowns for the Cowboys the rest of the season; I would say that’s a productive stretch for him. I’m not counting the nearly 300 yards he already has, I’m saying if he gets 700 yards with the remaining games with the Cowboys, adding seven more touchdowns to his total, they’d be very pleased. His job is to make things easier for Dak Prescott and he can do that by running out of the slot and on the outside. He was given around two weeks to get the basics of the offense down before the Titans game next week.

Early returns are in: Cowboys praise Amari Cooper, ‘an intense listener’ whose reputation precedes him - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay
The coaching staff is already impressed with their new wide receiver.

Cooper and Lal had already spent an inordinate amount of time together Wednesday and Thursday at The Star.

“He’s an intense listener,” Lal said. “So when you’re coaching him or watching film, he’ll say, ‘Can you rewind that again? Why are you thinking this?’ There’s good conversation about why we’re doing what we’re doing and not just ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ It’s ‘Why? Why is this better?’ I like that part about him.”

Fantasy fallout: Can Amari Cooper’s fresh start make him a must-start? - Mike Triplett, ESPN
For those fantasy footballers out there wondering about Cooper’s value as he moves to Dallas, there are a couple things worth considering.

Not only is Cooper changing teams in the middle of a season, but he’s going from an Oakland offense that ranks 10th in the NFL in passing yards per game (281.0) to a Dallas offense that ranks 29th (183.1)

But Todd Archer chimed in that the Cowboys didn’t trade for him just to be part of a committee.

“They’re not going to start chucking it all over the place. They need Cooper just to make the defense take notice of the passing game,” Archer said. “But they’re not going to slow-play this. I believe he will get a lot of work early.”

Dwain McFarland’s RSP Film And Data: Is Amari Cooper Worth It? - Dwain McFarland, The Rookie Scouting Portfolio (RSP)
Want an in-depth scouting report on the Cowboys new receiver? Dwain McFarland puts together an extensive review of what Cooper can do for this team.

I think there are several reasons Dallas should see immediate dividends:

The Cowboys whole offense will get a lift because opposing defenses will have to account for Cooper’s ability to separate versus man coverage. Double teams to his side will create more isolated looks for pass catchers that need it.

More strategic flexibility on down and distances where intermediate areas of the field need to be attacked. This is currently a deficiency in the Dallas air attack that leads to too many throws short of the sticks or incompletions.

Cooper’s YAC consistency brings an improved element to the Cowboys passing game that currently generates 58% of its passing yards through Prescott’s arm versus receivers legs.

The Cowboys will discover if Dak Prescott’s timing route issues and holding the ball too long (3rd highest in the league at 3.04 seconds) are tied to him not trusting his current receivers to get open. Cooper is going to be open often in these scenarios.


Dak Prescott Facing Increased Scrutiny After Amari Cooper Trade - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star
The ball is in your court, Mr. Prescott.

So with this first-round pick surrendered in the Amari Cooper trade, Jerry Jones is trying to give Prescott everything he needs to make his case. He’s essentially saying, “No more excuses, kid. Go earn that next contract.” Being the starting QB of the Dallas Cowboys is one of the toughest jobs in sports, regardless of other circumstances. But now Dak Prescott is trying to win more than just football games. He has to validate his owner’s faith. On the field, Dak can do some amazing things against pressure. He can also fumble the ball one yard from his own endzone; we’ve seen plenty of the good and bad this year.

How will this new pressure affect Prescott? Will he start forcing throws to Amari Cooper, like we saw last year with Dez Bryant? Will he try too hard to make plays because he feels this intensified expectation?

Dak’s future, and the future of the Dallas Cowboys, depends on his response.

Dak Prescott showing improved play, leadership over last 4 games - Marcus Johnson, Cowboys Wire
While the Cowboys are struggling on offense, there is a reason to be hopeful with the addition of Cooper. But the recent play of their quarterback also brings a bit of optimism.

In the last four games, Prescott is the seventh-highest graded passer according to Pro Football Focus with a passing grade of 84.0.

Overall Performance

Over this span, Prescott has thrown for 919 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions, with a passer rating 96.7. His YPA has improved to 7.8 with more passes downfield and he has also used his legs more often with 151 yards rushing and two scores. Extrapolated over a 16-game season, this recent stretch would put Prescott at over 3,600 passing yards, 24 passing scores and just eight picks, with 600 more yards rushing and another eight ground scores.

Deep Passing

Prescott’s deep passing percentage, throws that went 20 or more yards downfield in the air, went from No. 36 in the league over the first three weeks (5.7 percent), up to No. 13 over the last four games, 14.4 percent.


Pay the man: Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence is worth elite pass rusher money for several reasons - Jon Machota, SportsDay
The Cowboys appear committed in making a financial investment for the recently acquired Amari Cooper, but what about another guy who will be looking for a long-term deal real soon?

If DeMarcus Lawrence demands Khali Mack numbers ($90 million guaranteed and $23.5 salary), should the Cowboys cough it up? Is any D-line player worth that? On an 8-8 team?

Jon Machota: I wouldn’t give that kind of money to just any good defensive lineman. But I think Lawrence is worth it for several reasons. He just entered the prime of his career. He’s an elite pass rusher and run defender. He’s a leader behind the scenes, both vocally and by example. He’s really everything you want from a player that you’d pay that type of money. His impact on the team is felt way beyond just getting sacks

DeMarcus Lawrence: All the other top DE’s have been paid - Sam Quinn, 247 Sports
Lawrence continues to show he’s worth a hefty investment. And with other great edge rushers around him cashing in, he knows that it’s his turn now.

It was fair to call the repeatability of that season into question, though, considering how many of Lawrence’s sacks came early in the season. He fell off down the stretch likely due to a back injury draining his stamina, so the Dallas Cowboys slapped him with the franchise tag to see if he could do it again. He has perhaps been even better in 2018. He has 5.5 sacks through seven games, but that doesn’t say enough about the consistent pressure he has generated on quarterbacks. Even when Lawrence doesn’t reach the passer, he makes his life miserable. There can be no question at this point that Lawrence belongs in the same tier as the NFL’s best pass-rushers. He is just as good as J.J. Watt, Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones and Von Miller. But Lawrence ignores those players according to Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News. There is one key difference between them in his eyes.

“Why should I keep up with them?” Lawrence said. “They are already paid. I’m still trying to get paid. I can’t sit here and look like, ‘Dang, man, they’re making plays.’ I got to make my own plays. I ain’t worried about none of that.”


2018 NFL rookie rankings through Week 7 - William Moy, Pro Football Focus
Cowboys didn’t pick until 19 in the first round, but that didn’t stop them from taking one of the top collegiate players, at least in terms of PFF grades thus far this season.

3. LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH, LB, DALLAS COWBOYS

PFF Overall Grade: 84.1 In terms of overall grade, Vander Esch currently ranks fourth among 93 linebackers who’ve seen at least 100 defensive snaps this season, and he’s one of five linebackers this season (joining Bobby Wagner, Luke Kuechly, Lavonte David and Zach Brown) who currently rank within the top-10 among linebackers in both run defense and coverage grades. With just a 3.2% missed tackle percentage to his name, Vander Esch is one of just five linebackers this season who’ve recorded at least 40 tackles with a missed tackle percentage lower than 5.0%.

Sean Lee on Amari Cooper, playing less - Stefan Stevenson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Vander Esch has gotten a lot more opportunities in recent weeks due to Sean Lee being out, but the team’s veteran linebacker came back last week. Lee answers questions about how it felt returning as well as the addition of his new teammate.

What do you think of the trade to get Amari Cooper?

Lee: “Incredible football player. Great guy. He’s a guy we’re going to embrace and we’re excited about and it’s going to be fun playing with him. When you have guys like Zeke [Elliott] who can run the football and then you have a one-on-one guy on the edge, a guy like that who is a dominant football player, [defenses] really have to pick how you want to game plan a team. It becomes very, very hard to take away both of them at the same time. So having that just gives us more options.”

3 Deals to make at 2018 NFL Trade Deadline - Randy Gurzi, NFL Spin Zone
Are the Cowboys done wheeling and dealing or could they still swing another deal before the deadline? If they made another trade, who should they target?

1. Find a tight end

As much as Cooper will help them as a receiver, the Cowboys still need help at tight end. Currently, they have Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Rico Gathers, and Dalton Schultz. Swaim has been their most consistent player at the position, but he could miss some time with a knee injury suffered against Washington. Gathers has shown some great upside as a receiver, but the coaching staff seems to have no trust in him (he seems to be taken off the field after each snap he gets). Jarwin has been a complete disaster. It seems whenever they try and incorporate him into the game plan something terrible happens. Schultz is a fourth-round rookie with upside but needs time to grow. All that is said to point out that this team needs someone there who can mentor the young guys while keeping defenses honest.

Some names who could help them, even if only as a one-year rental, could include Charles Clay of the Buffalo Bills, Seth DeValve of the Cleveland Browns, or Lance Kendricks of the Green Bay Packers. There’s also Jared Cook if they felt like calling the Raiders one more time.



The Cowboys are on a bye this week, but there is plenty of football action today. Which games will be on your TV sets? 506 Sports hooks us up with their weekly coverage map.