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Amari Cooper has transformed the Cowboys offense - just check the stats

The numbers - and results - are undeniable since the Cooper trade.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys paid a huge price to acquire Amari Cooper - surrendering the team’s 2019 first-round draft pick. Many weren’t exactly overjoyed at the move (see some of the comments here). Even those of us who were okay with it recognized it could easily blow up in the team’s face and significantly set the franchise back.

And the truth is, it still might. One big game doesn’t suddenly make the trade a winner - the jury is still out on the long-term results. However, initial returns are promising. Cooper is putting up peak Dez Byrant numbers since his arrival:

Not mentioned in the above tweet is the fact quarterback Dak Prescott has an astronomical 136 passer rating when targeting Amari Cooper. In short, Cooper has been everything the Cowboys’ front office, coaching staff and fans hoped for.

In fact, the addition of Cooper has completely transformed the Dallas offense from an inept, bumbling, bottom of the NFL unit to one that can nicely complement a top defense.

The following shows the Cowboys 2018 per game numbers, segmented into pre-and-post-Amari:

We see across-the-board improvement in every major scoring/yardage/passing category except one (touchdown pass percentage). Points, total yards, passing yards all up 13% to 25%.

The impact of these improvements become more notable when looking at the team’s offensive rankings:

The Cowboys’ offense was abysmal before Cooper’s arrival, ranking in the bottom eight of the NFL in virtually every category. The team has since moved up to rank anywhere from top-five to average. These are concrete, dramatic improvements. The impact on the biggest statistic - points scored - is clear:

Dallas topped 20 points only twice in the team’s first seven games without Cooper. They have now topped that mark each of the last three weeks. Dallas could muster only 17 points against the Redskins back in October but put up 31 points and over 400 yards against the same team on Thanksgiving.

Cooper’s a machine on third down

Cooper’s biggest impact has been on third down. Thursday, Dak targeted Cooper nine times. Amari picked up five first downs and two touchdowns on those targets, meaning only twice did the attempt fail to yield a first down or a score.

This isn’t anything new. Cooper has become Dak’s favorite third down target. According to Austin Gayle at Pro Football Focus 70% of the third down balls thrown to Cooper have resulted in first downs or touchdowns since he became a Cowboy.

This has allowed the Cowboys to go from one of the worst third-down teams in the league (ranked 31st, converting only 32%) to one of the very best (ranked 4th at 48%). Some of us thought this might be possible when Cooper was acquired:

Again, this is only four games, which is a small sample. And it’s always easy to get excited about results and numbers right after a team or player puts up big numbers. But it’s really hard to argue that the move hasn’t immediately paid big dividends. Just for comparison, here’s what Roy Williams did his first four games as a Cowboy:

  • Nine catches
  • 110 yards
  • 1 touchdown

Many (foolishly) compared the acquisition of Cooper to that of Roy Williams but we’ve already seen there’s nothing similar about the two. Cooper is clearly the best receiver on the Cowboys; he’s clearly a legitimate #1 quality receiver and he’s clearly had a huge impact on the team’s fortunes.

The stat where he’s really moved the needle is in the win column. Dallas has gone from a 3-4 record (43%) to a 3-1 record (75). In the process, the narrative around the Cowboys has gone from “when will Jason Garrett be fired” to “can this team win the NFC East and maybe make a run in the playoffs”?

That’s an impact worth trading for.

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