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Position group analysis: Week one was a showcase of the Cowboys’ wide receivers

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The Cowboys receivers were phenomenal as the passing game shined bright in week one win.

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

[Each week we will look back at the game to focus on a single position group and how they performed. Whether it’s high-praise for the Cowboys biggest contributors to another victory formation, or the scapegoats for any potential losses, we’ll spotlight one personnel grouping for review.]

When it comes to the Cowboys week one 35-17 victory over the Giants, there’s no way you get to 1-0 without a tremendous debt of gratitude owed to the Cowboys receivers. Dak Prescott and Kellen Moore have received their fair share of praise as the conductors of a phenomenal passing attack. Sunday’s performance was the perfect example of the dream the Cowboys front office envisioned of a ‘Dak-Friendly’ passing game. Let’s take a look at the receivers and the damage they caused vs. the New York Giants.

The Numbers:

WEEK 1 REC YD TARG REC Y/REC TD LNG 20+YD
Michael Gallup 158 7 7 22.6 - 62 YD 3
Amari Cooper 106 9 6 17.7 1 45 YD 2
Randall Cobb 69 5 4 17.3 1 25 YD 1

NEXT GEN STATS:

WEEK 1 CUSH SEP TARG AIR YDS TAR AIR % YAC/REC EYAC DIFF
Michael Gallup 6.9 1.9 10.5 26.46 12 6.3 5.8
Amari Cooper 6.6 3 12.1 38.95 3.1 3.2 -0.1
Randall Cobb 7.3 4.4 5.9 10.52 11.1 5.1 6

INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES

AMARI COOPER

From the first play of the game, it was clear that Kellen Moore wanted to remind the league of the connection between Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott as he was the only receiver targeted. That first possession didn’t end as the Cowboys hoped but Cooper caught two of four targets for 31 yards.

By starting out the game showing that you were going to put the ball in the hands of your best receiver, it forced the Giants to give Cooper plenty of attention. What it did was open up the field for his supporting cast as Cooper wasn’t targeted a single time on the Cowboys next possession that ended with Blake Jarwin celebrating in the end zone. Let’s look at Amari Cooper’s chart via Next Gen Stats to show how busy this man was:

Amari Cooper’s calling card is precision route-running and elite separation. Cooper was getting nearly three yards of separation on each target. He didn’t get huge separation on his 21-yard touchdown catch, but Prescott found him anyway:

On this play, Cooper was quoted in the Mothership’s “Sounds of the Game” as seeing the defensive back jumpy at the line and Cooper’s response was “what are you scared for?” Well, there are plenty of reasons but it’s Cooper’s quickness. Cooper’s skip-movement in his break here is just way too much smoke for the Giants to handle and the result was inevitable. Here’s a short gain in yet another example of how hard Cooper works on selling his routes:

Here’s a bird’s eye view of Cooper’s 45-yard catch:

Later in the game, Amari Cooper even secured a block for Ezekiel Elliott’s 10-yard touchdown scamper. Cooper is the real deal and such a perfect fit for the passing attack in Dallas under Kellen Moore.

MICHAEL GALLUP

Gallup had some struggles in his rookie season getting on the same page with Dak Prescott but the work those two put in in the offseason showed up in week one. He led the team in receiving and caught every single target. Bryan Broaddus said it best himself that if Amari Cooper is WR 1A then Gallup might be WR 1B. High praise for Michael Gallup but well deserved for the second-year wide out.

The first video for review is a two-fer as it shows how quickly Dak and Gallup got the Cowboys into the redzone.

With pressure in his face, Dak was able to deliver a dart to Gallup up the left sideline for a nice gain. On the next play, Gallup just abuses the coverage as well as the defenders trying to get him down. Michael Gallup is stronger than he looks and deceptively quick as well. That along with incredible route-selling abilities make him a tough guy to cover and he’s only going to get better.

This next clip was Michael Gallup delivering a dagger to the Giants’ defense. Again he manipulates the coverage, the ball is perfectly placed, and Gallup is off for 62 yards:

To show how deceptive that catch-and-run was for Gallup, it was one of Next Gen’s incredible YAC plays of the week. Gallup’s expected YAC on that particular play was just 11 yards, yet Gallup gained 49 yards of YAC and traveled a total of 80.1 yards on that play. Just phenomenal playmaking at it’s best by Michael Gallup.

RANDALL COBB

Lastly, we’ll take a look at two clips from Cowboys’ newly acquired weapon, Randall Cobb. There are likely to be a few things the Cowboys will miss without Cole Beasley but Randall Cobb brings a whole new element. On this first clip, the Cowboys are facing third and long, the ball is thrown behind the marker but Cobb would not be denied:

On Beasley’s best day, he doesn’t have the strength to do that on his own. Given that same play, he would have likely been stopped short with the field goal unit coming next. Randall Cobb showed effort and strength and that’s what he can do with the ball and a little bit of space.

On Cobb’s touchdown catch, you’re just looking at play-action executed to perfection. Randall Cobb is open in the middle of the field for Dak Prescott and not a single defender around to stop this one:

It takes the talent to get there and the Cowboys have plenty of talent in their wide receivers room. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb all made noise in their season debut which makes the Cowboys passing attack incredibly hard to defend. It’s going to get harder to move the ball against the tougher defenses and you can’t expect this every week.

However, just as hard as it will be for the Cowboys offense to keep this up, it’s going to be equally challenging for the opposing defenses to keep this from happening. Dak Prescott has weapons-a-plenty in the passing game, including his tight ends, and then you have to consider what Ezekiel Elliott brings to the table. For the defenses facing the Cowboys, you have to pick what part of this offense you’re going to take away because you can’t cover everyone. The Cowboys receivers put on a clinic this past Sunday and that’s an incredible performance to build upon.