Amari Cooper was everything the Cowboys wanted in his debut

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Amari Cooper #19 of the Dallas Cowboys makes a catch in the opening drive against the Tennessee Titans in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium on November 5, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Amari Cooper #19 of the Dallas Cowboys makes a catch in the opening drive against the Tennessee Titans in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium on November 5, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys lost on Monday night, but it wasn’t because of Amari Cooper, who showed why Jerry Jones traded for him.

If you are a Cowboys’ fan, Monday night’s loss was one of the worst in recent memory. Dallas was essentially blown out by a not-very-good Tennessee Titans team at home. Their defense allowed the Titans to walk the ball up and down the field and the Cowboys’ offense struggled even to get first downs. If it weren’t for two early turnovers by Tennessee, the outcome would have been even worse. They are in a dangerous place as a franchise right now.

However, the season isn’t over yet. The Cowboys are two games out of the division and will play the Philadelphia Eagles next week on Sunday Night Football. With a win, Dallas would be right back into the thick of things.

That still doesn’t excuse the pathetic performance the team displayed in Week 9. The only bright spot of the day for the Cowboys was the newly-acquired receiver, Amari Cooper. After just joining the team last week, Cooper played his first game for the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. Right away, he was already the best receiver on the field.

For the past several seasons, Dallas’ No.1 receiver in Dez Bryant won by being more athletic and physical than his defender. That was also true with Terrell Owens in the mid-2000s. While those two players had a ton of success with the Cowboys, it often meant that they need a quarterback who could “throw” them open.

It has been a long time since they’ve had a dominating route-runner on the outside who didn’t need to be thrown open. On Monday night, Cooper’s route-running was on full display, and it was impressive. Despite only catching five passes for 58 yards, it may have been the best single receiving performance by a Cowboys’ receiver since 2016. Let’s take a look at a few of his catches to show why Cooper was so dominant.

Cooper’s first reception of the game displayed his crafty footwork. On a simple slant, Cooper was able to completely turn cornerback Malcolm Butler around after just a few steps. The ball wasn’t thrown well, and Cooper was forced to stop and catch the ball near his right hip. Considering where the linebacker and safety were, this could have been a massive gain if the ball was thrown in front of Cooper, rather than behind him. However, Cooper made it work as he caught the pass and was able to get up the field for a first down.

Butler couldn’t cover Cooper on slants in this game. He had no way to counter Cooper’s suddenness. It boggles my mind that Dallas didn’t run Cooper on more of these routes because Butler doesn’t have the quickness to stop him. They could have run slant after slant and Tennessee couldn’t have prevented them from gaining first downs. The route below was one of the best by a Cowboys’ receiver in some time. Take a look:

Cooper set up Butler by pressing off of his right foot hard as if he was going up the field on a deep route. Once Butler mirrored that move, Cooper crossed his face with a drag-cut (watch his right foot kick up the rubber on the field) and created easy separation. You cant’ run a slant much better than this against one of the most physical cornerbacks in football.

Cooper’s touchdown was just more of the same against Butler. Despite the cornerback getting a pretty good jam at the line of scrimmage, Cooper was able to break back outside to find an open throwing widow for Dak Prescott. A veteran move by one of the best receivers in football.

What was even more encouraging from Cooper last night was that he was able to find success against other cornerbacks besides just Malcolm Butler. Adoree Jackson is one of the quickest, most athletic cornerbacks in the league. Not even he could stop Cooper from getting instant separation on a dig route. Take a look at Cooper set up Jackson by putting him on his heels before driving to the middle of the field.

Most of Cooper’s production in this game came on in-breaking routes, and that isn’t a surprise. Slants and dig routes have always been Cooper’s specialty. However, teams are eventually going to try to take those routes away. That is where Dallas is going to need to use “sluggos” to keep defenders honest. I expect that to happen as soon as next week against the Philadelphia Eagles.

I don’t know how the final eight games are going to go for the Cowboys. Considering their current record and some of their opponents coming up, I will guess that it will be a rough stretch for Dallas. There is a good chance that Dallas’ first-round pick, that was traded to Oakland, will end up inside of the top-10. That’s going to be a hard pill to swallow for Cowboys’ fans.

However, the player Dallas got back in Cooper is the real deal. Going forward, Dallas can rest easy knowing they have a true WR1 who can take over games with his route. It’s just everything out surrounding Cooper that seems to be a problem right now.

In the long-run, the trade for Cooper is going to bear out as a smart move by the Cowboys’ organization. Cooper is a special talent and thus the reason he was picked inside of the top five of the 2015 NFL Draft. Players with his size, quickness, and route running ability don’t come around very often. Monday night was just another example of that talent of Amari Cooper.