The Cowboys gave up a first-round pick for Amari Cooper, but so far they’re getting a solid return on that investment.
In light of what the Houston Texans (Demaryius Thomas) and Philadelphia Eagles (Golden Tate) gave up to get a veteran wide receiver at the trade deadline, giving up a first-round pick for Amari Cooper looked a little bit worse for the Dallas Cowboys. But through two games, they are getting a good return on that investment.
Over his previous 15 games, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott topped 200 passing yards five times and 240 passing yards three times. He has passed the latter mark in both games since Cooper arrived, with an uptick in completion percentage (70.1%; to 62.5% over those previous 15 games) and yards per attempt (7.7; to 6.7 over the prior 15 games).
Cooper has 11 receptions over his two games with the Cowboys, 10 of which have gone for first downs. That impact has been directly seen on third down, as Dallas has converted 13-of-27 third downs over their last two games. Overall this season, the Cowboys are 25th in the league in third down conversion rate (35.6%).
Holding down the Cowboys offense centers on containing running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott has faced a stacked box (8-plus defenders) on 46.7 percent of his rushes his season when Dallas is not in “11” personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers), compared to 2.6 percent when the Cowboys are in “11” personnel.
Since the Cooper trade, have bumped their use of “11” personnel 18 percent (to 70.7 percent, from 52.7 percent). So it’s not surprising Elliott is averaging a yard more per carry over two games with Cooper compared to his season average.
Going a little deeper, via NextGen Stats, Cowboys wide receivers are averaging 0.8 yards more separation over two games since Cooper arrived. That doesn’t sound like much, but Prescott’s average target separation as gone up over a yard in those two games and the aforementioned impact on his completion percentage has followed.
Fellow wide receivers Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup have both nearly equaled their total of 20-plus yards catches from the first seven games (three each) over the last two games (two each). That seems like another direct correlation to Cooper’s presence.
Cooper is a sharp route runner, and he put Eagles’ cornerbacks on their heels throughout the game last Sunday night. Inevitable adjustments to double-covering him will have to be adjusted back by alignment and scheme to keep him involved, and there will be questions if offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is up to that task. It’s early, but there’s no doubt Cooper is impacting the Cowboys’ offense just how he was expected to.