Amari Cooper is a big-play receiver and a legitimate number one option for most any team in the NFL. His acquisition not only saved the Dallas Cowboys after a 3-5 start in 2018, but ended up catapulting the team to an 11-5 record and even a playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Wildcard Weekend.
It’s easy to forget now, but at the time of the trade, the first round pick Dallas paid for Cooper was scoffed at league-wide. After all, Philadelphia ended up acquiring Golden Tate went for a third rounder, while Demaryius Thomas landed in Houston for just a fourth. This perception was in spite of the fact that the former Alabama standout had already made a pair of Pro Bowls in his brief career and was decidedly younger.
To many, Cooper was a drop-prone ‘wide receiver 2′ with the ability to put forth two or three big games a year and little else. Now, with just under a full season’s worth of games under his belt as a Cowboy, he’s mostly laid those criticisms to rest. All except for the drops, that is.
In his 10 games with the Cowboys last season, Amari Cooper had only a couple of drops. What’s more, his monster games against the Redskins and Eagles made it clear that he was still the same Pro-Bowl-caliber wideout he had been in his first two seasons. His mere presence unlocked the Dallas offense, lifting the Cowboys to 11 wins in their last 16 games, including playoffs, and this season he’s put up even bigger numbers.
Through five games this year, Amari Cooper has 32 catches for 512 yards and five touchdowns. Unfortunately, he also has several drops over that span as well, the most recent of which cost Dallas dearly against the Packers this past Sunday.
Officially, the NFL has only credited Cooper with two drops on the season, but what defines a drop can vary from stat tracking site to site. While Dak Prescott’s pass might not have been perfect, it was certainly 95% on the mark, hitting Cooper right in his hands deep down the field. If Cooper completes the catch, it’s a monster gain for Dallas and perhaps even a touchdown.
Instead, the ball rebounded off Cooper’s palms and popped right into the waiting arms of Packers cornerback, Jaire Alexander. Just like that, Green Bay was on the move and moments later, Aaron Jones was punching in his first of four touchdowns on the day. While Dallas would offer some resistance late, it wouldn’t come until the late third quarter when they were already trailing 31-3. Sure, Cooper ended up posting a career-high with 11 catches for 226 yards, including a brilliant 53-yard touchdown, but as he was quick to point out, it was his early mistake that had cost the team a golden opportunity and swung the game in Green Bay’s favor. For a star receiver looking to get paid, that catch absolutely must be made.
At present, Amari Cooper remains unsigned beyond this year. At the tender age of 25, he’s already a 3-time Pro Bowler and is integral to Dallas’ offense. He’s also looking to get paid among the very best at his position, sitting back while guys like Michael Thomas and Julio Jones have worked out new deals with their respective teams. If he’s hoping to make anything close to the $20 million per season Thomas is or $22 million of Jones, he cannot afford to continue dropping passes at this rate.
Yes, he’s been dealing with a mysterious injury to his heel since the start of training camp, the prognosis for which has changed numerous times, but he’s still making explosive plays pretty much every week. What’s more, we’ve yet to see a game this season in which he didn’t let a pass hit him in hands before falling harmlessly to the turf. Could some of those passes have seen better placement by Dak Prescott? Absolutely, but just as many have hit Cooper squarely on the mark. Because of this, he’s been both Dallas’s greatest weapon and, at times, biggest drive killer this season.