The 2018-19 NFL season was truly a tale of two cities when it came to Amari Coopers on-field performance. Before a career-altering trade to Dallas, it had appeared that the former Alabama superstar’s time as a go-to wide receiver was coming to an end. In the first six games under new head coach John Gruden, Cooper had reeled in 22 catches for 280 yards and just one touchdown. The year before the Oakland Raiders hiring of Gruden wasn’t one to brag about either. It was easily Coopers worst season as a pro, he amassed just 48 catches for 680 yards and seven touchdowns.
From an outsiders perspective, it may seem like a nice year for a third option or a tight end. But for a player who is supposed to be your franchise’s number one guy, it was massively disappointing.
After six weeks, Gruden had seen enough from Cooper and sent him to the Dallas Cowboys for a first round pick, which many people at the time believed to be an extremely head-scratching move by Jerry Jones and the Dallas front office. Yet fast forward to the end of the season and it appeared as if the Raiders were the ones who were robbed.
The difference in play from the 24-year-old was night and day. Through the last 9 games, Cooper caught 53 passes for 725 yards and six touchdowns. He also helped take the media pressure off of Dak Prescott and helped lead the Dallas Cowboys to a division crown.
2018 was an incredible year for Cooper and maybe the best 9 games he’s played since entering the league. But what if I told you that this upcoming season may be his best since his junior year at Alabama?
After this season the Dallas Cowboys will have two very important players become unrestricted free agents, Dak Prescott and Cooper. That alone will inspire them to want to have big seasons. Prescott knows that Cooper is an integral part of the team’s success. After acquiring Cooper the Cowboys finished the season winning seven of their last nine games and also defeating the Seatle Seahawks in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
If Prescott wants a big payday from the front office, it’s probably going to be a good idea for him to look Cooper’s way.
But the Mississippi State product won’t be the only Cowboy who will help Cooper’s production. The rest of the Cowboy’s offense will play a big role. Everyone knows how good Ezekiel Elliot and their offensive line is, but it is the other receiving options that will help Cooper see less double teams.
The emergence of third-round pick Michael Gallup was a welcomed surprise last season. Gallup saw significant playing time down the stretch and had some big games against the Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Along with the return of Jason Witten to occupy the middle of the field and the signing of longtime Green Bay Packer Randall Cobb, defenses will surely have to pay attention to the entire offense rather than just one player. Cooper will have many more opportunities against one on one coverages and that’s where he will shine.
Losing Cole Beasley to the Buffalo Bills may sting, but the receiving core already seems jam-packed.
What might be the biggest factor in Cooper’s production this year may be new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Moore served as the quarterback’s coach for Dallas in 2018 after retiring from the NFL the year prior and after just one season he has been promoted to play caller. Now Moore has actually been with the Cowboys since he was signed to the practice squad in 2015, so it is safe to assume that he has a pretty good idea of what works when it comes to calling plays.
But it is undeniably a big jump from position coach to coordinator. That being said he may want to try and call it safe in his first season and call most of the plays for the players he knows are the best. And the best option he has through the air is Cooper.
With the additions, the Cowboys offense has made along with the new signal caller it will surely add up to Cooper’s opportunities expanding. And as Alabama fans know from the 2014-15 season, Cooper operates very well as the go-to target for a contending team.
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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77