The Amari Cooper Situation with the Dallas Cowboys
The Kellen Moore Case:
Amari Cooper’s usage has been put into question, but the issue Cooper was most vocal about was his usage on opening drives. There was certainly a point in this season where the Cowboys sputtered on opening drives, around the time they played most of the AFC West teams, but across the board, the Cowboys faired well on their first possessions this season.
According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys were:
8th in Yards per Drive
8th in Points per Drive
9th in TDs per Drive
8th in Drive Success Rate
They managed to put up top quarter numbers with the 24th highest time of possession. When the Cowboys moved the ball, they did some with ridiculous efficiency and with pace. After all, their starting line of scrimmage was league average and their plays per drive were slightly above average.
Statistically, the Dallas Cowboys were fine at starting the game, and even if the data is front skewed to reflect the success of the early season, it wasn’t absolutely necessary the Cowboys target Amari Cooper anymore than they already did. (Would more targets help? Yes, but over the grand scale the increase is probably negligible; the ultimate point I’m trying to make)
The reason I say that is because of stuff like this:
1st and 10
But then there’s also this:
4th and 2
This also doesn’t account for some drops from Noah Brown, CeeDee Lamb, and Dalton Schultz happening in really random instances. On the season Lamb had eight (again…), Schultz had four, Cedrick Wilson and Michael Gallup had three, and Noah Brown had one. Cooper’s three meant he had the lowest drop percentage of anyone on the Dallas Cowboys at 2.9 percent.
Kellen Moore draws up some really nice concepts throughout games and the execution from QB to the receiver can be all over the place. Prescott is very decisive what he sees at the line of scrimmage and is great at calling out what he needs to, but sometimes his film study can be misleading as he calls wrong things evident in the first clip where he calls the slide protection to the wrong side and doesn’t recognize the defense is playing zone coverage after the RB motions out wide.
But by a similar token, just because a team has a strong receiving depth chart doesn’t mean one has to utilize every receiver on the team. When Amari Cooper subs out for Noah Brown and Cedrick Wilson and has them run meaningful routes, it doesn’t necessarily optimize the offense. If they catch passes they aren’t as good at generating yards after the catch and none of them are better at catching passes through contact than Cooper. (The only receiver that puts up a fight in this department is Gallup)
The point of using them is to reset the tendencies of the defense and exploit mismatches but it’s definitely a lot easier to expect the best receiver to consistently separate against better coverage than the other guys against lesser coverage. History has shown that time and time again.