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AFC West Reunion Is Looming For Cooper


FRISCO, Texas – Dak Prescott had to laugh when he was asked about his newest receiver's personality.

To the outside world, Amari Cooper might be the most stoic member of this Cowboys roster – cool, calm and collected.

As Prescott could probably attest, though, the story inside the locker room is often different than what gets shown on TV.

"Amari's starting to open up a little bit. He's starting to talk a little bit more," Prescott said. "I don't know if it's winning, these playoffs, or what. We know that we need his leadership, him be a little bit more vocal or whatever it may be. He's opening up."

If that's the case, it doesn't mean Cooper is going to show it to the rest of us. The 1,000-yard receiver that talked to reporters on Wednesday was the same reserved guy that's been around since October, when the Cowboys acquired him from the Raiders

To hear it from him, that's all part of the process.

"Any time I come into a new environment or new team – high school, college, first day after being drafted to the Raiders, and even coming here. I'm kind of like nervous at first, more observant than talkative," Cooper said.

Regardless of whether he's observant, talkative or otherwise, the Cowboys probably don't care if he continues to carry his regular season performance into the playoffs. For all the concern about his diminishing returns during December, Cooper broke out for seven catches and 106 yards last week against Seattle.

"It hasn't surprised me, with the way that I've been able to transition to the offense and make some plays," Cooper said. "It hasn't really surprised me, because – like I said – I know what type of player I am."

The Rams' pass defense is middle of the pack statistically, but it'd be a mistake to assume that'll make things easy on Cooper. In Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, Los Angeles boasts two cornerbacks with a combined seven Pro Bowl selections between them, not to mention a combined four interceptions this season.

To make things even more interesting, this game will actually serve as a bit of an AFC West reunion for Cooper and his opposition. Peters spent the first three years of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, while Talib was a mainstay in Denver from 2014-2017.

During his time as an Oakland Raider, Cooper played both guys twice a year, every year.

"I've played against those guys twice a year, both of them. I know them in and out," Cooper said. "I know how they play, and I'm able to tell my teammates, the quarterback their tendencies."

The flip side is that both corners are familiar with Cooper, as well. Speaking with Los Angeles media this week, Talib said Cooper has "the total package." He was also complimentary of what he's seen of Cooper's Cowboys tape so far.

"They're getting the ball in his hands more," he said. "A lot more quick passes. A lot more catch-and-run type situations. They're doing a good job getting the ball in his hands."

For all the focus on Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas run game, getting Cooper going will be pivotal for a receiver corps that is hindered by injury. If Cooper can manage that, his play should do plenty of talking on its own.