ARLINGTON, Texas – Amari Cooper needed two plays to get his first catch as a Dallas Cowboy. He needed only 13 plays to catch his first touchdown from quarterback Dak Prescott.
At this rate, the Cowboys' new receiver should have no problem fully adjusting to his new offense.
That's good, because exactly halfway through the season, the Cowboys (3-5) must get moving in a hurry.
Two weeks after arriving in a blockbuster bye-week trade with the Oakland Raiders, Cooper had five catches for a game-high 58 receiving yards in Monday's 28-14 home loss to the Tennessee Titans. The talented 24-year-old wideout lined up all across the formation – outside and in the slot.
"He did a great job working the past week and a half trying to understand what we're asking him to do," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "He didn't seem to have any issue there. And then he made some plays in the game. The touchdown was a big play."
Cooper gave the Cowboys an early 7-0 lead with a 4-yard score on the second drive, capitalizing on the defense's fumble recovery at the Titans' 15-yard line. Cooper first cut inside for a slant, then broke back to the sideline and lost his defender for the touchdown.
"They were kind of in a weird look, a bracket type of look," he said. "That play is supposed to work on that particular defensive look. I really sold the first route and he went for it."
In some ways, the offense's momentum stopped there.
On the next series – following another Cowboys fumble recovery inside Tennessee territory – the offense got a first-and-goal at the Titans' 4. On second down from the 6, Prescott threw off his back foot to a double-covered Cooper and Titans safety Kevin Byard intercepted the pass.
"I just forced it," Prescott said.
Cooper helped the offense stay competitive. He had a 15-yard catch and run that helped set up the Cowboys' second and final score, a 23-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to wideout Allen Hurns at the end of the first half.
But a combination of sacks, penalties and missed opportunities downfield stalled the Cowboys' first three drives of the second half. By then, Tennessee had taken a commanding 14-point lead.
The Cowboys traded their 2019 first-round pick to Oakland for Cooper and see him as a key part of their present and future. A critical stretch looms for the offense and its new receiver: four games in an 18-day stretch, including two division games.
I think I had a couple of things to improve on as far as getting my depth on my routes and stuff like that," Cooper said Monday. "Overall, for my first game, being here about two weeks, I think it was an alright performance.
"But we still came up short of a victory, so as a whole we have a lot to improve on."