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Despite Short Camp, Amari Cooper Dominates


Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper only had a handful of practices together at the end of training camp prior to Thursday night's season opener at Tampa Bay.

Apparently, that was more than enough time for the Cowboys' star quarterback and lead receiver to re-establish their on-field rapport.

Cooper, back from offseason ankle surgery, posted the most catches ever by a Cowboys receiver in a season opener (13) and added a game-high 139 yards with two touchdowns.

It wasn't enough to hold off the defending Super Bowl champions. But Thursday's 31-29 loss to the Bucs proved that the offense, health willing, can be every bit as dynamic as Tom Brady's group this season.

"I think we're capable of throwing a lot and being successful. I think we're capable of running a lot and being successful," Cooper said. "But the most important thing is the win, and we just didn't get that tonight."

Balance is a weekly goal for the Cowboys' offense, but matchups also dictate game plans. The Bucs' defense is particularly strong in the front seven, making the run game challenging, particularly without right guard Zack Martin in the lineup due to COVID-19 protocols.

When Bucs cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting exited with an elbow injury in the first quarter, the Cowboys continued to attack in the passing game.

Prescott tied a career high with 58 pass attempts and completed 42 for 403 yards with three touchdowns. Two went to Cooper, including a spectacular second-quarter sequence in which Prescott calmly picked up a botched snap, avoided a Bucs blitz and found Cooper on a curl route in the end zone.

It was Cooper's sixth multi-touchdown game of his career.

"I thought Amari played very well," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "He obviously had a lot of targets, a lot of catches, a lot of production. I thought he did a good job with yards after the catch."

After the game, Cooper was more focused on plays he'd like to have back.

"There was a play on the last drive, just like an option route, and I was supposed to break out because the guy had inside leverage," he said. "I wanted to break in. I wasn't supposed to break in; I was supposed to break out. So, plays like that. … (Dak) did not go to me on that play, but he wanted to go to me on that play."

Despite those moments, Cooper didn't show any signs of rust despite limited preseason snaps.

The second week of training camp in Oxnard, Calif., the four-time Pro Bowler had yet to practice because he was still working his way back from some inflammation in his ankle. Coming off a career-high 92-catch season in 2020, Cooper said he wants to be "better than I've ever been."

Thursday was a good start.

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