FRISCO, Texas --One of the great things about football is that the tape never lies.
So, as well as Jonathan Cooper appeared to play on Sunday against San Francisco, there's always the tape to fall back on. To hear it from the people who evaluate it, that tape was quite kind to Cooper.
"He played as good a game Sunday as anybody did and the best game since he's been a Cowboy," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones on Tuesday morning.
For all the positives that came out of that 40-10 win against the 49ers, Cooper and the improved play of the offensive line took center stage. The Cowboys ran for an absurd 265 yards in the game -- the most by an NFL team so far this year.
Ezekiel Elliott's game-breaking talent was a big part of that, as he amassed a career-best 219 total yards. But so too was the offensive line, which appeared to hit a stride it had not yet found during Cooper's third start of the season.
"I feel pretty good, continuing to build the continuity amongst the guys," said Cooper following the game. "One of my big things is for them to build and gain trust in me, because they're some pretty solid players."
That word, "continuity," has been the big talking point for this unit going all the way back to the spring. As Cooper noted, the Cowboys employ three steady options in All-Pros Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. Chaz Green got the first crack at playing alongside them, starting the first three games of the season.
But it's been Cooper's turn as the starting left guard -- namely, the fourth quarter against Green Bay and this San Francisco matchup -- that the Cowboys' vaunted running game has started to find its way.
"I think the more he plays, the better he is getting individually," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "The more comfortable he is getting playing next to Travis, next to Tyron. He is getting better and better every week."
Cooper chuckled when he was asked about getting more comfortable. Given the caliber of the players he's lining up beside, he said he's more concerned about them.
"I honestly believe it's them feeling more comfortable with me," he said. "They're some great players, so I feel alright. So I just think it's them getting a better feel for me, understanding that I'm going to give my best out there and knowing that we're on the same page and we're able to click on all cylinders without them having to worry about me."
From the outsider's perspective, it's still far too early to put this team's offensive line concerns in the rearview. The Cowboys ran the ball well in the fourth quarter against Green Bay, an eventual loss, and they rolled over San Francisco -- which has still yet to find its first win of the year.
But keeping all of that in mind, it's got to be considered a positive trend. And with Cooper notching a third-straight start under his belt, it's a difference he said he can feel on the field.
"I know that sometimes, when we are rolling, you can feel us being on the same page and moving blocks pretty good -- just fitting them," he said. "On some fits, you come off of it like 'That was a good one. That one felt right.'"
It wouldn't fit Garrett's style to completely concede the starting spot to the veteran guard. On Monday afternoon, he allowed that Cooper's place at left guard isn't necessarily permanent, as Green is still an option there.
Even if that's true, the Cowboys appear to have found a formula that's working for the time being. As long as the tape keeps coming back good, it doesn't seem like there should be much incentive for change.
"I thought their grades bore out as a group with Cooper," Jones said. "It's the first time in a long time that I've seen the equivalent of an A-grade across the board, and that's what we got."