Mick Shots: Cooper Really Does Know Best


FROM HOME, Texas – Oh my, that's Amari, just one smart cookie.

When asked during a conference call on Tuesday on his thoughts about his quarterback Dak Prescott's contract situation, he said, "I don't speak on other people's contracts."

In the true vein of Match Game, "Good answer."

When asked to describe Dak's mindset during some of their recent throwing sessions, an attempt to draw him offsides, the wise Amari says, "I wouldn't describe it."

"Good, good answer," and if only Terrell Owens had been so savvy.

So not sure why a whole lot of folks in the media especially started huffing and puffing, blustering in headlines to his response when asked Tuesday what did he think this Cowboys receiver group could do after adding first-round pick CeeDee Lamb to the offense:

"I think he's a great receiver. You know, with me and Michael Gallup going for a thousand yards last season, I think the expectations are three thousand-yard receivers."

You'd have thought the guy guaranteed a Super Bowl victory. Or at the very least thought he had boasted to put all that "in three-inch headlines." Good gosh.

This morning's Dallas Morning News front sports page headline screamed, "Cooper has bold vision: 1,000-yard WR triplets." Sports Illustrated: "Cowboys Amari Cooper Expects 3, 1000-yard Receivers This year." Same from ESPN.com and NFL.com, and provided fodder for ESPN's First Take.

But you know what I say: Why the hell not three 1,000-yarders?

Now look, I get it. Lamb is a rookie without an offseason or preseason. Rookie receivers traditionally struggle with the transition into the NFL, maybe even more so this year without the benefit of a pure offseason and preseason games. But hey, not all of them have. Randy Moss went for 1,313 yards. Anquan Boldin, 1,377. Billy Howton 1,231 (1952). Why, the Cowboys' Bob Hayes earned 1,003, Chris Collinsworth 1,009. That's five right there. So not impossible.

But with a little research, folks would have figured out Cooper knows what he's talking about. Let's review.

Last year, remember, the Cowboys did have those two 1,000-yard receivers with Cooper totaling 79 catches for 1,189 yards and Gallup 66 for 1,107, only the third time in club history the Cowboys had as many as two receivers with 1,000 yards in the same season. First, Tony Hill (60, 1,062) and Drew Pearson (65, 1,026) in 1979. Then in 2006, Terrell Owens (85, 1,180) and Terry Glenn (65, 1,026).

But that's it, and never three receivers.

Here is what most probably don't remember. Randall Cobb, the Cowboys' third receiver, and I get it, a nine-year veteran, did finish the season with the NFL's No. 1 offense, and by the way, No. 2 passing offense – both franchise yardage records – with 55 catches for 828 yards, just 172 short of becoming a third receiver with 1,000 yards.

Guarantee you that did not escape Cooper's memory. Nor this: Think about how many receptions for possibly at least 150 yards worth that Cobb had nullified by some penalty not on him. Could have easily been the third 1,000-yard receiver on the team in 2019.

So with Lamb's speed and playmaking ability, health willing, three 1,000-yarders is not as preposterous as some would lead you to believe.

Oh, and this would not come at the expense of Ezekiel Elliott. Remember, even though the Cowboys set the franchise record last year with 4,902 total yards – like 173 more than the 2012 record, and nearly 600 more than the previous second most of 2009 – even with two 1,000-yard receivers, Zeke still gained 1,357 yards rushing and did have 301 carries, just three less than his 2018 season and 21 fewer than the career high his rookie season. Plus, he did catch 54 passes for another 420 yards, ranking him second in the NFL last year with 1,777 yards from scrimmage.

No way Mike McCarthy ignores him.

So for the reactionaries, stifle. Cooper knows what he's talking about. Always has.

  • More Coop: Nothing seems to rattle this guy, at all of 26 years of age. I remember when he first got here, we talked about the difficulties – I thought – of having to switch teams midseason, the Cowboys trading for him on Oct. 22. Also having to move, and find a new place to live. Here is what he told me: "I just look at it from the standpoint you have to look at it as water. If you put water in a bottle it will take on the shape of the bottle, and if you put it in a glass cup it's going to take on that shape, meaning you have to adapt to any situation, and that was my overview of this situation. I think I've done that well." And now this: No offseason, no preseason games. Just a shotgun start to training camp in the midst of COVID-19. Because when asked how he's handled how "weird" this year has been so far, Cooper calmly said this week on a conference call, "I wouldn't say anything has been weird. I've always been a person to adapt to any situation."
  • Saint Hood: Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints have decided for training camp to house all the players, coaches and staff, some 180 team personnel in Tiers 1 and 2 around the team every day, in a team hotel, no different from teams with distant training camp sites, as the Cowboys have been utilizing in Oxnard, Calif. "It's not a bubble," Payton told Peter King of creating their own neighborhood. "It's a sequester. The message from the league is, 'The show must go on.' If so, we've got to do everything we can to be sure that happens." Of course, all, uh, voluntarily. Locally-residing Cowboys players do have the option of staying at the Omni team hotel connected to Ford Center if they so choose. Also, players living with high-risk COVID-19 individuals can request housing for the season at the team's expense.
  • Just For Kicks: Was quite surprised the Cowboys released kicker Kai Forbath without a camp competition and just handing the job to veteran Greg Zuerlein. Most will assume it was a financial decision, but while Zuerlein was signed to a three-year, $7.5 million deal, only $2.25 million is guaranteed. Forbath had signed a one-year deal for $1.187 million, with his $137,500 guaranteed now dead money. But had Forbath beat out Zuerlein, that would have meant the Cowboys spending $3.3 million for a kicker. Former Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey's new deal averages $3.3 million, ranking 13th among kickers.
  • Rule Changes: Like a couple of these. NFL teams can fine or suspend players for high-risk COVIDS-19 conduct, most pertaining to refraining from participating in large public settings. The deadline for opting out of the season has been moved up to Thursday, 3 p.m. Players have an opportunity to continue opting out at later dates for a new positive diagnosis or for a family member situation. Teams will be allowed a 16-man practice squad with no accrued season limit, and can protect four players each week from being poached. Also, unlimited players placed on injured reserve can return to the active roster after three weeks.
  • This And That: Salary-cap relief will come to teams with veteran players opting out. That means for the Cowboys, with fullback Jamize Olawale and cornerback Maurice Canady, their base salaries and prorated signing bonuses for 2020, along with any roster bonuses, will put like $2.9 million back into the fast-dwindling Cowboys cap … Former Cowboys wide receiver Allen Hurns, now with the Dolphins, has opted out for family concerns, his wife having just given birth to a baby boy … Things really crank up next week for the Cowboys with OTA-like practices starting late in the week, and teams can start putting on the pads Aug. 17 – but only for 14 times over a 20-day period.

Rules are rules, you know.