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Spagnola: Bringing On Some Well-Needed Juice


FRISCO, Texas – This is exactly what the Cowboys offense needs.

Some juice.

Something to spark an offense that roars one week and purrs the next.

As Cole Beasley says, "He's definitely got juice."

In the football vernacular, that means he can run. Fast. He can stretch the field. Long. He will give defenses something to chew on. Hard.

He being Amari Cooper, the newest and most needed addition to this stagnant Cowboys offense that is capable of scoring 26 points one week and just 16 the next; 40 the week after that and just 17 points the next.

Now, no one around _here_ is labeling Cooper, the guy the Cowboys traded their 2019 first-round pick to acquire from the Oakland Raiders on Monday, as their immediate No. 1 receiver. Especially wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal.

"No, I don't like that at all," he says of that No. 1 receiver designation. "No. 1 is a guy you feed over and over and over again, a Calvin Johnson, a one-in-every-10-year type guy.

"We just want guys who are open. We say get separation, maintain separation, let the quarterback find you."

And there you have a healthy dose of logic that many out there are lacking. Look, we get it. The Cowboys spent a first-round pick on this fourth-year receiver. But Cooper should not be considered this season's savior. Nor that he alone will be the salvation of this offense.

Nor, as some couldn't wait to declare, that jobs on this coaching staff and the future of this quarterback will be tied to what he's capable of doing in the final nine games of this season, even though knowing Cooper hasn't had one full, padded practice with this team yet and won't have more than one next week after the bye before the Cowboys hit resume on Nov. 5 against Tennessee.

How literally naïve for anyone thinking so.

Just as it is with quarterbacks, it is with wide receivers: They aren't playing singles out there at Wimbledon. This is real football, 11 on 11, the ultimate team sport, and what the Cowboys are doing with this move is giving this offense a two-time Pro Bowler over his first three years in the league. A talent the Raiders judged to be fourth best in the 2015 draft. A guy who's been capable of putting up in his first two seasons with the Raiders 72 catches for 1,070 yards and 6 touchdowns as a rookie, then 83 catches for 1,153 yards and 5 scores.

But again, now pause for a second, a guy the Raiders were willing to part with.

Says Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie of Cooper, "I think he's a first-round player. … Has he been inconsistent? Absolutely. But has he shown greatness? Absolutely. … This guy is still a young player. I think he's going to do well down there in Dallas."

And when Lal was asked just what Cooper will bring to this offense, what will his immediate impact be, he said, "Reputation, and sometimes in this league a guy's reputation changes how defenses play you, whether he's done anything or not. They fear what could happen. So I think the immediate benefit would be that.

"Other than that, he's got to do it to make it last."

Ask yourself: Who do defenses now fear in this Cowboys offense? Ezekiel Elliott first. Then the multi-talented Dak Prescott. Then Cole Beasley. That really is it.

Am I right?

And if we can figure that out, then some Mike Vrabel certainly can figure that out, too. Stack the line. Stop Zeke. Then blitz the daylights out of Dak. Of late on the road, Zeke has numbers to prove all this, 35 carries for 88 yards. And Dak has enough bruises on his body to play a game of checkers on, sacked 17 times in the four road games – all losses. Why, he's absorbed enough QB hits to be batting .500, overall 46.

That right there should take a yellow highlighter to the offensive line. Those guys certainly are not absolved from these offensive struggles. Those guys know it. They must play better.

Too many times Dak has been accused of not seeing the field, not anticipating what his receivers are about to do. Don't listen to that garbage. Go look for yourself. Sure is hard to see the field from your rump. Sure is hard to anticipate receiver moves when bailing out of the pocket to avoid pressure. Sure is hard to get the ball down the field when some Ryan Kerrigan is coming up the gut to obliterate you.

When asked about what the Cowboys need to concentrate on improving during this down time, this answer – my answer – is this:

Somehow, someway, improve the play of the offensive line. That unit just has to be better. Because as I've always said when someone asks how are the Cowboys going to contain Odell Beckham, the best solution is to put pressure on Eli Manning.

Someone asked Beasley if trading for Cooper was an insult to the Cowboys' wide receiver corps. Beasley predictably recoiled.

"I don't see how it would hurt anything," he said. "They've got to respect him. Time will tell. We'll find out."

Not only should a guy with Cooper's _juice_ threaten secondary coverages, but he should also clear out those traffic-jam congestions at the line of scrimmage. The guy can run, and you don't need to be a scout to figure that out. And no matter that he has only 22 catches for 280 yards and one touchdown in six games this year with the Raiders. Pro Bowl talent just doesn't fade away this fast.

Remember, Cooper is only 24 years old. Not even old enough to legally rent a car at some airport. Lal looks at him as someone to "mold," and wishes he had him since back in April.

Well, this is nearly November, so you've got to do what you've got to do in a short period of time. And sounds as if Lal and Cooper will do just that.

How is this for a fortuitous coincidence?

Lal said Cooper is using the bye weekend to head back to the Bay Area to pack up his things, get organized. Well, it just so happens Lal already had planned to visit his mom in the Bay Area, too, this weekend.

"We'll be together for the next three days," Lal said with a wry smile.

And while the players will be off until Wednesday, nothing prohibits Dak from hooking up with Cooper early next week, or from Cooper coming into The Star for a little extra. Just get as many reps as possible next week with the Tennessee game not until Monday night.

"Reps, really. There are no shortcuts," Lal said of the best way to have Cooper ready for the Titans.

But if nothing else, all that No. 1 business pushed aside even though the Cowboys traded a No. 1 for Cooper, as Beasley says, "He will add some extra juice to the offense."

And ever-lovin' juice it needs.