Spagnola: How Cooop Is Effecting This Offense


FRISCO, Texas – For some reason, this movie title came into my brain, Lazarus Effect, some sort of sci-fi movie never seen predictably about raising folks from the dead.

So let's call this Amari Effect, as in wide receiver Amari Cooper, who seems to be breathing life into what had been for the first six of seven games this 2018 season a moribund Cowboys offense.

That is, until maybe now. Until Cooper arrived on campus here at The Star, playing in the past two games. And I get it, the Cowboys won one of those games and lost one of those games, so you're probably thinking, there he goes, losing his mind again.

Or is he?

Bear with me.

Because there is the eye test and there is the statistical analysis. So. let's go first with the stats, sort of a closer look at B.A., Before Amari, and A.A., After Amari. And again, I get it, it's just been two games, but here goes, and you can decide if we're playing Coop or Coincidence. Let's remember, too, in these two games he's played, Cooper, who already was eliciting Coooops from the hometown folks, has caught 11 passes for 133 yards and one touchdown.

So then, in the first seven games, the Cowboys only twice scored more than 20 points in a game, the 26 against Detroit and the 40 against Jacksonville, averaging just 16.43 points over those seven games. But on the road, while the overall average wasn't great, this was a worse story. Just 13.5 points a game. And, the Cowboys in those first seven games, totaled more than two touchdowns only once, that versus Jacksonville.

But, in the past two games combined, the Cowboys have scored 41 points, or 20.5 a game, still not great but much closer to respectability, and actually tallied three touchdowns in the 27-20 victory over the Eagles, scoring twice as many points in the first road game with Coop than they had been averaging in the other four. Plus, the Cowboys left 10 points on the field in the first quarter of that meager 14-point effort against the Titans.

Let's continue. Over the first seven games the Cowboys were converting third downs at a 31.8 percent rate. In the two games Cooper has played, the conversation rate was a much more desirable 48.1 percent.

Then there is completion percentage. Over the first seven games Dak Prescott had completed 62.1 percent of his passes. But in the past two games, the percentage comes in at 70.1 percent, right where you want your quarterback for sure.

Now, let's check Dak's QB rating. Over the first seven games Dak's rating was 87.4. But since Coop's arrival, it has jumped to 101.2 over the two games.

Not just Dak. Against what was supposed to be the No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL, Ezekiel Elliott went off for 151 yards, one short of his season high of 152 against Detroit. And he scored two touchdowns against Philly, one rushing, one passing, the first time he's had two TDs in one game this year, and the first time since Game 7 against Washington last year, though missing six games the second half of the season with the suspension.

Coop or Coincidence.

You tell me.

But me, man you can see the difference just his presence seems to be making, especially against the Eagles. Philadelphia started off playing single-safety high against the Cowboys, but eventually morphed into Cover-2, with the two safeties over the top. They were worried about Cooper defeating their corners in single coverage.

Also, detected less blitzing. The last thing defensive coordinators want is one receiver smoking them for a touchdown in one fell swoop.

You know, we had Hall of Fame defensive tackle and 18-year NFL assistant coach and scout "Mean" Joe Greene on our Dallas Cowboys Legends Show Wednesday night, and he concurred, plus sure sounded as if he's been paying attention to these Cowboys games.

Greene noticed the Amari difference, too, how the Eagles' defense backed off, especially from crowding the line of scrimmage. Sometimes presence is just as important as plays.

Joe also noticed the other receivers seemingly running crisper routes. He said sometimes a coach can teach and teach, but when they see a guy on the team run a route a certain way whatever they've been taught sinks in.

"They see how he can take the top off a route," Joe said.

And Cowboys wide receiver coach Sanjay Lal agrees, and why he has a reel of how routes are run by some of the top receivers in the league, and that would include Sunday's opponent Julio Jones, along with Antonio Brown.

"I show them different clips," Lal says, "like maybe a reel of say a Julio running whatever route."

In fact, Lal said he showed his group four clips of the Giants last game, ones with Odell Beckham Jr. running two fade routes, back to back, a great one and one that could have been better.

So, thanks for the insight there, Joe.

Lal also is noticing how defenses are adjusting to Cooper's mere presence, like on the opening play against Philly when the defense shifted to where they expected Cooper to be, but as it turned out, Beasley was in that spot instead.

"Just a real electric player," says Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, "got a smooth game to him, but when he has to turn it on he really has a good combination of speed and quickness."

Man, all you have to look at the third-and-8 play from the Eagles 23 midway through the third quarter. First of all, with Cooper lined up wide right, Eagles corner Ronald Darby was giving him nine yards of cushion. And when Dak was forced to roll to his right, Cooper stopped his comeback route, turned and was heading to the end zone wide open, only for Prescott to lose the grip on the football as he was winding up to throw, fumbling the ball, and by time he picked it up on the bounce he simply threw the ball away.

"Oh, that's where the ball was going," Dak said. "It was a touchdown that we missed."

Not only that, then Brett Maher missed the 42-yard field goal, too.

But keep an eye on this. Keep an eye on more than just what Cooper is doing when the ball is coming his way. Keep an eye on what the defenses are doing, respecting not only his speed but his ability to run routes, especially the slant over the middle. The Cowboys seemingly have found a real threat that puts fear in defenses.

Guarantee you, when these defenses, especially the pass-challenged Falcons defense (ranked 30th, giving up nearly 300 yards passing a game) break their huddle, the first thing they're going to be looking for is, where is No. 19, the corners, the safeties and the linebackers, too, widening out a few steps to discourage any slant routes to Cooper if he's facing man coverage.

"When you have a talented player like that, defenses have to respect him, and we've been benefiting from that the last couple of weeks," Dak points out.

They sure have.

Simply the Amari Effect.