Offseason | 2022

Wanting A Larger Role For Amari Cooper?

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FRISCO, Texas – Take your pick of things to be frustrated by in the wake of the Cowboys' exit from the playoffs. There's no shortage of options.

Coming off an offensive performance that saw them struggle to just 17 points in a home loss to San Francisco, that's certainly a focal point. It's been a talking point for much of the season, and Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones weighed in Friday when he was asked about the contract status of Amari Cooper.

"I don't have any comment on Cooper's contract," Jones said. "I thought that we were playing early when we did make something happen, I thought Cooper had a big part in that."

Cooper's 2021 season is a bit of a Rorschach test for a flummoxing Dallas offense this season. On one hand, he finished 865 yards and eight touchdowns for one of the NFL's most productive offenses. But at the same time, he managed to catch just 68 passes on the year and seemed to disappear in the offense at times, as he was targeted five or fewer times in seven of his 15 games this year.

"I'm not being trite. But how he fits in and should take half the field with him when he goes and runs the field," Jones said. "Not half, that's an exaggeration, of course, but a whole bunch of that defense should have to honor Cooper."

There's been debate in recent days about who Jones was referencing with his comments. The Cowboys' owner did not hide his frustration with his star receiver earlier this season when Cooper contracted COVID-19 and was forced to miss this game.

Still, it's entirely plausible Jones was talking about his offensive scheme under third-year coordinator Kellen Moore. Cooper's role was mitigated enough this season – 14 targets across a three-game stretch in December – that it prompted the normally reserved receiver to speak out about it.

"I think I can do more in the red zone if I get the targets. I think I can do more on third downs if I get the targets," Cooper said at the time. "To help the offense be where we need to be, I definitely think I can help change that, for sure."

All of this is compounded by watching the NFL playoffs – a frustrating rite of passage for every time that is eliminated from contention at this time of year. Despite the attention paid to them by opposing defenses, some of the best receivers left in the postseason shined this past weekend. Cooper Kupp was targeted 11 times, finishing with 183 yards and a touchdown in the Rams' win against Tampa Bay. In the same game, Mike Evans saw 16 targets and caught eight of them for 116 yards and a touchdown. Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill made huge contributions for their teams, as well.

That seems to harken back to the point Jones made Friday morning.

"He ought to be able to catch it when they're going in the middle with him," he said of Cooper. "Others do. You throw to people that are covered all the time in the NFL. You have to. Most people don't have the numbers of receivers that we have."

It's a moot point for the time being – one more shortcoming that contributed to the Cowboys' demise. But with Cooper entering the third year of his five-year contract extension, and with Moore currently interviewing for NFL head coaching jobs, it's an interesting subplot to keep in mind for 2022 and beyond.

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