An offense that appears set to take off in 2021, the Dallas Cowboys are ready to meet their fan base’s lofty expectations after struggling with injury and ultimately falling well short of their goals a year ago. While All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott is back and ready to bounce back from a fairly disappointing campaign, the Cowboys also have an embarrassment of riches to help compliment their stud ball-carrier. Aside from Elliott, eyes will be focused on second-year receiver CeeDee Lamb and the type of jump he can make in Year 2 after he totaled an impressive 936 receiving yards as a rookie, despite being forced to catch passes from backup quarterbacks for most of the season.
While the return of Dak Prescott at quarterback has constantly been mentioned this offseason in reference to how it will benefit the likes of Elliott and Lamb, not enough is being said about Amari Cooper.
Cooper led the Cowboys in catches (92) and receiving yards (1,114) a year ago. With his elite quarterback back in the picture, the sky's the limit for Cooper in 2021, and the former Alabama standout knows it.
“I think I’m the best receiver in the league,” Cooper said during a media session on Monday. “But there’s a difference between thinking you’re the best and actually going out there and proving it. Do I think I’m the best? Yes. Have I proven it? I wouldn't say I have.”
We respect Cooper’s honesty. He’s been an excellent player since arriving in Dallas in 2018 but has yet to do enough to get mentioned among the DeAndre Hopkins’ and Davante Adams’ of the world. An excellent route-runner that’s an easy separator, Cooper offers a dynamic skill set for the returning Prescott.
This offense is going to COOK in 2021. When healthy, Dallas presents a “pick your poison” type of dilemma for opposing defenses. Do you focus on their dangerous rushing attack and try to take Elliott out of the game, or do you double team one of Cooper or Lamb on the outside, leaving Elliott with a lighter box to run against? It’s a question that defensive coordinators will be asking themselves on a weekly basis.
With Prescott back healthy, we wouldn’t rule out Cooper making a Stefon Diggs-like leap this season. Prior to 2020, Diggs was seen as an excellent player but was rarely given the kind of respect we give him today. In fact, Diggs’ 2019 season was fairly comparable to Cooper’s 2020 campaign. In his final year in Minnesota, Diggs finished the season with 1,130 yards and six touchdowns. Cooper recorded just 16 fewer yards (1,114) and one fewer touchdown (5) in 2020 than Diggs did in 2019.
Diggs was then traded to Buffalo and took off in their high-octane offense. Just look at what Josh Allen did for Diggs’ production and reputation. A healthy Prescott could do the same for Cooper. It could be exactly what Cooper needs in order to take the next step.
It’s worth noting that these situations aren’t exactly the same. Cooper will have to share the ball with the likes of Elliott, Lamb, and Michael Gallup in 2021. Diggs didn’t (and still doesn’t) have the kind of competition for targets and touches in Buffalo. Still, Cooper seems to be entering the season with the drive and determination to meet the goals he’s set for himself. We wouldn’t bet against him establishing himself amongst the truly elite this season.
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