Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper isn’t known as a guy to shoot off his mouth carelessly. So when he repeatedly used the word “frustrated” in an interview this week to talk about his recent dip in production, it caught the attention of many.
Some headlines were quick to play up that one word, but savvy fans know better than to paint Cooper with the same brush as past diva wideouts who whined loud and long to every hot microphone they could find about their number of targets.
But there’s no dissension in the ranks in Dallas. In this case, the veteran’s teammates and coaches fully support and agree with what Cooper said.
Cooper would no doubt like a little more action in the Cowboys offense. Right now, though, so would nearly every member of that unit, as the defense has carried the team on their current three-game winning streak.
And that was the question that started the brouhaha in a call-in Thursday with a Dallas radio station. Cooper was asked if it bothers him that the offense is struggling or that he’s not getting the ball, even while the team is winning.
“I’ve got to be honest, it actually does,” Cooper told 105.3 The Fan. “Because, yeah, we’re winning, but the defense is playing a huge part in that. We’re not really as explosive as we should be. We’re not converting a lot of their turnovers to touchdowns. A lot of them are field goals. And I feel like I could be a huge part of that, so that’s what frustrates me,” Cooper said. “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. To help the offense be where we need to be, I definitely think I can help change that, for sure.”
A four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver believing he can help his struggling offense by having the ball thrown to him in key situations. Is that selfish… or is it exactly what the team’s top-earning and highest-profile pass-catcher should say?
Cooper’s stats are frustratingly pedestrian this season. He exploded in Week 1 with 13 catches, 139 yards, and a pair of scores on 17 targets. Since then, he’s topped 100 yards just once and maxed out at eight receptions (both in the win over Minnesota, when Cooper Rush was filling in for Dak Prescott).
In November and December combined, Cooper has been targeted just 23 times. He’s hauled in 15 balls for 188 yards and one touchdown. Of course, he missed two games with COVID… and caught heat for his unvaccinated status that forced him to sit out games that the team ultimately lost to Kansas City and Las Vegas.
Sunday’s game in New York represented Cooper’s poorest statistical showing of the season: two receptions, eight yards. But on a blustery day in the Meadowlands, the Cowboys appeared to favor the run attack and taking points where they were available, knowing a shootout likely wouldn’t be unnecessary. Both of the team’s touchdowns came on short fields following a defensive takeaway.
Defense won the day, to be sure. And Cooper made it sound like he’s not the only offensive playmaker who’s itching to get back to lighting up the scoreboard.
“That’s part of the reason why Dak made that bet with D-Law about how many turnovers they get versus how many touchdowns we get,” Cooper continued in his radio hit. “We understand how dominant they’ve been, and we want to match that energy, because when we both come out and play like that, we’re going to be unstoppable. That’s my biggest goal for us, because I know what it can lead to. And that’s why it does frustrate me a little bit. Yeah, we are winning, but we haven’t been playing to our potential lately as an offense. That’s very frustrating.”
That no longer sounds like an individual player throwing a temper tantrum over not getting enough balls. That kind of sounds like a locker room leader pushing his teammates to a higher standard.
The Cowboys offense leads the NFL in raw yards per game, averaging over 403 per outing. It’s a gargantuan pie. And divvying it up among many mouths has been an emphasis in Kellen Moore’s creative offense.
By Thursday afternoon, Cooper acknowledged the problem with being part of an offensive unit so stacked with talent.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of playmakers on offense, and there’s only one ball,” Cooper told reporters after practice. “I’m just staying ready for when my opportunity does come, because it will come. You’ve got to be cognizant of your number not being called in a long time, and then it’s going to get called at the most important time. And you might not be ready for it because it hasn’t been called in so long. But I’m just going to stay ready so when it does happen, I can be my normal self.”
Cooper’s normal self may seem to those outside the facility as quiet and reserved, his public complaints about targets somewhat out of character. But the veteran says he’s made his feelings known to those around him who have the power to change things.
“I’m always in Dak’s ear. I’m always talking to Kellen. So at the end of the day, it’s not really my call. But I’m going to stay ready.”
His quarterback knows full well that Cooper hasn’t been as involved as he would like. And he has no problem with Cooper saying so. In fact, he agrees with him.
“I mean, you want to get the ball to him,” Prescott said Thursday. “You’d much rather have a guy saying that and a guy hungry for the ball than him shying away from it in critical situations or just when you need to. It’s a balance. We’ve got a lot of playmakers on this team and on this offense, particularly when you’re talking about the receivers: not just those three, but the guys- Ced[rick Wilson] and Malik [Turner] behind them- and then you’ve got two great backs. It’s only one ball. He understands that, and he does whatever he can to help the team when he’s not getting the ball. But yeah, I would love to get him the ball more, as much as some of the other guys.”
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy also downplayed any so-called drama caused by Cooper voicing a desire to get more opportunities.
“I have no issue with guys wanting to do more. That’s definitely what you’re looking for,” McCarthy said on a conference call Friday.
“Everybody’s committed to the final result,” the coach explained. “How you get there is always the fun part of the challenge, particularly when you have a number of guys that can contribute and want to contribute. I just think that’s all part of it. Big picture focus: complementary football is the goal, and we all understand it takes all three phases. I think the fact that all three phases have shown the ability to be the lead dog based on the week and based on the competition, hopefully, will benefit us moving forward.”
It may benefit the Cowboys passing game specifically this Sunday night. Washington comes in to Arlington giving up the third-most passing yards per game in the league.
Cooper may be taking his well-documented frustrations out before a national audience.
They tried it, but Washington can’t compare to Cowboys in advanced analytics
Cowboys Roster: Every player set to hit free agency in 2022
Like this article?
Sign up for the Cowboys Wire email newsletter to get our top stories in your inbox every morning
An error has occured
Please re-enter your email address.
Thanks for signing up!
You’ll now receive the top Cowboys Wire stories each day directly in your inbox.