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How Amari Cooper's presence can help Cowboys from Dak to Zeke

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Riddick: We're going to find out a lot about Cooper (1:52)

Louis Riddick breaks down what the Cowboys need out of Amari Cooper, saying that the WR will need to pick up the offense quickly. (1:52)

FRISCO, Texas -- Cole Beasley didn’t need to see Amari Cooper practice twice last week to know what the Dallas Cowboys’ newest receiver could bring to the offense.

“He’s definitely got juice,” Beasley said. “We knew that before. That’s why they made the deal. They already knew and guys have seen clips of him making plays before. We know what type of player he is. It’s some extra juice added to the offense.”

Cooper, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Oakland Raiders, was an expensive get for the Cowboys, who gave up their 2019 first-rounder for him, but the move was made not just for what he can do by himself but what he can do for the entire offense.

Call it the Amari Effect.

The quarterback

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan believes the passing game is “trending in a good way” the past two games. Dak Prescott threw for a season-high 273 yards in Week 7 against Washington. He has just one other game with that many yards since Week 15 of his rookie season.

He is finding a groove with Beasley. He and rookie Michael Gallup, who had a 49-yard touchdown against Washington, are finally getting on the same page. Allen Hurns, whose playing time might be affected most by Cooper’s arrival, had season highs in catches (five) and yards (74) against Washington.

“Then you add this proven playmaker that can become your priority outside receiver,” Linehan said. “I think it gives us the ability, when people are lining up to take away our run game, which we will still get I assume, a guy outside that you feel like you can count on.”

Prescott will not have much time to prepare with Cooper with just three game-planning practices together before they play Tennessee.

“Started as a rookie with no time on task with an entire offense until the week before our first game, so he’s pretty adaptable,” Linehan said.

Prescott had a reliable outside receiver in Dez Bryant in 2016, but he performed well even when Bryant missed three games with a knee injury, completing better than 70 percent of his passes, and had his first three-touchdown game without Bryant.

"This isn't the magic pill," Prescott told the Dallas Morning News. "One player isn't going to make all these errors that we've had go away. But we have to do a better job, and we're going to ... find a way to play complementary football together. Just execution. When we start doing that and you add a player like Amari Cooper in there, then that's where this offense takes the next step."

The running back

Entering Week 8, Ezekiel Elliott was second in the NFL in rushing with 615 yards. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he had the most yards rushing before contact (393), which is a sign of positive blocking. He had the sixth-most rushing yards after contact (222).

But what happened against Washington was alarming. He gained 34 yards on 15 carries, the second-lowest output in a game for his career. The Cowboys have seen eight- and nine-man fronts since Elliott arrived in 2016, but Washington was able to bully the Cowboys into submission with strong play from its front seven.

With Cooper, the Cowboys want defenses to have to worry about the entire field.

“You add firepower to your offense, proven guys like this, it gives you some options,” Linehan said. “Even if it’s just the threat of the option it might help other parts of your offense.”

The Cowboys’ offense will continue to run through Elliott. They will not change the formula that has worked well for them when Elliott has played. If Elliott can rip off long runs -- he has five of 20 yards or more, which was tied for third before the Cowboys' bye week -- then that will open up things for Cooper and the passing game.

The slot receiver

Beasley’s best season came in 2016, Prescott’s rookie year, when he caught 75 passes for 833 yards. Defenses still respected the threat of Bryant. Jason Witten occupied defenders, too. The Cowboys had a running game that could not be stopped with an offensive line at the top of its game.

A year ago, Beasley had 36 catches for 314 yards and everything was a struggle with defenses focused more on him.

In the Cowboys’ first five games, Beasley caught 17 passes. In the season opener, he was targeted eight times. In the next four games, he did not have more than five passes thrown in his direction. In the past two games, he has 16 receptions, including nine for 101 yards and two scores in the win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With Beasley involved more, the passing game has had an uptick.

Cooper’s arrival should free Beasley more underneath.

“I don’t see how it would hurt anything,” Beasley said. “I mean he’s definitely a guy that they’ve got to respect over there as well. Maybe that will change a lot for me or maybe they’ll just do something to kind of take away both. I don’t know. Time will tell. We’ll find out when we play the first game. We’ll see.”

The opposing defense

When Bryant was at his best, Jason Garrett used to say the defense always had to know where No. 88 was on the field. In the first seven games on the season, Elliott has received that attention not just because of his skills as a runner but what the Cowboys lacked at wide receiver.

“I think [Cooper] is that kind of a player,” Garrett said. “He’s demonstrated that early on within his career with his production. Whether that means they’re going to alter what they do defensively, who knows that? But the more weapons you have the more able you are to attack the defense. And that’s certainly the objective of this move.”

When the Cowboys have gone against No. 1 receivers like Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins this year, they have made an effort to throw extra attention their way. Add in the effect Elliott has on a defense and Cooper’s mere appearance should threaten the defense.

“You really have to pick how you want to game plan as a team,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “It becomes very, very hard to take away both of them at the same time, so having that just gives you more options. The variables of how to stop them makes it very, very hard.”