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SportCowboys look to maximize Amari Cooper’s ‘gifted’ potential

07:05  13 june  2019
07:05  13 june  2019 Source:   cowboyswire.com

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Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper recently did a remarkable interview in the team locker room while simultaneously playing a game of chess. Besting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie with a checkmate while thoughtfully answering questions at the same time, it's the kind of next-level mental acuity the team hopes translates to similar on-the-field domination for the three-time Pro Bowler when facing opposing secondaries.

"Amari can do whatever he sets his mind to," wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal says in a piece by ESPN's Todd Archer. "He's that gifted. Not just physically, but mentally. With Amari, it's, 'Can he do everything at an elite level?'

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Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper is thriving this offseason after having more time to work on his routes and connection with QB Dak Prescott. George Walker/Icon Sportswire. After the acquisition, Prescott completed 71.3 percent of his passes and averaged 274 yards per game. Cooper led the Cowboys

That's where the mind discipline comes in because he has the talent to be elite in every aspect of the game. He's such a great athlete, such a really good player, he has to hold himself to a standard of, 'Hey, I'm elite. I'm going to play and practice that way,' and I have to hold him to that standard. 'What is your level of play and can you keep it there for 50, 60, 70 plays?'"

The Cowboys hope to move Cooper all around their own chessboard on gameday in first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore's newly-tweaked scheme.

Archer points out that, according to Next Gen Stats, Cooper ran 428 routes in 2018 as both a Cowboy and a Raider. Of those snaps, 252 saw him lined up wide right, 176 wide left, 58 in the left slot, 57 in the right slot, and 5 lined up tight to the left tackle. "During the organized team activities and minicamp," Archer writes, "Cooper has mostly worked outside, but he has lined up in either slot and has gone in motion more."

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That seems to be Moore's gameplan regarding Cooper. "For him, it's seeing the whole picture now," Moore said, as per Archer. "Him being here for an offseason, you're able to move him around a little bit more, put him in some different spots, some formations, motions, all of that sort of stuff. That stuff will help us help him and create opportunities for him."

If that strategy comes to fruition, it will mark a departure of sorts for Dallas.

Cole Beasley was touted as a versatile receiver who could line up all over the place, but Archer cites stats showing he actually worked from the slot for 90 percent of his snaps in 2018. Dez Bryant was primarily an outside threat, as was Terrell Owens. Miles Austin found success both outside and in the slot, but Miles Austin is, frankly, no Amari Cooper. Even new weapon Randall Cobb worked just one position- the slot- for over three-quarters of his snaps from 2015 through 2017, and then played inside 86 percent of the time in his nine games as a Packer last season.

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For a team that has said it wants to be all about versatility on offense, Cooper may be the receiver most qualified to provide it on a meaningful level.

"He can run our dodge route, which is an option route, as good as anyone," Lal is quoted as saying in the ESPN article. "And he can run a 9 route [a go route] as good as anyone. So he has the ability be equally good inside or outside."

Able to attack from outside like a rook. Deadly from the inside like a bishop. Proficient in moving in multiple ways like a queen. Each move setting up what he wants you to do well in advance so he can strike when the opportunity presents itself. Cooper himself says that his wide receiver play is served well by his chess skills.

"With my position," Cooper told USA Today's Jori Epstein while he was beating Awuzie on the board, "you have to be able to be three steps ahead of your opponent. He might think you're going to hit him with something you hit him with earlier, but you're really going to hit him with something different."

Besides reportedly being the team's chess champion, Cooper is also currently teaching himself Spanish, Epstein notes. And the online version of her article features Cooper casually solving a Rubik's Cube… in under three minutes.

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His position coach calls him "gifted." And whether it's chess or a foreign language or the Rubik's Cube, once Cooper figures "it" out, he tends to master it pretty definitively. The Cowboys are hoping that with a full offseason of work learning his offense and quarterback Dak Prescott, Cooper will be calling "checkmate" on plenty of defensive backs on Sundays this fall.

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