Lest ye forget, Amari Cooper doesn't simply want the mashed potatoes in 2021 -- . For Cooper, that means more than simply racking up yet another 1,000-yard season, but instead making a deep run into the postseason and potentially hoisting a Lombardi trophy for the first time in his otherwise impressive career. Much like Dak Prescott, who in Week 1 to the tune of 403 yards and three touchdowns, Cooper can't do it alone in what is nothing short of a loaded WR corps.
To that point, the one interception tallied by Prescott wasn't truly accountable to him -- making a keyhole throw on a frozen rope through triple coverage to CeeDee Lamb only to see it bounce off of his hands and into those of the defender. On the whole, while Lamb's stat line was strong with 104 receiving yards, it was fueled mostly by timely make-up catches that did their best to balance the untimely drops that stalled a promising opening drive and then again at several critical points in the game.
Cooper, again like Prescott, entered the game with many questioning if he'd be 100 percent after returning from offseason ankle surgery and, again like Prescott, he proved he's just fine -- taking a flamethrower to the Bucs secondary with 139 passing yards and two touchdowns on 13 catches from 16 targets.
But, the Cowboys lost, and it was as attributable to Lamb's struggles as it was a missed block by tight end Blake Jarwin that would've otherwise allowed Ezekiel Elliott to walk into the end zone late in the game. So if you're thinking Cooper is satisfied with his big game, you'd be wrong.
In his mind, that's the floor, not the ceiling, and the ceiling is the roof.
"A loss is always discouraging," Cooper said after the narrow loss in Tampa. "We fought hard. Obviously, there are some things we could've cleaned up. Some things we could've done better. Any time you lose there is something to be worked on.
"We just have to get back to the drawing board. Like Coach [McCarthy] said in the postgame, 'The only thing we know after this game we is that we aren't going undefeated.' It wasn't all bad, we did some good things too."
As noted by Prescott in his post-game press conference, Cooper wants every wideout in the Cowboys locker room to understand the standard and their potential in what is again proving itself to be a dynamic offense with Prescott back under center.
"Yeah, I just stepped in when he was breaking down the receivers one day and heard him saying that and I loved it," he said of a coaching-up session he stumbled upon between Cooper and the younger receivers. "Obviously, I loved him holding them accountable -- telling them that we've got to take the ball out of the air, we're making good catches, but we've got to make great catches [and take it to another level].
"We have a signal caller meeting pretty much every day and I just brought that in there to all the skill positions and told them what Amari was speaking, and said you can be great and come up short, and I feel like that's what tonight was -- it was a great effort but we came up short and we want to be the best. The best is simply being better than the other guy day in and day out and being the best in the league, and that's the expectations that we have and those guys have, so we're just going to hold each other to that."
But don't go thinking Prescott has lost faith in a WR corps that nearly produced three 1,000-yard receivers in 2020, despite a carousel of poor QB play following the loss of their QB1 to a season-ending injury.
"I've got a lot of trust [in them]," said Prescott. "I've got a lot of trust in myself making those throws, but more importantly those guys going and making those contested catches or just being where they need to that I can anticipate these throws and let them go. That's the time that we've put in from the offseason to the last couple of weeks when I've been able to get back to throwing. They're just talented guys.
"I know they're going to create separation, and that gives me a little bit of comfort in just throwing it and trusting them as well."
Additionally, for Cooper, it's not simply about holding everyone else accountable. A rabid and talented chess player, he's his own harshest critic and feels he left something on the field as well at Raymond James Stadium, which is quite telling of the character of a man who nearly reeled in 150 yards plus two visits to the end zone in his first game back from an ankle procedure.
"I feel like I could've cleaned some stuff up," said the four-time Pro Bowler. "I had a lot of catches, but I always focus on the ones that didn't go my way that could've helped the team. There were some big plays that I left out there, some important plays that I left out there that I need to clean up."
That's an energy that permeates a locker room, and all the other wideouts need to do is follow his lead. That is if they want to help Cooper and Prescott make the gravy, because it's not going to make itself.
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