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Dak Prescott didn’t need long to hit it off with Amari Cooper.
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Dak Prescott didn’t need long to hit it off with Amari Cooper. #1
The receiver arrived in Dallas at the trade deadline in October and caught 53 passes for 725 yards and six touchdowns in nine games.Prescott has had more time to get to know free agent signee Randall Cobb J'Mon Moore Color Rush Jersey , but he hasn’t needed it.Prescott and Cobb have formed a quick connection.“The biggest thing for me is just continuing to build chemistry with him,” Cobb said. “We’re both very open about talking through things. The more communication we have, the more we’ll be on the same page.”If Cobb can stay healthy — he hasn’t played a full, 16-game schedule since 2015 — he could lead the Cowboys in receptions. The team’s former slot receiver, Cole Beasley, led the Cowboys in receptions in 2016 and ranked second last season only to running back Ezekiel Elliott.“That’s a very fortunate add there,” Prescott said. “He’s been great, honestly. An ex-quarterback, knows the game up and down, knows every aspect of it; knows when he’s in the read what progression he is, and when you have a guy like that, he’s going to get open; he knows how to get open. He’s had a lot of success in this league already so just to have him be a part of this corps, a part of this team and this offense means a lot.“We’ve had a fast connection. You take something, approach something, go out there and he does it right the first time. When you have a guy like that, it allows you to cut the ball loose; it allows you to anticipate. It allows you to trust he’s going to be in the right spot, and he hasn’t failed in doing that. The moment he does and even sometimes he does it’s always a consistent feedback and we’re going to talk about it. What we could’ve done, what we should’ve done and, like I said, it serves you well.” In 2018, the Green Bay Packers’ running backs as a whole had a fairly solid season as receivers. The team’s three primary running backs — a group whose numbers dropped to two after Brian Gutekunst traded Ty Montgomery — all had good if unspectacular seasons catching the football, and combined they made for a respectable group. Each of the three finished the season with over receiving 150 yards as Packers, and the stats break down as follows:Jamaal Williams: 41 targets, 27 receptions (65.9% catch rate), 210 yards (7.8 Y/R), no TDsAaron Jones: 35 targets, 26 receptions (74.3%), 206 yards (7.9 Y/R), 1 TDTy Montgomery: 23 targets , 15 receptions (65.2%), 170 yards (11.3 Y/R), no TDsGreen Bay also had two other backs with catches: Kapri Bibbs (three for 13 yards) and fullback Danny Vitale (one for two yards). In total, the team’s backs caught 72 passes for 601 yards, which was good for 8.35 yards per reception and a catch rate of 67.9%.With Mike McCarthy fired and Matt LaFleur on board as the team’s next head coach, it’s worth a look at LaFleur’s history to see how his offenses have used the running back position as receivers. He has been a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator in the NFL since 2010 (excluding a one-year stint as QBs coach at Notre Dame in 2014), and in that time, the signal-callers he has worked with have almost always had great success throwing to their backs, and generally one back has become the go-to player in that role.Take a look at the 2018 Titans, for example. They are a team that has a somewhat similar running back breakdown to the Packers: both teams have a big, physical runner (Derrick Henry/Jamaal Williams) and a smaller, more elusive and explosive player (Dion Lewis/Aaron Jones). The players’ skill sets are not exact comparisons, of course — Williams is a much better receiver than Henry, Lewis has shown to be a better receiver than Jones so far, and Jones is a more explosive runner than Lewis — but the comparisons are reasonable.In 2018, Tennessee threw 85 passes to their tailbacks, 21 fewer than the Packers did. However, a large number of those targets — 67 — went to Lewis, who caught 59 of them for 400 yards and one score. Henry picked up the other 18 targets, catching 15 for 99 yards. It was not a huge performance as a team, but a 500-yard receiving season between two players on a team that finished with 2,975 total passing yards is still respectable. In addition, their combined 87% catch rate suggests that LaFleur was scheming to get these players the ball quickly and in space to let them make good things happen in the open field.However, we can go back a bit further and find truly exceptional receiving numbers from LaFleur’s backfields. The 2017 Rams and the 2015-16 Falcons had more explosive receiving numbers from their backs, although that is also a function of having players of Todd Gurley’s and Devonta Freeman’s caliber. Still, one can see these teams feeding a primary running back the ball frequently out of the backfield. Here are the top receiving back’s numbers from those teams:Todd Gurley (2017 Rams): 87 targets, 64 receptions (73.6% catch rate), 788 yards (12.3 Y/R), 6 TDsDevonta Freeman (2016 Falcons): 65 targets Davante Adams Jersey , 54 receptions (83.1%), 462 yards (8.6 Y/R), 2 TDsFreeman (2015): 97 targets, 73 receptions (75.3%), 578 yards (7.9 Y/R), 3 TDsThe 2015 and 2017 teams referenced here had no real secondary targets out of the backfield. However, the 2016 Falcons may provide a good blueprint for the Packers’ potential in 2019. That year, Atlanta had a second excellent receiving back in Tevin Coleman, who caught another 31 balls for 421 yards and three scores. That brought the total up to nearly 900 combined receiving yards between the two players, almost 18 percent of Matt Ryan’s total for that season.In Washington, the numbers were less impressive, but so were the personnel. Still, Roy Helu proved to be consistent and productive, averaging 50 targets, 40 receptions, and 315 yards in two full seasons as that team’s primary receiving back.The Packers could be on track for a similar breakdown to that Falcons duo from 2016. Williams has proven to be an adept receiver in multiple ways, picking up big plays on screens, throws in the flat, and wheel routes down field. Jones is on the record saying he wants to improve his receiving abilities for 2019, and those skills were already identified as a strength of his prior to his selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. He did not demonstrate it much as a rookie, but his 2018 showed significant glimpses of his ability, perhaps best illustrated by his lone touchdown through the air:Using Jones more as a receiver, combined with an even heavier dose of zone-blocking that plays to his great vision and cutback ability, should help him continue to develop into a top-flight starting running back. Meanwhile, Williams’ ability to pass-protect and catch the football, as well as the impressive elusiveness and cutback skills he displayed late in 2018, should make him a very good number two option in LaFleur’s scheme.In short, it’s a good day to be a Packers running back.


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