Michael Irvin: ‘I’ve never heard a receiver say’ what Cowboys’ Amari Cooper told me

FRISCO, Texas – Michael Irvin caught 750 passes for 11,904 receiving yards and 65 ­touchdowns in 12 years of regular-season play with the Dallas Cowboys.

Irvin compiled another 87 catches for 1,315 yards and eight touchdowns in the playoffs, helping the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in the 1990s.

And the Hall of Famer continues to interact with the league’s best receivers in more than a decade as an analyst for NFL Network.

Still, Irvin said Wednesday, he’d never heard from a receiver what Amari Cooper told him.

“One of the things we talked about is he said, ‘I don’t need 15-16 targets,’” Irvin said. “I’ve never heard a receiver say that. ‘I don’t need 15-16 targets a game, just give me my 8 or 9 and I’ll catch 7 or 8 passes.’

“It tells you he’s efficient. He’s efficient, and that’s a great thing.”

“I’ve never heard a receiver say that before.”

Michael Irvin on this Amari Cooper sound bite: pic.twitter.com/gzkB3kYv7k

Cooper’s focus on efficiency over volume aligns with an offensive philosophy that favors the run game. The Cowboys invest heavily in Pro Bowl-caliber offensive linemen, and defending rushing titleholder Ezekiel Elliott's 381 touches represented more than 35 percent of the team's total offensive plays in 2018.

Cowboys coaches express interest in continuing that run-first mindset under first-year coordinator Kellen Moore. But the team acquired Cooper in October and in the offseason signed Randall Cobb in free agency. Joining them is Michael Gallup, who capped his rookie season with 18 yards and a touchdown in the wild-card win against Seattle and posted six catches for 119 yards in the divisional-round loss to the Rams. Irvin sees potential.

“I think they have a shot at being one of the top receiving corps in the NFL,” Irvin told the trio, and then reporters, after attending Cowboys practice Wednesday. “Michael Gallup came up great last year. If he can take another step? Randall Cobb stepping in and doing what he’s doing, and Amari Cooper just keep on stepping like he was stepping last year, this could be probably the best group of three guys in the NFL.”

Michael Irvin: Cowboys WRs Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb and Michael Gallup could be best group of 3 receivers in league pic.twitter.com/Ques5jCRoA

One major difference Irvin identified between his days with Troy Aikman and the current receivers’ outlook with quarterback Dak Prescott: their understanding of scheme. Irvin was impressed by Cobb and Cooper’s discussion of passing and route concepts.

“Since I was just a pure receiver … I’m talking how can you get me the ball,” Irvin said. “No concepts. ‘You see this route over here? Throw it.’”

Irvin: Why questions of Dak's deal ‘shouldn’t even be a discussion’

The Cowboys and Prescott’s representatives have exchanged initial offers for a contract extension. Prescott, whom Dallas drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, has one year remaining on his rookie deal and hasn’t made more than $630,000 in base salary in a season prior to this year. He has started every game behind center the last three years, winning two NFC East titles.

In 2019, Prescott’s base salary jumps to $2.025 million. The Cowboys could place the franchise tag on him for 2020 if no extension is reached by next Febrary. But as the two sides negotiate, Irvin balks at some of the chatter.

“There’s no doubt in my mind Dak is the right guy,” Irvin said. “Look at these teams: I mean, people stop it. Look at these damn teams. Dolphins, Jaguars: They’ve been looking for a quarterback for almost 15-20 years. This ain’t easy to find. It’s not easy to find and you don’t let one walk out the door if you got one.”

"There’s no doubt in my mind Dak is the right guy," Irvin added. "Let’s be real here. It shouldn’t even be a discussion."

Market value, Irvin said, has been set for quarterbacks. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, drafted No. 2 overall in 2016, signed a four-year extension last week worth $128 million. The Seahawks extended Russell Wilson, who claims six Pro Bowl berths and a Super Bowl title, this spring to a four-year, $140 million extension.

The money, like the salary cap, continues to grow. Irvin says that’s justified.

“When you have the heart and soul and leader of your team at the quarterback position, I don’t know why we’re talking about his money,” Irvin said. “That’s worth $15-20 million, by itself, a year. Now you got to pay him to play football also.

“I mean, let’s be real here. It shouldn’t even be a discussion when we talk about it, and the amount of wins this man has had, and the way he’s won football games. It shouldn’t even be a discussion. It really shouldn’t.”

Follow Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

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