It’s impossible to describe the immense offensive potential of the Oakland Raiders without talking about third year wide receiver, Amari Cooper. After going a decade without a 1,000 yard receiver, the former Alabama standout has done in it both of his NFL seasons. He’s got good size, exceptional speed, and elite quickness. However, that’s not to say he’s perfect. In fact, so far in 2017, he’s been anything but.
The Curious Case of Amari Cooper
As a rookie, Cooper struggled with drops. He dropped ten catchable passes, but people were willing to forgive him. After all, Jerry Rice also dropped ten passes as a rookie. No rookie comes into the NFL at their best and amounts to anything special. In his second year, it looked like he had sorted things out. The Raiders led the league in drops, but it was hardly because of Cooper, who only dropped five passes all season long. Three games into 2017, he’s already passed that number with six. ‘
Of course, Cooper’s drops were hardly Oakland’s biggest problem against the Washington Redskins. Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson are supposedly good offensive linemen, but they didn’t look like it at all, and Derek Carr was obviously rattled. So while Amari Cooper was a non-factor in that game, maybe we should look at the games against the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans for the answer.
The Cream Rises
So, statistics can be misleading. Michael Crabtree has been targeted more often than Amari Cooper this year. Does that mean he’s a better receiver? Not necessarily. That just means the Carr thinks he’s open more often. Is that an indication of who Oakland’s most talented wide receiver is? Not necessarily.
Because while sometimes you get open by being a better route runner or a better athlete, sometimes you get open because you’re only receiving one on one coverage. On paper, Amari Cooper is a much better wide receiver than Michael Crabtree. If you’re a defensive coordinator getting ready for the Raiders, Cooper has to be considered the priority. So you’re more likely to assign multiple defensive backs to him, giving Crabtree more one on ones.
But this isn’t an excuse. Cooper is being given “number one receiver” treatment, but he’s not necessarily living up to it. People double cover number one receivers in every single game, but the real number ones overcome the adversity. So far, Cooper hasn’t done that in his career.
So far in his career, Amari Cooper only has two games with double digit receptions. As good as he’s been, he’s only broken 100 yards in only nine of those games. But the really troubling statistic comes with you look at multi-score games. He has exactly one. So in 35 games, he only broke 100 yards in nine, only had double digit catches in two, and only scored multiple touchdowns once. Sadly, he has more games with three or fewer catches (seven) than games with seven or more catches (six).
To gauge, Odell Beckham Jr. is another number one receiver, and he’s faced similar adversity. Curiously, over the same span, he only has three games with double digit catches. But that’s where the similarities end. Beckham has 12 games with 100 yards and six with multiple scores. And that’s over the same span, when you look over the first 35 games of his career, his numbers absolutely wreck Coopers, with Beckham owning four double digit catch games, 17 games with 100 yards, and eight multi-score games.
Side by side, there’s absolutely no comparison. Cooper just hasn’t been as productive as consistently as a number one should be. Beckham has faced more coverage, with less help, and a significantly worse quarterback, but his numbers dwarf Cooper’s.
Amari Cooper hasn’t had 100 yards receiving since Oakland’s overtime win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11 games and nearly a year ago. He’s been targeted 75 times, but he’s only caught 41 passes for 467 yards and four touchdowns. If you were to apply that pace to an entire season, Cooper would suffer career lows in catches (60) and yards (679), but he’d tie his career high in touchdowns (six). The star receiver just hasn’t been the same in recent months, and has yet to have the breakout performance the Raiders have been looking for. He has yet to really take over a ball game.
The Silver (and Black) Lining
The good news is that this doesn’t have to be it for Mr. Cooper. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 23 years old, and is part of a very young team. It took 66 games for Raider legend Tim Brown to do what Cooper has in 35. He still has time to turn it around, and like we said earlier, nobody that ever panned out comes into the NFL as good as they’ll be. He’s managed to bulk up physically without losing too much explosiveness, which is harder than it sounds. Amari Cooper has all the potential in the world, he just needs to turn it into production if he’s going to be the number one receiver we all know he can be.