Drop it Like it’s Hot! The Raider Ramble brings you our offseason player review series, we’re starting with WR Amari Cooper
Coming off of two 1,000+ yard seasons in 2015 and 2016, Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper went into a black hole and never came out in 2017. Barring one tent-pole performance in Week 7 for the Raiders, Cooper’s season was beyond a disappointment–it was a downright travesty.
Raider Nation saw a bulked up version of Cooper who looked poised to use his added strength to pose his will on opposing defenders in Week 1. Cooper managed to find the end zone early against the Tennessee Titans by leveraging his tenacity with a little help from his friends.
— History of Sports (@BeforeFamePics) September 10, 2017
Todd Downing’s unwillingness to pivot in Week 3 was compounded by a distraction inside and outside the locker room that would lead to a season of offensive turmoil for the rest of the 2017 season. Cooper struggled mightily in the weeks to come. “Coop” failed to find the end zone in Weeks 2-6.
Cooper reemerged in one of the most electrifying games to ever be played at the Oakland Coliseum. Cooper tallied 11 catches on 19 targets for 210 yards and two scores under the bright lights of Thursday Night Football. Carr linked up with Cooper, Cook, and Crabtree in a display of will that Steve Sabol would drool over. The Silver and Black propelled themselves back into the spotlight and playoff relevance against their oldest rivalry on national TV and Raider Nation rejoiced.
A Fall from Grace…
Cooper wouldn’t break the 100-yard mark again until Week 17. In a game that meant nothing more than pride and bragging rights Coop broke out with one last highlight:
Derek Carr y Amari Cooper como si estuvieran en el 2016pic.twitter.com/AQNyxw9PUu
— Cobertura NFL (@CoberturaNFL) December 31, 2017
The third-year wide receiver spent the second half of the season hampered by injuries. The concussion and ankle sprain sustained against the Broncos held him out of the Giants game. The coaches decision to play him in Kansas City caused him to re-injure his ankle. Subsequently, this was also the game that would seal the fate of the “Del Rio regime.”
Cooper would tally a mere 680 yards on 48 receptions while receiving 96 targets in 2017. Furthermore, Cooper’s five drops rank him ninth in league in 2017. While five is an improvement over the 10 drops he had his rookie year, it places him far from reliable. Additionally, he is leaving a trail of bread crumbs that leads us right back to his 2015 NFL.com draft profile:
Asked to become a dominant offensive threat and did so. Accelerates to top speed and stays there at the top of his routes. Consistently able to get defenders leaning before breaking them off in the other direction. Owned the post route. Play speed includes a second gear. Good feel for traffic on crossers and is able to adjust and avoid the big hit. Unafraid to work the middle and secures the tough catch in traffic. Sticks it and gets it out of breaks, creating instant separation. Not content to sit in zone as covered target. Works to make himself presentable to quarterback. Competes hard and makes big plays in big games. Worked outside and from slot and varies his route speed. Tracks the ball well and has burst to run under and finish for six. Caught absolutely everything during NFL Scouting combine workout.
Needs to finish routes. Will stop or occasionally adjust route, putting quarterback in danger of an interception. Can improve use of body to shield defenders from the ball. Run blocking can improve. Could use a little more fire in that department. Focus drops have been an issue at times, dropping 13 passes over the last two seasons.
Tendencies aside, there is no doubt that the highly criticized and often predictable offensive scheme implemented by Downing hamstrung Cooper this past season. Couple that with a mid-season injury and a quarterback struggling to find his identity and rhythm in a new system and you’re going to have problems.
The drops that plagued Cooper were contagious this year. Oakland finished the season fourth in passes dropped. Oakland has been amongst the top 5 teams in this category for the past four years.
Is it all on Coop? No. However, as a first-round draft pick and the first option in, what is touted to be a high-powered offense, all eyes are on you. Cooper graded out with a 51.9 (poor) rating according to PFF.
More to Come…
The bright spot in all this is Cooper seems to flourish in the slot position. Halfway through the 2017 season the route-running guru graded out higher than 61 other qualifying receivers who lined up on the inside. With Jon Gruden bringing a dynamic and creative offense that’s built on mismatches and pre-snap motion, the greatness of Amari Cooper lies in his future.
Written by: Kenny Stapler