'Always striving' to improve, Cooper has new homework assignment

'Always striving' to improve, Cooper has new homework assignment

Amari Cooper’s second season has started well. The receiver has made a great impact on the Raiders’ 4-1 start, showing improvement over a year ago. Most relevant numbers are up through five games, including yards per game, yards per reception and average yards after the catch. His drop rate is also way down.

That’s no coincidence. Cooper put significant effort into improving his game. He focused on technical work and getting his body ready for a 16-game grind.

There is, however, that pesky touchdown total. It’s not that Cooper only has one. He’s not selfish that way. He believes he could have more with better execution.

That was the case in a victory over San Diego, where he struggled to get both feet down on a pair of would-be touchdown catches ruled incomplete.

It seems Cooper has a new project.

“That’s the emphasis for me this week, to try to drag my foot instead of tap it because my momentum carries my second foot out of bounds,” Cooper said. “I need to work on dragging it.”

The Raiders prefer their receivers drag feet near the boundary over tapping toes. Cooper, and Michael Crabtree for that matter, were toe tappers. That’s a solid strategy especially in college, when a receiver just one foot in bounds counts as a completion.

“We’re a drag team, but sometime habits are hard to break,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “So he’s going to continue to work on it. I think ‘Crab’ alluded to it as well. You’ve done something your whole life. While that has merit too, our philosophy is drag. He’s doing a terrific job of working on it, week in and week out. He did it last year too. That’s a (next-level) skill. You just have to continue to work on to stay on top of.”

The Raiders don’t worry much about Cooper’s flaws. His motivation to improve is internal, and they know his grind never stops. 

“We all know people in life that don’t see where they need to improve or don’t want to look at it,” Musgrave said. “Amari is one of those people that is very critical of himself and is always striving to get better each and every week.”

Improving his sideline work will help make his game iron clad, just as work on making easy catches added consistency to someone used to making spectacular look simple.

Cooper, however, believes his greatest strides have been made between the ears.

“I’m a smarter player,” Cooper said. “I feel like I know what defensive backs are going to do before they do it. I know I’m able to read the defenses better.”

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr says his communication with Cooper has improved, especially when discussing strategy and in-game adjustments. Cooper is a confident player, armed with knowledge that a rookie season he considered a minor disappointment was worthy of acclaim.

“With Amari being able to go to the Pro Bowl last year (after) playing half the year hurt, that’s a lot of confidence for him,” Carr said. To say, ‘Wow, I didn’t maybe have my best at all times, but I can still make it there.’ I would assume that that would give him a lot of confidence.”

Raiders sign linebacker with Paul Guenther connection


Raiders sign linebacker with Paul Guenther connection

The Raiders entered this free agency period needing defensive help throughout the depth chart. They signed presumptive starters earlier in this veteran acquisition process, but didn’t stop there.

The Silver and Black have added depth this week especially, signing a key cog in linebacker Emmanuel Lamur on Wednesday afternoon.

Lamur spent the last two years in Minnesota and the previous four in Cincinnati with new Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Guenther was his position coach from 2012-13 and his DC from 2014-15. He also knows Raiders linebackers coach David Lippincott from the Bengals days

Lamur has primarily been a reserve, but Guenther gave him an opportunity to start in 2014. He had 59 tackles and two interceptions in 13 starts that year as a strongside linebacker.

The Raiders have options at that spot, but no firm starter at this stage if Bruce Irvin plays defensive end full time.

Lamur hasn’t played much defense the last two years, but is known as a quality special teams contributor. The Raiders have signed several of those players in an attempt to improve coverage and returns.

All told, the Raiders have signed 14 unrestricted free agents with a shot to make the 53-man roster since last week began. The roster will turnover significantly in Jon Gruden’s return to the Raiders, and it’s possible he signs more players in coming days.

The Raiders are still looking for upgrades at receiver, and might add another bargain defensive lineman.

Report: Ndamukong Suh calls off meeting with Raiders


Report: Ndamukong Suh calls off meeting with Raiders

Ndamukong Suh won’t meet with the Raiders, after all. The star defensive tackle cut Alameda out of his free-agent tour, according to NFL Network, choosing instead to head home after stops in New Orleans, Tennessee and the L.A. Rams.

NFLN reports that Suh had dinner with Rams coach Sean McVay on Tuesday night, and was due in Oakland the following day. The Rams made a solid impression

Suh is reportedly mulling options from all three aforementioned playoff teams, all of which have more working salary-cap space and other stalwarts along the defensive line.

That’s surely a disappointment for the Raiders, who have had interest in Suh dating back to his last free-agent experience in 2015. The Silver and Black couldn’t afford him then. It seems unlikely they can afford him now, with precious little salary-cap space remaining after being active in free agency’s second wave.

The Raiders also hope to lock Khalil Mack up long-term with a massive extension this offseason.

It’s uncertain at this stage whether player or team cancelled the meeting, or exactly why it was called off. The Raiders could still sign a veteran defensive tackle, and/or acquire one early in the NFL Draft.