Raiders

Amari Cooper fighting another case of the drops

Amari Cooper fighting another case of the drops

ALAMEDA – Amari Cooper led the NFL in dropped passes as a rookie. The Raiders receiver wasn’t happy about it. He worked tirelessly, as he’s known to do, to get it fixed.

His drops dropped from 18 to 5 from freshman to sophomore seasons. The original issue, however, has returned.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus says he has six drops out of 16 catchable passes this season, double the league’s second-worst offender. Some of those “drops” could be argued – one was tipped, another was overthrown – but even a few is too many for someone with elite receiving skills.

His last was a doozy. He cut across the middle, with the ball upon him just beyond the first down marker. It was 3rd-and-9. The Raiders were stagnant, and needed their best skill player to step up. Derek Carr threw a strike that slipped right through his hands and off the crown of his helmet.

It was a big moment in Sunday’s disastrous loss at Washington.

Time and again he’s helped win crucial games with dynamic route running and significant yards after the catch. Cooper needs to get the Raiders out of tight spots, not magnify them.

That mission wasn’t accomplished in Washington. Cooper dropped to his knees after the aforementioned play, and spent a minute with his head in the turf.

“It can be a little frustrating,” Cooper said Wednesday, “but you have to go and fix it.”

The problem has been identified.

“Most of the balls I’ve dropped,” Cooper said, “have been a result of trying to run before I actually catch the ball.”

Coaching can only help so much in these situations. Cooper must react well at a moment of truth, to see it, pluck it and tuck it.

“If I felt like I could talk my way through it, I’d be yapping all over the place,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “It’s not something I can talk my way through. He’s just going to have to make the catch, do the work. I believe in him. I believe he will. To me, he’s one of our dynamic playmakers and we need him to make plays and he will.”

Cooper can be a tough read. He doesn’t show emotion on the field or in front of cameras. That’s just not his style. It’s hard to imagine anyone with consecutive Pro Bowl elections and 1,000-yard seasons to start a professional career lacking confidence. He surely isn’t at this stage. Cooper is a great route runner with speed and agility. It’s just a matter of finding last season’s form, when he was catching everything close. He was doing that this preseason as well, so this drop streak hasn’t lasted long.

Production, however, is the name of this game. Cooper currently has 10 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in three games. That ranks 92nd among receiving leaders. Talent doesn’t match that ranking, even in a small sample size. Cooper wants to do better, and work to achieve that goal. The key at this stage, especially going up against Denver’s top-flight, often intimidating secondary, is playing free.

“I don’t think he’s pressing or anything like that,” Carr said. “I think he just expects so much more out of himself that he gets mad at himself. I’m looking forward to getting out here at practice and throwing him some balls today.”

Carr takes responsibility for Raiders loss, 'it is all my fault'

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AP

Carr takes responsibility for Raiders loss, 'it is all my fault'

Derek Carr sees the world through rose-colored lenses. The Raiders quarterback can find light in dark days, put a positive spin on most anything.

Not Sunday. He refused to sugar coat a 26-15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs might’ve killed the Raiders’ playoff hopes.

Frustration was visible on his face, audible in his tone. This one hurt. Might for a while.

Carr wasn’t mad at anyone else. He was upset with himself, and made it clear the angry mob should stay at his door.

“It sucked,” Carr said after losing a virtual must-win game. “It was not good enough and you can put it all on me. Don’t you blame one coach, one player. It is all my fault.”

Look, Carr wasn’t good. This might’ve been one of his worst games as a pro, since his rookie year at least.

He had a 36.3 passer rating through three quarters, with 69 yards to his credit. The Raiders had three plays or less in six of their first eight drives. He finished with 211 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, totals padded during a too-little, too-late fourth quarter comeback try.

Despite Carr’s desire to take all the blame, there’s plenty to go around. The game plan wasn’t great. The pass protection wasn’t superb. Michael Crabtree dropped two passes. Johnny Holton lost a fumble and had a pass clang off his hands and get intercepted.

Carr still points back at himself as the root of the Raiders’ offensive woes. He’s the triggerman. The buck apparently stops there.

“I get patted on the back when I throw for 300 yards, but I could tell you 15 plays that I screwed up,” Carr said. “I can play better all of the time. That is the life of this business, especially when you lose.”

Carr has taken his fair share of criticism this season, maybe more than at any point in his career. That comes with a high profile and a massive $125 million contract, with a fifth of that coming this year.

Carr is his harshest critic, and doesn’t point fingers. That’s not his style. He will use this experience and frustration to improve as a quarterback, and sure sport a smile next time he meets the press.

Not Sunday. Not after a disappointing day at Arrowhead Stadium. He’s 0-4 with dismal numbers in Kansas City, and wasn’t able to buck that trend in this one. That will stick with him when he looks back on a disappointing season.

“I am just frustrated with myself,” Carr said. “There are going to be plays that you want back, but that is every game. For a whole, I saw the coverage fine. I was going to certain places with the ball that I thought were right and all of those things.

“…we had some opportunities that we just did not connect on. Just can’t happen. There is no easy way to go through this one. This one sucked.”

The three things you need to know from Raiders' 25-16 loss to Chiefs

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AP

The three things you need to know from Raiders' 25-16 loss to Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Here are three things you should know from Friday’s 26-15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday:

Raiders down, virtually out: Try as they might to ruin a once-promising season, the AFC West kept giving the Raiders life. The Chargers started slow. The Chiefs went into a tailspin in the season’s second half. That gave the Raiders control they didn’t deserve, with a real chance to with the division by taking care of business.

Players felt blessed to have that opportunity. It was ultimately squandered Sunday with an awful performance against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

The days of, “so you’re saying there’s a chance” are basically numbered. It would take three straight wins and a whole lot of help to get back in this thing. The Raiders aren’t and shouldn’t to be in the hunt. Not after such a terrible showing in a game that could’ve established pole position.

“We don’t deserve to be No. 1 in our division,” tight end Lee Smith told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “when we just went out there and pissed on our leg.”

Colorful, yet accurate.

The Raiders were flat in a huge moment. There’s no discounting that.

“This was a tough one,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We obviously came into this with high hopes. Everything that we wanted to accomplish in our season was in front of us. It was a big day and a big moment, and we did not play well.”

Another offens(ive) showing: The Raiders offense has underwhelmed all year, with poor execution leading to long scoreless spells. Sunday’s showing might’ve been the worst yet.

The Raiders had three or less plays on six of their first eight drives against the NFL’s No. 28-ranked defense. Quarterback Derek Carr had a 36.3 passer rating in that span, with a pair of late touchdown to put lipstick on the effort.

Players and coaches were scratching heads over exactly what went wrong. In this case, the “what” is more important than the “why.”

“That is a good question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “That’s something we have to take a look at. Bottom line: We did not (establish an offensive rhythm). The first five drives were four punts and a pick. That’s not the kind of productivity we needed today. Obviously.”

The Raiders have all these weapons, from Carr to Michael Crabtree to Jared Cook to Marshawn Lynch to the most expensive offensive line in NFL history, and they can’t produce consistently. Frustration among those power players is starting to mount, especially after struggling in a game the Raiders had to win.

“It was not good enough,” Cook said. “No first half points. Barely any second-half points. The offense didn’t pull our weight today.”

3. Raiders lost in big moment: The Raiders understood the magnitude of this moment. They knew this game was vital to winning their first AFC West title since 2002. They were not up to the task.

They played poor in each phase. Offensive struggles are well documented. The defense held strong and forced a lot of field goals, but didn’t make the game-changing plays required with the offense scuffling. Even Marquette King had a rough day, with several uncharacteristically poor punts.

Del Rio insists the preparation was good. The execution, however, was not. The Raiders weren’t up to this challenge, and struggled in the spotlight. It seems strange considering how good they were under pressure last year, but this year’s group has not been clutch.

That was a disappointment to many veterans in a subdued locker room. They had a great opportunity, and blew it.

“We have a young team,” edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. “I don’t think guys understand that when you get opportunities like this you have to take advantage of them. The NFL is about winning in December. If you don’t do that, you won’t be playing in January.”

Odds of the Raiders playing beyond the regular season are slim, virtually nil all because of what happened here at Arrowhead Stadium.