Amari Cooper won't let slump frustrate him: 'The ball will find me'


Amari Cooper won't let slump frustrate him: 'The ball will find me'

ALAMEDA – Amari Cooper’s primary job is getting open, creating separation from those charged to blanket his every move. The Raiders receiver is reliant on another for everything after.

He can’t pass the ball to himself. He has to look open to do his job. After that, he needs targets and opportunity.

Cooper was open plenty against Baltimore. The ball still didn’t come his way. He had one eight-yard catch on two targets in that Ravens loss, but game tape showed Cooper was doing his job.

"I saw five or six times he was wide open, when he shook his guy and was open in space,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I would have loved to see that ball get delivered to him there. Not every play is designed to go to him. You can’t see everybody at one time. Sometimes you start with your read somewhere else and you don’t make it back for whatever reason. He was doing his part to create space and opportunity for the quarterback. We just missed him a couple of times.”

The Raiders must find Cooper. Right now, he’s lost.

The third-year pro would like to be found, especially after seven drops in the season’s first three weeks. Cooper isn’t one to demand the ball. We can do that for him. Cooper needs another chance. Several of them, in fact. He’s the Raiders’ most talented skill player, with elite routes run and an ability to earn big yards after the catch.

Most receivers would start screaming those facts to the press. That just isn’t Cooper style.

“I’m just going to keep being me,” Cooper said. “I’m just going to keep doing me and stay true to who I am. The ball will find me.”

That’s imperative, considering Cooper’s stats the season. He has 13 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. That’s in five games. Cooper has exceeded that sum in seven individual games. His production has been topped by 128 receivers, including three guys on his own team. That shouldn’t happen to a No. 1 receiver. Cooper’s the poster child for an offense struggling to do anything well. There’s plenty of talent, precious little production.

“He has run some really good routes, to be honest. He’s run some good routes,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “He has obviously put some on the ground that he’s wanted back. I’ve missed him a couple of times.

“I think everyone on our team is a little frustrated at something. That’s just one thing. The frustration, that part of it is what we have to get rid of. We just have to go out and let it loose. I don’t think there’s one thing where it’s like, hey, it’s this or it’s that that leads to that. I think if we can go out there and cut it loose and just trust what we have and what God gave us, I think we’ll be better going forward.”

Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?


Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?

Jon Gruden doesn’t love offseason restrictions on player-coach interaction. They weren’t so strict when Gruden last coached nine years ago, but the new collective bargaining agreement prevents the new Raiders head coach from extended contact with his players at this stage in the NFL’s downtime.

He has, however, run into several Raiders stopping by the team’s Alameda complex.

Count running back Marshawn Lynch and receiver Michael Crabtree among them. Conversations with those talented, yet mercurial players will be key as Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie decide how best to use the salary cap.

Both guys have a long history of NFL production. Both guys are getting up there in age, and have some drawbacks. Both guys can be cut without a salary cap hit.

Gruden had nice things to say about both guys in a Wednesday interview with the Bay Area News Group.

He was asked directly if Lynch will be on the 2018 roster.

“I don’t know,” Gruden said. “I bumped into him. Some of these players that live locally do come to the facility to get a workout, see the trainer. I’ve been downstairs and met several guys. I have talked to Marshawn briefly. We’ll see. We’ll keep everybody posted. Right now, he’s our leading ball carrier. He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. That’s a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also.”

Lynch started slow but finished strong, and was the team’s best skill player in the season’s second half. He’s contracted to make up to $6 million in 2018.

Crabtree came up later in a discussion of what he likes on the roster.

“I got to bump into Crabtree,” Gruden said. “Hopefully we can get the best out of Crabtree and his career.”

Crabtree is coming off a down year following two stellar seasons in Oakland. He had just 58 catches for 618 yards – he still had eight touchdowns – but his targets and snaps decreased the last two weeks. He seemed at odds with the previous coaching staff, a group that was dismissed at season’s end.

Crabtree is set to make $7 million next season, though none of it is guaranteed.

Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders


Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders

PALO ALTO – Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie became a father on Super Bowl Sunday. Newborn son Elijah Carrie has been the sole focus these last few weeks, as T.J. learns on the job how to be a dad.

Pardon him if he hasn’t thought much about impending free agency. The 2014 seventh-round pick turned full-time starter has a rookie deal expiring soon, with a raise on the horizon following his best season as a pro.

That’ll come in March. Early February, however, has kept him otherwise engaged.

“I’ve been so busy with my little one, and I haven’t been getting any sleep,” Carrie said Thursday. “Learning how to be a dad has been so engulfing that I haven’t delved into the details of what free agency will mean to me.”

Soul searching wasn’t required to realize his dream scenario. The East Bay native wants to stay in Oakland, with a Raiders team he loved as a kid.

“My intention is to be here,” Carrie said. “I’m a Bay Area guy, a hometown kid. I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else. This is a passion for me. I dreamed about playing for the Raiders for such a long time. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to play there for four years, I want to finish (with the Raiders).”

Carrie wants to work with a new Raiders regime. He visited the team’s Alameda complex on Wednesday and met with new head coach Jon Gruden and defensive assistants. The interaction left Carrie wanting more, furthering his belief that be belongs in Silver and Black.

“Coach Gruden is very energetic,” Carrie said. “He’s a coach that likes to have fun but it a very business oriented guy. There are a lot of things, I imagine, that are going to change, just from the way he has done things. It’s going to be different, but I embrace it. It’ll be very challenging entering into a new regime, but there are a lot of positive factors involved with it.”

The Raiders don’t have many cornerbacks under contract come mid-March. They released David Amerson, and could do the same with Sean Smith later this offseason. Gareon Conley should start at one spot, but everything else is wide-open entering free agency and the draft.

Carrie could find value on the open market after recording 70 tackles and nine passes defensed in 16 starts. He’ll explore his options further next month, before free agency begins in earnest March 14.

“I know March is really when it starts to go down,” Carrie said. “My son will be a little older then, so I can focus more on free agency and make some more decisions.”