INDIANAPOLIS – Amari Cooper didn’t have a great 2017 season. The Raiders receiver posted career lows in catches and yards in his third NFL season, nearly half of what he had the year before.
Cooper had 680 yards, 30 percent of which came from one game against Kansas City. He posted less than 10 yards five times, and only reached triple digits twice.
That’s a big step down after consecutive Pro Bowl seasons exceeding 1,000 yards. Cooper dealt with concussion-like symptoms and a significant ankle sprain down the stretch, but his slow start – Cooper had just 172 yards and a touchdown in his first five games -- happened when healthy.
New Raiders head coach Jon Gruden doesn’t view that as cause for alarm. Just the opposite, in fact. He believes this premier talent will return to form in his offense.
“He’ll be the focal point of our offense,” Gruden said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I hope he’s listening here today. I’m looking forward to joining up with Amari Cooper. He has tremendous quickness. He’s smart, versatile and he’s a gamer. He likes the bright lights, and he’ll be the headliner in our offense.”
Cooper will lead a receiver corps that must play better all around. Micahel Crabtree, like Cooper must improve on a down year.
Crabtree will be back next season, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie confirmed Wednesday afternoon, and also must return to old form. He was, at times, at odds with Jack Del Rio’s now jettisoned staff and members of the offense. The Raiders are putting those issues in the past, expecting Crabtree to excel in Gruden's offense.
While McKenzie wouldn't address it specifically, it’s possible the Raiders ask Crabtree to restructure a contract with two years remaining and $7.5 million in salary and bonuses for 2018. None of that money is guaranteed.
“He’s on the team,” Gruden said. “I’d love to coach all these guys. That’s a big reason I was excited to get here. We’ll let you know. We’ll keep you updated as we gain more information. I’m going to get a chance to meet with (Crabtree’s) agent. April 9 I’m officially allowed to talk to these guys.”
Gruden has met with Crabtree since taking over as Raiders head coach.
He and McKenzie must also decide whether to keep Seth Roberts as the No. 3 receiver, or find an upgrade in free agency or the draft.