ALAMEDA – Amari Cooper spoke to the press after Sunday’s loss to the L.A. Chargers and was asked about frustrations involved with an offense that scores in bunches one week and can’t do much the next.
“The game is about consistency,” the Raiders receiver said. “If you’re not consistent enough, you’re not going to win enough.”
The same sentiment can be applied to Cooper’s individual game. He’ll struggle one game and blow up the next, on a see saw that hasn’t stopped pivoting all season.
He had one nine-yard catch in the opener, then 10 receptions for 116 yards in Week 2. A pair of catches for 17 yards the next week in Miami, then eight for 128 and a touchdown against the Browns. At this point, the encore was predictable. He had a 10-yard catch on his only target while getting blown out by the Bolts.
Again, one target. Cooper doesn’t show frustration much, but he seemed as bothered as he gets by the lack of opportunities.
“Especially in a loss,” Cooper said, “because you feel like you can do more to help the team win.”
The Alabama product has never been one to demand the ball or pout when he doesn’t get it. That didn’t happened in L.A. either, but he was communicating with decision makers that he was creating separation.
“I talk to Derek (Carr) a lot. I talk to Coach (Jon) Gruden a lot on the sideline,” Cooper said. “But again, everybody gets open.”
It has been tough to pin Cooper’s inconsistent production down. Sometimes coverage dictates the ball go elsewhere. Other times Jared Cook or Jordy Nelson or even Martavis Bryant will have a favorable matchup and the ball goes their way.
Several have said that a lack of targets shouldn’t suggest his number isn’t getting called. Cooper remains a priority while game-planning, even if the stats don’t show it.
“Certainly we like him as a wide receiver and every week we will install plays to take advantage of those matchups with him,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said before Wednesday’s practice. “We feel really confident in the guys that are surrounding him as well. Each week it’s going to change, not to say that he’s not going to be targeted, because we’re always going to have a certain amount of targets for those top-3 guys and he’s one of those guys.”
The Raiders got him the ball early in games and early in route during his two strong performances, allowing him to find rhythm and gain yards after the catch. His 4.6 average yards after the catch is down compared to earlier seasons. He was up to 6.3 last year and hasn’t been below 5.3.
Dips in production occur for even the truly elite receivers. Rarely, if ever, do those guys end up so low down the stat sheet. He has recorded less than 20 yards three times in five games. His drops haven’t been an issue, with Pro Football Focus credited one to him thus far. A pair of ill-timed miscommunications with Carr – one on a deep shot in Miami that was intercepted, the other where an unexpected route was run came on a late 4th down against Cleveland – haven’t helped matters.
Carr also has a wealth of options, and tries to capitalize on Nelson’s red-zone reliability, Bryant’s speed and Cook’s size against smaller defenders.
When Cooper got matched up with top corner Casey Hayward, Carr went in other directions more often.
“There were definitely situations depending on where he was lined up that they would do certain things. I could think of three different ways of coverage that they were doing that. Sometimes it is like that,” Carr said. “Not only that, they put their best cover guy on him. Coverage dictates a lot of things. I think Martavis Bryant got close to 100 yards. Just depends on how they want to play certain things. It is not like I don’t want to throw it to him, he was just covered.”