Amari Cooper must stabilize see-saw Raiders season


Amari Cooper must stabilize see-saw Raiders season

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.”

Raiders playing on 80-yard field won't change Jon Gruden's evaluation


Raiders playing on 80-yard field won't change Jon Gruden's evaluation

Jon Gruden didn’t have a problem with IG Field’s playing surface. The Raiders head coach made that clear after Thursday’s 22-21 preseason victory over the Green Bay Packers in Winnipeg, an exhibition played on an 80-yard field due to concerns over unstable turf in one end zone.

“The field, I don’t know that was all about,” Gruden said. “We thought the field was perfectly fine.”

Playing on unusual dimensions simply could be a novelty if the Raiders still found value in game tape.

Gruden said that was the case, and it won’t alter how they look at the game action taking place among backups, with starters and significant role players sitting this one out.

“It’s not going to change the evaluation, other than we didn’t get some kickoffs, or some opportunities in special teams,” Gruden said. “I’m not going to make a big deal about the field. We like the field. We thought the field was perfectly ready to roll. You’d have to ask Green Bay about that.

“It didn’t impact our play calling or our evaluations. We just adapted, as they did, to the new dimensions of the field.”

[RELATED: Peterman impresses Gruden again, has shot to make Raiders]

The Raiders gave a home preseason game to Winnipeg, making this the second of three straight exhibition games played away from Oakland. Gruden said the experience worked out just fine, and that the team doesn’t consider the extra travel or field issues or things like that a distraction from their preparation for the regular season.

“It’s weird playing a home game in Winnipeg, but it’s exciting,” Gruden said. “It’s a great opportunity to spend some time together. We left some players at home. We had some players show up and not play. It was a good road trip. There are not as many distractions here as people think. Antonio Brown’s doing fine. We have a good, young football team.”

Nathan Peterman could make Raiders’ roster after impressing Jon Gruden again

Nathan Peterman could make Raiders’ roster after impressing Jon Gruden again

Who doesn't love a good redemption story?

Nathan Peterman's career got off to about the worst start an NFL quarterback has ever had. He threw five interceptions in his first start for the Buffalo Bills, and he has been used as a punchline ever since.

Then he came to Oakland, and has caught the eye of Raiders coach Jon Gruden. 

Peterman has been in a battle with Mike Glennon for the Raiders' backup quarterback position throughout training camp and the preseason. Glennon has taken the second-string reps through the first three preseason games and appears to have the upper hand in the competition. 

But that doesn't mean Peterman will be looking for a new home soon. 

The Pittsburgh product has impressed Gruden throughout camp and the preseason, and he played well again Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers at IG Field in Winnipeg. 

Despite the shortened 80-yard field, Peterman continued his march into Gruden's heart and the Raiders' 53-man roster. After Glennon played the first quarter against the Packers, Peterman was handed the reins and did everything Gruden could have wanted, completing 23 of 37 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns, while also leading the Silver and Black into field-goal range to set up Daniel Carlson's game-winning 33-yard boot. 

The Raiders left Canada with a 22-21 win, and while a lot can't be gleaned from a game played on a shortened field, Peterman's performance was something to note. 

"Well, we had seen enough of Glennon, to be honest," Gruden said after the game of the snap discrepancy. "He played very well in Arizona [last week]. I thought he did some good things tonight.

”I like Peterman. I've said that for a while now, and I thought he had two touchdown passes that were dropped today, right on the money. Had a couple other balls that were dropped, right on the money. He took care of the ball. Didn't turn it over throughout the preseason. He's athletic. 

"I like what he did tonight. Especially late in the football game."

Those statements would lead you to believe Glennon has won the backup job, but Gruden wasn't ready to make that announcement. 

"I'm not going to get into anything right now other than we got two pretty good quarterbacks that are competing for the No. 2 spot," Gruden said. "We call the game differently when Mike is in there than when Nate is in there. That will be the case if we keep all three, or whoever the backup is. I thought both of those guys performed well the last three games."

The Raiders didn't keep three quarterbacks on their roster last season, and most expected the Silver and Black to have just two when the Denver Broncos come to the Coliseum to open the regular season on Sept. 9. 

[RELATED: Raiders receivers coach breaks down stacked position group]

Peterman's play, however, might have changed the equation. 

"I've always kept three — last year was the first time we didn't," Gruden said. "I'm not saying we're going to keep two or three, but we are going to try and keep the best 53 guys. We've got three guys who can play the position, and we'll have to make that decision here in the next week."

Peter-Can make the roster? You bet.