SAN DIEGO – Amari Cooper caught a short pass from Derek Carr in stride, and then did what he does best.
Shake and bake.
The Raiders’ rookie receiver beat his man, was escorted 20 yards down field by offensive linemen Rodney Hudson and Donald Penn and, once their blocks were behind him, Cooper was outnumbered three-to-one.
He stepped right, hit the brakes and accelerated left, causing a defender to fall down. He dismissed pursuers with a proper angle to the end zone, which completed a 52-yard touchdown reception.
The kid’s NFL career is six games old, but this can still be said. That was vintage Cooper.
“It was just the perfect play,” Cooper said in a golf clap to offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. “When I caught the ball I saw that I had a lot of room. I kind of started to stumble but I got my footing back. I saw the guys coming and I just made some moves on them.”
It was one of several plays that ignited the Raiders offense, set up a big lead and helped secure a 37-29 victory over the rival San Diego Chargers on Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.
Cooper showed he can do it all in his five receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown. He can wiggle through traffic and score. He can convert third downs. He can catch jump balls in the air, deep throws where he just has to go up and make a play.
He did that on a 44-yard catch in the second quarter, an interceptable pass into double coverage where Carr was confident No. 89 would make a play.
“That’s what we call those 50/50 balls,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “When you have a player with the ability that Amari has, maybe it’s a little bit better odds than that.”
Cooper’s ability has been clear from the outset. He has been making plays since being selected No. 4 overall in this year’s NFL draft, with the talent and work ethic required to excel in this league. Those traits produce solid output.
Now, Cooper is the fifth rookie in NFL history with 500-plus yards through six games, and just the third to do so since 1970. Another triple-digit day and Cooper will set the franchise record for 100-yard receiving games by a rookie.
Cooper hasn’t done it for long, but he’s certainly doing it right. That’s why his quarterback doesn’t need a lengthy resume to consider him among the NFL’s best.
“He’s amazing, he’s awesome and he’s one of the best in this league,” Carr said. “Obviously because he’s a rookie and hasn’t done it for a certain amount of time people won’t say that but he’s one of the best.”