Communication with Derek Carr key to Amari Cooper's consistency

Communication with Derek Carr key to Amari Cooper's consistency

Amari Cooper is a dynamic NFL receiver. There’s no arguing that. He’s an excellent route runner with sneaky in-line speed and great elusiveness after making the catch.

The Raiders’ top target has used those skills to accumulate great performances. He is not, however, considered among the NFL’s best receivers. That’s an attainable goal, one that he’s working on.

“I just try to work on my craft and be as complete a player as possible,” Cooper said. “I’ve been focusing on being a consistent player.”

Cooper is a complete receiver, but that last part remains a work in progress. The season’s first two weeks are a great example of that. He had one nine-yard catch in the opener, and 10 receptions for 116 yards on as many targets against Denver.

Some of that has to do with coverage, but top receivers rarely get completely taken out of games. Cooper has too often in his career. He had five games with less than 10 receiving yards in 2017. He has only strung consecutive 100-yard games together twice. He has only scored touchdowns in back-to-back games once in three-plus seasons.

Injuries have played a factor late in each completed season, but Cooper has added size to his frame to improve strength and absorb hits. Many believe he can thrive under head coach Jon Gruden if he can stay healthy.

“I’ve had a chance to be around all kinds of different guys,” Gruden said. “The ones I like being around the most are guys that can do what he did on Sunday. He had 10 official catches on 10 targets. He really was 10-for-10. I’ve never had that before. He’s a great receiver. I’ve said that from the beginning. He’s strong, he’s fast, he knows what he’s doing.

"He is quiet, but we are communicating better. We’re getting to know each other. I like where this relationship is heading.”

Cooper feels his on-field relationship with Derek Carr is improving, especially in the Denver game where they were in near perfect sync.

“Our communication during that game was the best it’s been since I’ve been here,” Carr said. “We discussed adjustments, things we thought were coming up. Not even on the sideline, but in the huddle as well. Just our quick communications that we need to have to win games. I feel like all those kinds of things are growing. I think that that is the biggest difference. We know he’s talented. But those kinds of things are the biggest difference that I notice in the first two games.”

Cooper is a quiet sort, definitely not someone to find a megaphone and scream. The wide receiver has focused on improved communication with Carr during games, saying when he won route, when he could’ve done something special after the catch.

That might be Cooper’s subtle way of asking for the gosh darn ball, please.

“Talking that way and doing those things and seeing it happen in the game is what built that communication to grow,” Carr said. “’If they (cover us) like this, I’m throwing it like this.’ Over time, we really worked on it. It was growing and growing but now we’re at a point that’s a good spot for communicating during the game.”

Open communication can help Cooper produce consistently, and find ways to get the ball even when coverage is heavy.

Sunday’s game against the Dolphins would be a good time to pair dominant games together. It’s a homecoming game for Cooper, a Miami native with friends and family still in the area. He and Raiders practice squad player Johnny Holton, on the active roster last year, were childhood friends and shelled out for tickets to watch 2017’s game at Miami.

It’s a special place to me,” Cooper said. “Last year I had to give out a lot of tickets. Johnny had to give out 100, so I’m not going to complain about my number.”

Raiders injury report: Lamarcus Joyner misses practice ahead of Jets game

Raiders injury report: Lamarcus Joyner misses practice ahead of Jets game

ALAMEDA --Raiders slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner did some light work in Wednesday's practice, conducted as a walk-through without helmets. 

He didn’t advance to more significant practice activity on Thursday -- he didn't do anything, as a matter of fact -- decreasing odds he’ll be ready to go Sunday against the New York Jets. 

The veteran doesn’t need much time to get ready, but they’ll want his hamstring right before bringing back an integral defensive cog.

Nevin Lawson occupied Joyner’s spot in the slot against the Cincinnati Bengals last time out and fared well, which gives coaches the confidence to let Joyner heal upright.

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Joyner and offensive tackle David Sharpe are the only players in jeopardy of missing this game.

Trent Brown remains limited with a knee injury, though he has played almost every week despite dealing with several ailments throughout the season.

Raiders practice report

Did not practice
CB Lamarcus Joyner (hamstring)
OT David Sharpe (calf)

Limited practice
RB Josh Jacobs (shoulder)
C Rodney Hudson (ankle)
OT Trent Brown (knee)

Raiders ready for unique challenge of blocking Jets' Jamal Adams

Raiders ready for unique challenge of blocking Jets' Jamal Adams

ALAMEDA -- Through 10 games this season, Derek Carr's insurance has been well worth whatever premium he paid.

The Raiders' offensive line, self-dubbed "Carr Insurance," has allowed only 15 sacks on the season, the second-best mark in the NFL behind only the Dallas Cowboys' vaunted offensive front.

Oakland's favorite insurance company will face a brand new test Sunday when it deals with the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Over the last two weeks, Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has unleashed star safety Jamal Adams as a blitzer, something the LSU product excels at. Adams has been a terror in the box, helping revitalize the Jets' defense while racking up five sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a touchdown.

Adams now has six sacks on the season, two away from the record for a defensive back set by Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson in 2005.

Blocking Quinnen Williams, Hendry Anderson, C.J. Moseley and Co. is one thing for the Raiders' offensive line, but diagnosing a safety blitz and being able to pick it up is entirely something else. 

"Jamal Adams is one of the best players in the league. The guy is unreal," quarterback Derek Carr said Wednesday. "When you turn the tape on, you can feel his presence without being there. I remember we played him '17 here, and I remember telling him, 'Keep that intensity.' Because if you can play like that all the time -- because I was impressed by him -- I said, 'If you can play like that all the time, you're going to be one of the best to be in this league.' Now, I have nothing to do with him being one of the best in the league, but I do remember having that conversation."

Adams will come from anywhere and everywhere Sunday at the Meadowlands. After being involved in trade rumors near the trade deadline, Adams made it known he thinks he's one of the best players in the NFL. He has played like it since then, helping spark the Jets' defense in wins over the Giants and Washington.

The Raiders are aware of Adams and know they can't let him disrupt their flow.

"He's a fearless player. He's one of the most aggressive players that you will see. His playing speed is rare," head coach Jon Gruden said. "He's a linebacker playing defensive back. He's a defensive lineman playing defensive back. He's a defensive-back deluxe. He can do it all. He can rush, he can cover. He's really good. He's a sideline-to-sideline leader on that team. He's got our attention."

A blitzing defensive back might seem like something that would be easy to exploit. If the Jets are going to bring Adams down into the box and send him on blitzes, make them choose to put the other safety on either Darren Waller or Tyrell Williams and take advantage of the opposite matchup.

However, it's not as easy as it sounds, especially with a guy like Adams. The LSU product has the blessing of the Jets to freelance and go off-book when he feels is necessary.

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It's going to be a collaborative effort for the Raiders to keep Adams off Carr's back. The line, backs and tight ends all must be on the same page, be clear in identifying their calls and work together to neutralize the Jets' unique defensive weapon.

Rookie running back Josh Jacobs could play a critical role in keeping Carr upright. Blocking Adams is a challenge he's ready for.

"You know he's going to be a dog," Jacobs said. "He's going to come with everything he's got so you just have to match his intensity."

Adams is a game-wrecker, and the 6-4 Raiders must account for him in a game they need to win to keep pace in the AFC West.