Raiders need Amari Cooper to snap out of it and act like a number one receiver
A while back I wrote an article for Black Hole Banter which discussed Cooper’s first two seasons and how he started off seasons hot and finished them in slumps. This has not been the case in 2017…in fact Amari Cooper has been virtually non-existent in this offense if you ignore his performance on opening day when he caught 5 passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. Since then he has struggled (8 catches for 56 yards).
But the reality for Raider fans is the fact that Cooper has been gone for a long time.
Dating back to 2016 I logged Amari Cooper’s last 16 games on offense. He has not missed a game during that span and to my knowledge he hasn’t missed any considerable time during the last 16 games. I counted the playoff game against Houston as one of the last 16 games. Of course the first five games of 2017 are also included and the results are staggering.
If you look at the numbers Amari Cooper’s status as a number one receiver on an NFL depth chart could be considered a travesty.
In the last 16 games Amari Cooper has caught 62 passes for 706 yards and 5 touchdowns. However, 19% of his receptions and 25% of the yardage that Copper accrued over that span was acquired in one game (vs Tampa Bay) in week 8 of the 2016 season. If we take out the Tampa Bay game Cooper’s numbers look much, much worse (50 catches for 533 yards & 4 TDs). If you average out those 50 catches then Amari averages just 3.3 receptions per game for a staggering 35.5 yards!
Those are not numbers that a star #1 receiver posts in the NFL.
Even more staggering is that Cooper has posted only 4 receptions for 23 yards and no touchdowns in the last three games (vs Washington, Denver and Baltimore). Those are terrible numbers especially when you consider the fact that the Raiders played from behind for the entire portion of all three games and Coop only hauled in 4 catches!
Dating back to opening day 2016 the Raiders are 9-3 when Cooper catches 5 or more passes in a game and they are 6-0 when he catches a touchdown pass. Therefore, getting Copper the ball is statistically vital to not only the success of the Raiders offense but it also statistically tips the balance between the Raiders winning or losing.
I know some fans might be throwing jabs at me right now for calling Cooper out but let’s face facts here. Cooper is not playing well and that has to change. He might be only 23 years old and he might only be in his third season but it is time for Amari Cooper to start playing like the #1 receiver that he was drafted to be.
Cooper was drafted to be a Jerry Rice, a Larry Fitzgerald, a Hines Ward but the reality is he is just not posting those numbers since the Tampa Bay game. He has been non-existent, a non-factor in several Raider games. Cooper has only caught 39.4% of his targets (13 of 33) in 2017 and it is obvious that both Derek Carr and EJ Manuel lack the necessary confidence that he will catch their passes.
Some might blame the slump on Todd Downing or the fact that Derek Carr missed games during that span. Others blame the fact that Cooper lets opponents get in his head and that defenses are bracketing their coverage to take him away. These factors are reasons why we have seen Amari’s numbers decline but that isn’t enough of an excuse.
Amari still leads the league in dropped passes so he is or was getting opportunities that he just wasn’t making the most of them. Further, the great receivers like Larry Fitzgerald or Hines Ward faced the same problems and even though they had their slumps once in awhile they still bounced back and posted good numbers.
Next up is the LA Chargers and Cooper’s job won’t get much easier even if Carr suits up on Sunday. The Chargers are currently ranked as the eighth best pass defense in the NFL. That means that wide receivers struggle with putting up numbers against them and that is a disease that Cooper has struggled with all season.
I don’t know where Amari Cooper is right now because the guy wearing jersey #89 isn’t playing like him and he sure as heck isn’t playing like a first round draft pick or a Pro Bowl caliber wide receiver.
My hope is the real Amari Cooper will show up on Sunday but until then I will have to wait.