Amari Cooper came to the Raiders with high expectations and fans hoped that the team could finally replace Tim Brown as a top flight receiver. Since then, he’s had his highs and lows and 2016 was no exception. In a previous article I explored his 2016 season and his drop-off as the year wore on. Cooper seems to fade as the season wears on but the starts to both his rookie and sophomore seasons have shown enough that Oakland has to stay the course with him.
Tim Brown took a long time to develop from basically a return man to the hall of fame receiver that he eventually became. Cliff Branch took time too and we all hope that Cooper will develop into the complete receiver that both Brown and Branch were during their careers.
Until then, let’s take a look at some of the best and worse to come from Cooper this season. For this article I chose to look at Amari’s top three high moments first and then his low moments last because it will match how he plays in the regular season.
3) Houston at Raiders:
How could Cooper’s seemingly average day, four receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown be one of his best moments of 2016?
With the game tied at 20-20, quarterback Derek Carr hooked up with Amari Cooper for what appeared to be a short gain. Cooper turned on the jets and as he raced up field he outran the entire Texans defense for a 35-yard touchdown. The touchdown was the final score of the game and the Raiders defense held off Houston for a 27-20 win.
Another highlight was a second quarter reception by Cooper that put the ball inside the Houston 10 and eventually led to a Oakland field goal. To be fair, I should mention that I almost put Cooper’s opening day performance versus the Saints here. Statistically he was much better, posting six receptions (12 targets) for 137 yards and he scored a 2-point conversion. However, I feel that Coopers big play against Houston trumped his opening day performance.
2) Chargers at Raiders:
The Chargers seem to have witnessed some of Cooper’s best games. This game was no exception to that rule. Coop posted 6 receptions for 138 yards, a touchdown and a 2-point conversion in a key performance and a key win for the Raiders. Cooper’s touchdown and his 2-point conversation both occurred in a second half shootout which ended in a 34-31 Raider win. Cooper was targeted 12 times in the game and although his 50% catch rate doesn’t seem all that great, his big play ability was evident all day long.
1) Raiders at Tampa Bay:
It was the day before Halloween but all the candy went to Amari Cooper, Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders. Cooper posted a season high 15 targets and he made the most of it by catching 12 of them for 173 yards and a touchdown. One of his key contributions to the win came early in the third period. Oakland trailed 10-3 but Cooper helped Oakland’s cause by posting 2 receptions for 31 yards during a 9 play drive. The march ended on a 1-yard pass from Derek Carr to Donald Penn for a touchdown.
After a three and out by Tampa Bay, the Raiders marched to their second touchdown of the third quarter. This time Amari Cooper contributed with key second down reception that covered 16 yards. The play put the Raiders into scoring position and Cooper capped it all off by turning his second reception of the drive into a 34-yard touchdown. In the fourth, Cooper caught 2 more passes that covered 38 yards on a drive that resulted in a Carr to Rivera touchdown. The score tied the game and forced overtime.
3) Panthers at Raiders:
To be fair, Derek Carr injured the pinkie finger on his throwing hand and that definitely impacted the Raiders offense as the season wore on. Amari Cooper did catch four passes on five targets during the 35-32 win versus Carolina but all but one of those receptions were posted in the first half of play. Oakland held off a comeback bid by Cam Newton and one of the passes for Amari was intercepted by the Panthers. Cooper finished with 4 receptions for 22 yards and no touchdowns.
2) Raiders at Chargers:
Amari Cooper posted a quiet first quarter, catching zero passes. Trailing 7-3, Derek Carr finally connected with Cooper on a pass that covered 28 yards. The reception was a big one because it converted a third and nine and it put the Raiders in scoring position on the San Diego 20. Three plays later, Derek Carr was intercepted in the endzone by Trovon Reed.
Cooper failed to catch another pass against San Diego despite the fact that he was on the field for 51 plays or 82% of the Raiders offensive snaps. In his defense he was only targeted by quarterback Derek Carr three times that day. Oakland won a sloppy game by both sides and Amari continued his late season pattern as a virtual non-factor on offense.
1) Raiders at Houston:
The Raiders traveled to Houston to take on the Texans in a Wildcard playoff game. Derek Carr was out with a broken fibula and left tackle Donald Penn was also out with a knee issue. The Raiders decided to start rookie Connor Cook over Matt McGloin because his skill set matched Carr’s more closely. Cook looked to Amari Cooper to help him move the Raiders offense by targeting the receiver ten times. Cooper finished the game with just 2 receptions for 10 yards. This rough outing had to be very frustrating for the Raiders second-year receiver. Just a few weeks earlier, in a game between Oakland and Houston held in Mexico City, Cooper caught 4 passes for 57 yards and he scored the touchdown that ultimately led Oakland to a 27-20 victory.