ALAMEDA (AP) — Amari Cooper has spent most of this season answering questions about why he hasn’t been catching more passes after becoming the ninth receiver to top 1,000 yards in each of his first two years with the Oakland Raiders.
Instead of gloating after coming off the best game of his career with 11 catches for 210 yards last week against Kansas City, Cooper maintained the same even-keeled persona.
“I just play, man,” Cooper said Wednesday. “You try to play good every week. If it doesn’t happen I just move on. If I do play good, I just move on.”
While Cooper maintained that the lack of production after recording just nine catches for 51 yards during a four-game losing streak didn’t leave him frustrated, it must have come as some sort of relief for the Raiders (3-4) when he finally broke out in the 31-30 win over the Chiefs last Thursday night that might have saved Oakland’s season.
Cooper caught a 38-yard TD pass off a flea-flicker to cap Oakland’s opening drive. He added a 45-yarder for a touchdown later in the first when he caught a pass in the secondary and outraced the defenders to the end zone, becoming the first Raiders player with two TD catches in the first quarter since Mervyn Fernandez in 1989.
He didn’t slow down from there, adding a key 39-yard catch to get the Raiders out of a hole on their game-winning drive as he ended up with the second-most receiving yards in a game in Raiders history and won the AFC Player of the Week award.
“He got back to being himself,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “I thought we did a good job of getting him incorporated, which I’d like to see continue.”
The Raiders did that in part by moving Cooper around the formation more than usual. He spent much of the game in the slot, where he lined up on six of his catches — more than double his previous high in one game from the slot.
That helped keep Cooper away from Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters and helped dictate some favorable matchups for quarterback Derek Carr to exploit. Carr ended up targeting Cooper 19 times for the game.
“It’s just helped us when we move him inside,” Carr said. “He can do certain things and then when we move him back outside, you see the structure looks different. How do they want to play him, whether they’re funneling him. What do they want to do? Just playing that game with him really helps our offense.”
Carr said the Raiders are able to do that because of Cooper’s intelligence and study habits. Carr compared Cooper’s ability to know all the different receiving positions inside and out to LeBron James’ ability to move from forward to point guard on the basketball court.
Cooper called that comparison a bit of “hyperbole,” but acknowledged the advantages he gains from moving around.
“The benefit I see is you go up against different players throughout the game,” he said. “If you’re constantly on one side, then you keep going against the same player. A smart player will learn your moves. If you’re going against all three guys you can use the same moves because the guys haven’t seen it yet.”
NOTES: The Raiders signed RB Elijah Hood to the active roster to take the place of the suspended Marshawn Lynch. ... Oakland signed DL Jhaustin Thomas to the practice squad. ... CB David Amerson, who left last week’s game with a foot injury, was not at practice. CB Gareon Conley remains sidelined by a shin injury. ... Marshall Newhouse (foot) was back at practice after missing the game last week.
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