A year ago, Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper showed how dangerous he was with the ball in his hands.
Over 16 games he pulled in a career-high 83 passes for 1,153 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 13.9 yards per catch. Along with Michael Crabtree, Cooper gave quarterback Derek Carr one of the NFL’s best wideout tandems.
This season, however, Cooper has caught just 10 balls in the Raiders’ first three games, a pace that would produce just over 53 catches in 2017. What’s more alarming is that those 10 catches have come on 23 targets. His catch percentage of 43.5 percent is his worst. As a rookie he caught 72 of 130 targets (55.4 percent), then took a big step forward in 2016 by catching 83 of 132 passes his way (62.9 percent).
Cooper’s six drops (on 16 catchable targets, according to Pro Football Focus) are more than any other NFL receiver in 2017.
If the Raiders offense is to snap back this Sunday in Denver from a dreadful performance in a loss to Washington in Week 3, Cooper will need to be a big part of the offense. The Raiders (2-1) need Cooper, and he knows it.
“It can be a little frustrating, but I just have to go and fix it,” Cooper told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group this week.
Cooper added that, “Most of the balls that I’ve dropped have been from the result of trying to run before I actually catch the ball.”
The Raiders receiving corps certainly will be challenged by the 2-1 Broncos, who have a solid trio of cornerbacks in Aquib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby.
Yet Broncos head coach Vance Joseph believes Cooper can break out at any time, including Sunday. He figures Cooper is too good not to start producing.
“He has got one of the best stop and start abilities that I’ve ever seen from a taller receiver,” Joseph said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters Wednesday. “He’s got really good ball skills. If he catches the ball you’d better get him on the ground because he can make guys miss. He reminds me of Jarvis Landry, who I was with in Miami last year, but with more speed. So that’s scary.”
Sunday’s game in Denver is scheduled to begin at 1:25 p.m.