Amari Cooper’s breakout performance against the Chiefs was no accident. After several weeks in which the Raiders wide receiver was essentially absent from the Oakland offense, the coaching staff decided to get proactive.
Offensive coordinator Todd Downing — under fire for a unit that had averaged just over 13 points per game over four consecutive losses — decided to move Cooper around in the Thursday night victory over Kansas City.
Cooper, generally one of two outside receivers, was used more often out of the slot, reported Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. McDonald noted that six of Cooper’s 11 catches came while working out of the slot position, twice as many as he’s ever had from the slot in his previous seasons in Oakland. By moving Cooper all over the field, he has a chance to run a variety of routes against different defensive backs.
“The benefit that I see is you go up against different players throughout the game,” Cooper told reporters this week. “If you’re constantly going against one player, then a smart player would learn your moves. If you’re going against all three guys, then you can use the same moves sometimes because they haven’t seen it all.”
Cooper was selected AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his 11 receptions and 210 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr says one of Cooper’s strengths is his intelligence. Carr says Cooper knows what every receiver is doing from every position on each play, so it’s easy to move him from the outside to the slot, and it allows Cooper to better read coverages and know where to be.
“That’s very important because you have to have that spatial awareness,” Carr said. “If you only know your route, then you don’t really have that awareness. If you kow the guy’s route next to you, then you know how much space you really have to work with.”
Carr says the Raiders offense will continue to move Cooper around. When he’s a part of the offense, says Carr, Cooper can be a huge force, as he was against Kansas City.
“We definitely want to have something planned where he’s all over the place,” said Carr.
The Raiders, 3-4, travel to Buffalo to take on the 4-2 Bills Sunday. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. in the Bay Area.