Where’s Amari? Raiders hope to find him in London

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ALAMEDA — The Raiders are traveling 5,345 miles Thursday night in hopes of finding Amari Cooper.

Cooper will be on the team charter, of course, as he is every week. But whether Derek Carr will be able to locate Cooper on the field Sunday at London’s Wembley Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks is anybody’s guess.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw the ball just one time to Cooper in a 26-10 Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, completing it for a 10-yard gain.

Cooper’s dropoff in production began last season, when he caught 48 passes for 680 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games. That came after a pair of 1,000-plus yard years which sagged at the end of each season due in part to injury.

At his present pace (22 catches, 280 yards, one touchdown in five games), Cooper would finish with 70 catches, 896 yards and three touchdowns.

It isn’t what coach Jon Gruden, Carr, Cooper or anyone else had in mind when the receiver’s fifth-year option was picked up for the 2019 season at a price of approximately $13.9 million.

(The Raiders aren’t obligated to pay that contract unless Cooper is on the roster at the start of the new league year in March).

When Gruden took over as coach, he identified Cooper as a “focal point” and a “headliner” at the NFL owner’s meetings. That’s happened twice in five games so far, an 10-catch, 116-yard game against Denver and an eight-catch, 128-yard performance in an overtime win over Cleveland.

The tone has shifted in terms of Cooper’s use, as the Raiders have stressed finding the best matchups regardless of who is doing the receiving as opposed to scheming to get specific receivers open.

“We have a lot of good receivers on this team. We have (seven) receivers with 10 catches or more,” Gruden said. “We want to get Martavis (Bryant) involved, we want to get Jordy Nelson involved . . . Jared Cook is having a heck of a year for us. Coop is a good player and he’s had two games with over 100 yards in five games. Hopefully this week we get him the ball more.”

Cooper hasn’t even been the No. 1 option on his own team. Cook, who Carr’s brother David told 95.7 The Game is Derek’s favorite receiver — has been targeted 41 times, or on 20.3 percent of pass plays. Cooper has been thrown to 31 times and 15.4 percent.

It’s not nearly the commitment Gruden’s offense made in 1998 with Tim Brown, whose numbers through five games weren’t all that different from those of Cooper (21 catches, 266 yards, one touchdown) but was the intended receiver on 26.8 percent of the passes from Raiders quarterbacks Jeff George and Donald Hollas in those games.

Tim Brown was featured more prominently by Jon Gruden in 1998 than Amari Cooper has been in 2018. File photo

Nor is Cooper currently anywhere near the No. 1 target the Raiders hoped he’d be considering his …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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