The prior coaching staff waxed poetic about getting Amari Cooper involved in the offense. Every week we were graced with empty hackneyed rhetoric.
There were moments when it seemed the Oakland Raiders finally dialed in on their dynamic wide receiver. Moreover, when asked about the spurts of significance, the previous head coach declined to go into details and talk about it.
Much like his coaching style, that Raiders team could not do Jack. Thus, Cooper devolved into rarely featured after thought, as his third season in the NFL was FUBAR.
Heading into year one of Jon Gruden part deux, the same optimism is in the air when it comes to Coop. The same hopes and motivations are present. However, unlike his predecessor, Gruden doubled down on the pronouncements. He straight compared Cooper to Raiders all-time great Tim Brown.
The time for talk is over. The time for proving is on the horizon. The 2017 Raiders may have been a train wreck, but what that team got right was moving Cooper around and playing him in the slot. That must happen in 2018.
Like Gruden, Brown endorsed the notion believing Cooper can eclipse the 100-catch and 1,500-yard threshold. In fact, Brown was one of the staunchest critics of the previous coaching staff and laid out a blueprint on how to unleash Coop.
“I don’t care if he’s having trouble getting off bump and run or if they’re double-teaming him,” Brown said. “Put him in motion; throw him a little short pass. Put him on the punt team if you have to. Give him something with the ball in his hands so he can feel like he is part of the game.
“I’m talking about running a short crossing route, a deep crossing route. Run a little bubble screen to him. Get the ball in the man’s hands. It’s not that hard.”
The quarterback throwing Brown the ball in that incarnation of the Gruden Raiders offense agreed.
“We had to do some things, get them in stack releases and bunch sets, and move them across formations so they could win against tight press man-to-man coverage,” Rich Gannon said.
In those fleeting moments last season, the Raiders untapped some of Cooper’s elegant and lethal potential. He torched the Chiefs in an October 19 matchup that saw the 23-year-old snare 11 passes for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns. That production accounted for nearly 31 percent of Cooper’s season yardage output (48 catches, 680 yards, 7 touchdowns).
Both Cooper and his QB, Derek Carr, reveled in the performance and how it flummoxed the Chiefs defense.
“The benefit that I see is you go up against different players throughout the game,” Cooper said. “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.”
Ditto for Carr.
“People can’t just set their watch to where he’s going to be,” Carr said. “There’s been times this year when he’s been in the backfield. He has been out wide, he’s inside. He’s on the two-receiver side, he’s on the one-receiver side. He’s on the three-receiver side, but he’s inside. We definitely want to have something planned where he’s all over the place.”
It’s imperative the Raiders make Cooper the man on the move. Outside, inside, in the slot, so be it. Make him the focal point in the passing game. He was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 draft for that exact reason, no?
What the Raiders should avoid is being all over the place when talking about Cooper. No more talk about injuries or ailments. No more talk about how they should get him the ball.
All that is left is to talk about just how damn good Cooper truly is.