Through the first five games this season, one of the more interesting phenomenon is the involvement of Amari Cooper in the Raiders' offense in the first half of games compared to the second half. It's something Jack Del Rio said Wednesday he would like to change.
"You have a little chance to reflect when you get into the bye," said Del Rio on Amari Cooper's second half numbers. "In this case we want to make sure we're keeping our key people involved. We're not gonna do anything crazy, I think the reads just took it away from him on a few occasions, but certainly there's been some opportunities to make sure a guy stays involved and we'll look to make sure that happens."
On the season, Amari Cooper has been targeted 44 times and has 28 catches for 386 yards and 2 touchdowns. Most of those numbers have come in the first half.
Here are his numbers first half vs second half
1st half: 28 targets, 18 catches, 311 yards, 2 touchdowns
2nd half: 16 targets, 10 catches, 75 yards, 0 touchdowns
There hasn't been a single game this season in which Cooper had more targets and receiving yards in the second half than in the first. And only in the opener did he have more catches in the second half (3) than in the first (2) even though he still had more targets (5) and receiving yards (30) in the first half of that game than in the second half (4 targets, 17 yards).
No game exemplified this more than week four against the Bears, when Cooper had four catches on seven targets for 49 yards and a touchdown in the first half and no catches on two targets in the second. The Raiders would lose that game despite taking an 8-point lead in the second quarter and were leading heading into the fourth quarter. That was followed up by just two catches on two targets last week in a loss to the Broncos. Those numbers undoubtedly contributed to the Raiders losing both tight games.
Cooper is a frontrunner for the offensive rookie of the year at this point. This would be the case even if you went by his first half stats alone, averaging 3.6 catches and astounding 17.3 yards per catch. But his overall performance takes a hit with him averaging 2 catches and a paltry 7.5 in the second half.
Those second half numbers are especially shocking for a guy like Cooper who excels in yards after catch. One would have to think that if his targets go up, he is bound to break off a few big gains which would raise his numbers across the board.
Opposing teams are keying on stopping Cooper and it is up to the Raiders to keep that from happening and/or make them fear the alternatives and pay for it. Because if they're focusing on keeping the ball out of Cooper's hands, they are invariably leaving someone else open. It's up to the Raiders to figure that out as well as Derek Carr to find to open man and keep the defense honest.
The next opportunity for that comes against the Chargers who are seventh in the NFL in fewest passing yards given up per game (221.8).