I have been reporting from Raiders OTA's about how good Amari Cooper looks, saying on several occasions he has come as advertised. That advertising being that he is a supremely polished route runner who can shake his defender and is lethal with the ball in his hands. That was his MO coming out of Alabama and the reason the Raiders made him their pick at fourth overall.
Now, I suppose just to drive that point home, Adam Caplan reports that team sources are gushing about the work Cooper has done in OTA's.
Early word on #Raiders WR Amari Cooper, per team source: "Real deal. Almost no mental errors. Runs great routes, consistent route runner."— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) June 5, 2015
It's more about carrying out assignments, route running than catching passes. Mental awareness is key. https://t.co/DMyeTbqCmX— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) June 5, 2015
What we learned from Raiders first OTA session
First off, I hope everyone is having a happy and safe Memorial Day. We here at Silver & Black Pride are ever grateful for those service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of others and preserve our way of life.
The 'news' in this, if you will, is that Cooper is catching on (so to speak) quickly. Just a month in and he has digested his assignments and is executing them with near flawlessness. Just what the Raiders needed in a number one receiver and their top pick.
The last time the Raiders came into the draft with a pick this high was 2013 when they had the third overall pick. They traded down to 12 overall and chose D.J. Hayden, though they said had they not found a deal to trade down, they still would have taken Hayden at third overall.
That selection hasn't worked out quite as well, as he has been shelved with injuries several times already in his two years in Oakland. Here is what Caplan's team source had to say of Hayden:
Another #Raiders source on CB D.J. Hayden: "May never be a star, but way he closed last season left everyone excited about his progress."— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) June 5, 2015
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For as high as he was drafted, saying he "may never be a star" is a bit damning. There is obvious reasons for the team to be excited about how Hayden closed last season. He often seemed just a step away from making huge plays and showed an aggressiveness and physicality he hadn't shown early in his rookie season following two surgeries -- one on a life threatening heart injury, and the other to remove scar tissue from his abdomen.
Following the team's first OTA Jack Del Rio spoke of Hayden's footwork, though he was sure to point out there is still much work to be done.
"You see his feet and he's got really good feet," said Del Rio. "He's super quick. This is a hard-working football team. Coming in, I think thus far we, as a staff, have talked about how this group has been eager and working hard. That's good. It's a good place to start. Now it's a matter of sustaining that kind of effort. It's a matter of building the mentality that we want and things like that. I like the way DJ has approached his work thus far."
I asked Hayden about what his head coach said about his footwork and if he had done anything different in his preparation this offseason with the new coaching staff and he shrugged and said "Nothing too different. I was just blessed with good feet."
The Raiders will be counting on him to be the number one guy this season. If he is able to step up to the challenge, he will have to be healthy, first and foremost, and build upon what he did late last season.
I'm not counting Hayden out as a potential 'star'. And perhaps facing a 'real deal' in Amari Cooper in practice will help Hayden raise his game too.