After charting every snap T.J. Carrie played against the Bengals, I decided to focus on Raiders first round pick Amari Cooper. From a statline perspective, Cooper had just an average rookie debut finishing with five catches for 47 yards and a dropped pass on nine targets. But after rewatching and charting every snap Cooper played, I realized he performed much better than his stats suggested. Here is what I found:
Out of six catchable passes, Cooper caught five of them. That is an 83.3% success rate which is impressive considering it was Cooper's first game in the NFL and he faced a tough test against a defense that gave up the third fewest yards per game (246.0) in 2014.
Cooper ran 34 routes in the game. 23 of those routes were what I deem successful routes which means that Cooper was open. So Cooper was open on 67% of the routes he ran against the Bengals.
I recorded four possible chances for Cooper to make a block that impacted the play. Three of those times, he was successful giving him a 75% success rate in the category.
Here is a detailed analysis of all the plays Cooper was involved in:
Q 1 (15:00): Cooper was covered by Adam Jones. He ran a five yard hitch and created separation. Cooper was open but Carr threw the ball high. Although Cooper had a chance to catch it, he was not officially deemed with a drop on the play and the blame was placed on Carr for the poor throw.
Q 1 (7:15): Cooper was lined up against Adam Jones. Cooper ran a five-yard in and was open but dropped a ball that hit him in the chest.
Q 1 (7:12): The following play, Cooper was matched up against Dre Kirkpatrick. He ran a five-yard comeback but was called for offensive pass interference after pushing off Kirkpatrick. Even if there was no penalty, Carr's pass was uncatchable.
Q 1 (2:01): Cooper was lined up in the slot in trips formation. He ran a five-yard in and Carr hit him with a pass over the middle of the field. Cooper was tackled by Bengals safety George Iloka right after he caught the ball. After the play, Iloka was called for unsportsmanlike conduct giving the Raiders an extra 15 yards.
Q 1 (1:09): On third and five, Cooper was matched up against Adam Jones. Cooper ran a great 10-yard out and Jones slipped in the process of breaking on the ball. Cooper turned up-field where he immediately juked Bengals safety Reggie Nelson and then cut inside again to make middle linebacker Ray Maualuga fall on his butt. He turned a 10-yard gain into a 24-yard play. After the play, Rodney Hudson was called for unnecessary roughness which brought the play back 15 yards.
Q 3 (12:35): Cooper was lined up against Adam Jones. He ran a five-yard out and caught a nice pass from Matt McGloin. Cooper was tackled after the catch.
Q 4 (10:50): Cooper was lined up in the slot and was motioned to the opposite side of the field. The Raiders threw a wide receiver screen to him, but as soon as Cooper caught the ball, Leon Hall was right in his face to bring him down for a loss of two yards.
Q 4 (8:51): Cooper was covered by Darqueze Dennard. He ran a 16-yard in but broke off the route and settled in a hole in the defense and McGloin hit him for a gain of 14. Cooper showed great awareness to recognize the hole in the defense and break his route off.
Five catches for 47 yards would suggest that Amari Cooper merely had an average debut against the Bengals. But a deeper look into the film and beyond those numbers uncovered this: Amari Cooper easily could have had over 100 yards receiving in the game.
I was shocked at how many times Derek Carr and Matt McGloin missed Cooper, even when he was wide-open. Part of the reason is because the two quarterbacks rarely threw the ball past 15 yards in the game and the Raiders had Cooper running deeper routes. But still, it was ridiculous at just how many times Cooper was open and the quarterback would check down for a five-yard gain.
Generally, a quarterback's first read is the deep route and then he works his way down to the shorter routes as he progresses through his reads. With Carr and McGloin, it almost seems like they look for the check down first. McGloin averaged 4.6 yards per pass and Carr averaged 5.1 yards. I don't know if the blame should be placed on Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave or on the quarterbacks for that, but it clearly affected Cooper's numbers as he was only targeted on one pass over ten yards.
I place Amari Cooper's mediocre stat line on his quarterbacks. A receivers job is to get open and catch the football, Cooper did both at a high success rate. It is not his fault if his quarterbacks don't deliver him the ball or refuse to throw deeper than 15 yards.
Stats don't always tell the entire story. Sometimes, you have to dive inside the film room because tape never lies. And the tape showed that Amari Cooper had a better overall performance than perhaps he's being given credit for.