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Amari Cooper’s intelligence allows Raiders to play him inside, outside

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Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

In recent games, the Oakland Raiders have moved Amari Cooper all over the field. Sometimes he’s on the outside, sometimes in the slot, sometimes in motion. The Raiders are trying to move Cooper around more now, as evidenced by how much action he got in the slot against Kansas City.

That plan worked pretty well considering Coop’s 11-catch, 210-yard, 2-touchdown, Offensive Player of the Week performance in the game.

“People just can’t set their watch to where he’s going to be,” Derek Carr said of Cooper. “If you can move him around, there’s been times this year where he’s been in the backfield. There’s times he’s out wide, he’s inside, he’s on the two-receiver side, he’s on the one-receiver side, he’s in the three-receiver side but he’s inside, he’s the second guy, he’s the first guy.

“We definitely try and have something planned where he’s all over the place. It makes it easy on me because I don’t focus on, ‘OK he’s in this spot, I have to get him this ball.’ I just still go through my reads the way it takes me and those kind of things. So far, it’s just helped us when we move him inside. He can do certain things and then when we move him back outside, you see the structure looks different. People – how do they want to play him, whether they’re funneling him or… What do they want to do? Just playing that game with him really helps our offense.”

Cooper himself addresses moving around on offense, saying “When you’re constantly on the same side, and you keep going against the same player, a smart player will learn your moves. But if you’re going against all three guys, then you can use the same moves sometimes because they haven’t seen it That’s the benefit.”

“[He’s] super smart,” Carr added. “It means he knows the whole playbook. I think actually, we just saw LeBron [James], he was talking about how he played point guard this past game and you take a guy that’s super smart that can go from playing the three and then go to play the one, and he can go play the five. He knows all the sets, he knows all the plays. Amari’s the same kind mentally. He’s the same kind of guy where he can go play X, F, he can play the Y he can play the Z. He can play H. I don’t know if he can play quarterback. (laughter) I’m sure he’d find a way to be successful.”

You don’t often find players in football or basketball changing positions, but Lebron James indeed is one that comes to mind. In his rookie season, James played point guard, a position he played once again in his most recent game with Cleveland after being a small forward for most of his career.

In 2003, as a point guard, James averaged 20.9 points and 5.9 assists in a team whose primary offensive weapon, other than James himself, was Ricky Davis. James is the rare athlete that knows what everyone is doing on the court at all times. It’s a trait that makes great players and greater coaches, and Cooper seems to have that same ability.

That intelligence and awareness is what makes Cooper stand out amongst his peers and what makes it certain that he will make an impact in the game whether he touches the football or not. Teams will not be able to keep him down for long stretches at a time. If Cooper were, say, six years older, he’d be called “crafty”.

But for now, Cooper is still young, and we get to watch him play while his physical ability matches his mental faculties.