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EJ Manuel hoping Amari Cooper can shake off drops, get ‘confidence rolling’ again when Raiders take on Ravens

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Amari looks to bounce back this week from slow start to the season

NFL: New York Jets at Oakland Raiders Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It isn’t a big secret that Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper has struggled over the first quarter of the season. After four games Cooper has almost as many drops (7) as he has receptions. His 12 catches for 110 yards (9.2 avg) and one touchdown are the kind of stats that superstar level wide receivers put up in single games.

It is worth noting that Cooper has been on the injury report and dealing with a knee issue. It could be effecting his concentration and partially to blame for his slow start this season. It isn’t his physical running that has been the problem though. Cooper leads the NFL in dropped passes and really needs to correct that.

Amari has always been known for putting in effort and extra time to perfect his craft. That’s what makes his struggles so perplexing and leads to speculation on the severity of his injury. His coaches still have complete faith in his abilities.

“You know, Amari has been working really hard as well." Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing said this week. "We all believe in Amari to the utmost. I think that he’s going to get going, just based on his hard work paying off, number one. Number two, when you play a game like this and a game plan like this, you’re able to kind of get . . . some of your bread and butter stuff that he might be comfortable with, that the quarterback is comfortable with. A lot of times, that leads to a little bit more success on just generic type routes.”

Much is expected out of a wide receiver drafted 4th overall. The NFL is currently set up for explosive passing games to run rampant over their defensive counterparts. That’s what the Raiders need from Cooper.

That level of expectation can wear on a player, causing him to press at times and in an effort to do more, and have a breakdown in mechanics that negatively effects his performance level. Amari knows he is better than he has shown this season and trying to prove it, may be contributing to some of his issues.

“Most of the balls that I’ve dropped have been from the result of trying to run before I actually catch the ball,” Cooper said prior to the Bronco game. “I mean, it can be a little frustrating, but I just have to go and fix it.”

His teammates expect him to pull out of the funk he has started the season in. They see him everyday and know his mentality. And no one hopes Cooper returns to his old self this week more than EJ Manuel, who is in line to start in place of the injured Derek Carr.

“I think we can do a great job with allowing ‘Coop’ to be who he is." EJ Manuel said Wednesday. "There’s no pressure on him because we know he’s a great player. That’s why I threw that pass on Sunday because I know ‘Coop’ is one of those guys that if you give him a 50/50 chance, often times he’ll come down with it. So we definitely want to get him rolling. Get his confidence rolling and everything like that and get him some touches early so we can make some plays.”

As Manuel points out, Cooper is the type of player you would expect to come up with a big catch in a clutch situation. When the offense needs a big play, superstar wide receivers have to beat coverage and come down with the ball. Cooper has come up short in that area this season.

EJ threw this jump ball into double coverage but this is the kind of 50/50 pass the Raiders need Amari to come up with. The best receivers face double coverage every game and have to overcome the challenge. The next step in his progression is to start taking over games despite the attention he gets from opposing defenses.

Raiders players, coaches continue to expect him regain the form he had during the preseason when he made this fantastic catch that initially had everyone expecting a dominant season out of him.

Amari has faced the Ravens in each of the past two seasons. He scored his first professional touchdown against them in the Raiders 37-33 victory in the 2015 season. Cooper put up 157 yards on 12 receptions (13 yard avg) and one touchdown in those two games.

With the Ravens’ passing defense currently ranked 16th giving up an average of 222.3 yards in their first four games, this is a good opportunity for Amari to regain some of his lost confidence.

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Will Amari bounce back this week?

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