It’s no secret Amari Cooper hasn’t been reliable with the ball this season. He had seven drops this season coming into the game Sunday against the Ravens. Even still, there has been no indication the Raiders were going to stop looking his way. Yet he saw just two targets with one catch in the game.
Head coach Jack Del Rio saw a lot more opportunities which were squandered.
“I saw five wide open, shook his guy, was open in space [plays],” said Del Rio of Cooper. “Would’ve loved to see the ball get delivered to him there. Not every play is designed to go to him, you can’t see everybody at one time. Sometimes you start with a read somewhere else and you don’t make it back for whatever reason. He was doing his part to create space and opportunity for the quarterback and we just missed him a couple times.”
This week EJ Manuel was taking over at quarterback for the injured Derek Carr. Manuel said coming in that he was looking to “Get [Cooper’s] confidence rolling and everything like that and get him some touches early so we can make some plays.”
That didn’t really happen. Cooper saw his first pass ten minutes into the first quarter on third and 12 and it was high Coop couldn’t haul it in. Coop didn’t see another pass until the fourth quarter — which he caught for 8 yards.
In the meantime there were plays such as this one, which Del Rio was talking about in which Coop got past his man, but Manuel didn’t even look that way, opting to throw short to a well covered Seth Roberts.
Manuel didn't see the safety rotation and Coop beat Carr off the line pretty bad here. pic.twitter.com/MXytbFqI91— Ted Nguyen (@RaidersAnalysis) October 9, 2017
This was the first play of the second half for the Raiders offense, down 24-10.
As you can see on the play, the safety was shading left, offering no help in covering Cooper who clearly breaks free instantly. Had Manuel even looked his direction, and of course had Cooper caught it, he had nothing but open space in front of him. That would have almost certainly been a touchdown. A 75-yard touchdown at that.
Making that play would have been a huge boost to bring the Raiders back to within one score to lead out the second half. It may have been a momentum shift. But instead they went three-and-out, then went three-and-out again, before going on a scoring drive late in the third quarter.
Even that scoring drive began with Manuel missing Coop wide open again, this time absolutely breaking the ankles of his defender.
It’s difficult to tell every single time this happened without access to the coaches tape. But based on just these two plays, Del Rio is right. And no matter how many drops Coop has, he’s still a starting receiver. If he is in there, he shouldn’t be ignored.