Looking at Amari Cooper’s career arch will tell you his numbers figure to improve again this season. Knowing his work ethic, I have no doubt he will take another step forward this season. In order to do that, there are a couple areas in which he can improve.
Coop himself recognizes these areas and has once again sought to make the necessary improvements. One of which is hid tendency to fade down the stretch.
“I’ve definitely learned from the past two seasons,” said Cooper Friday. “The season in the NFL is longer than the season in college, so that’s one of the things that I’ve learned, like how to take care of my body throughout the season, stuff like that.”
Stamina throughout the long NFL season is one thing. Strength is another. And Cooper is noticeably bigger than he had been. According to him, he is up from the 210 pounds he played last season to now 217 pounds.
“I always get bigger in the offseason because I’m training,” said Cooper. “Hopefully it translates to the field.” Though he admits that this offseason he’s bigger than he had been.
His overall season receiving yards numbers were up last season from 1070 as a rookie to 1153. But when you look closer, there are some numbers that stick out like a sore thumb as areas he needs to improve.
His redzone target and completion numbers for instance. According to numbers compiled by Pro Football Reference, last season Cooper saw just 13 targets in the red zone with 5 completions and no touchdowns. Meanwhile teammates Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts had far superior numbers in this area. Crabtree had 12 catches on 21 targets for 6 touchdowns and Roberts had 8 catches on 20 targets for 4 touchdowns.
Derek Carr does well to scan the field and not force balls to covered receivers. This is especially true in the end zone. Cooper will draw the best corner more times than not, and often some safety help as well. This will lead to other more attractive targets on those scoring plays. Cooper wants that to change.
“I definitely love for my quarterback to trust me even when I don’t really look like I’m open and throw it up there and depend on me to make a play,” Cooper said.
That kind of trust is developed. And with a closer look, courtesy of numberfire.com, you see it gets worse for Cooper on those passes near the end zone. Not only did he catch just 38.5% of passes to him in the red zone, but he has NEVER caught a pass with the offense inside the ten-yard-line. He has seen 7 passes and hasn’t caught a pass. Crabtree and Roberts each had 8 targets with 4 receptions inside the 10 last season with 6 touchdowns between them.
Again, that’s a trust that’s developed. And it starts in training camp.
“My main focus this season is to take advantage of every opportunity that I have,” said Cooper. “So, if I get the ball thrown to me ten times in practice tomorrow I want to catch ten passes. So, I just want to maximize on my opportunities.”
“As a skill player on offense, you want the ball on every play if you can.”
With his first two seasons as evidence, there is every reason to believe he will be able to do it.