The first three preseason games are in the books and the Raiders offense again looks like it will be a formidable unit in the 2017 season. And wide receiver Amari Cooper may be the most lethal weapon in that offense.
The former 4th overall pick has already lived up to his lofty expectations by eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark in both of his first two seasons as well as being named to the Pro Bowl in both of those years.
The most exciting thing about Cooper is despite his success his first two seasons, he could have been even better. Amari started both seasons in stunning fashion only to have his production slip as the season wore on. Cooper put on some weight this offseason to combat the wear and tear that slowed him down at the end of those seasons. That extra strength has been on display in the preseason.
If being in the middle of triple coverage cannot stop a receiver from catching a pass, there may not be anything that can. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, does do Amari a favor by holding the center field safety with a pump fake, but it is Coopers ability to once again defy gravity that makes this play possible.
If this great play is any indication, Cooper won’t have any more issues securing the catch after leading the league in drops his rookie season with 18. It’s not uncommon for a young player to take a season or two to adjust to the speed and physicality of the NFL. Amari really looks like he is transforming from a solid receiver into one who can take over a game.
It takes serious talent to make a 50 yard touchdown reception look so routine. On 3rd and long, the defense is playing the pass which makes this even more impressive. Carr once again holds the safety with a pump fake, then hits Cooper on a fade route for a jog in score. Amari’s route running skills are well documented but he wins this route with simple speed.
It is pretty obvious from Carr’s pump fake and quick release that he knew were he was going with this pass before the snap. This level of chemistry between a quarterback and wide receiver can make an offense unstoppable, and the Raiders will really be counting on their offense this season.
That chemistry shows up on tape in the form of anticipation from the quarterback. Having spent the last three seasons together, Carr and Cooper are obviously on the same page when it comes to the timing and position of routes. Having the familiarity of how Cooper will run a route allows Carr to throw a pass before Amari is even out of his break.
Like this play shows, knowing when Amari will break on his slant route, Carr can throw the pass before the bracket coverage can converge on Cooper. This is called “beating the defense to the spot” and allows an offense to attack coverages that would otherwise prevent a completion.
This play also picks up a first down on a 3rd down. Anything that helps keep the Raiders offense on the field also limits the exposure of their defense. The coaching staff is going to look to chew up clock with their offense this season and limit the opposing teams opportunities.
A true number one receiver will make his quarterback shine and Cooper certainly did that in the Raiders third preseason game as PFF noted.
Given the Raiders early struggles on defense, the offense must be effective if the team is going to build upon the successes of last season.
The combination of Derek Carr and Amari Cooper will play a pivotal role in the Raiders’ offenseive efficiency. If the teams early offensive results are any indication of the teams future performance, they will be just fine.