Even with five dropped passes in the first two weeks, I wasn’t quite ready to say Amari Cooper’s drops were going to be a long term concern. My stance was to be dependent upon what happened Sunday night in Washington. Which means I am now ready to say, yes, it’s a very real concern.
Cooper saw 5 targets in the game Sunday night. One was intercepted and another he just flat out dropped on what would have been a crucial first down in a game the Raiders were otherwise dominated.
“That was a big one,” said head coach Jack Del Rio. “Right there at the start of the second quarter, I believe. Key third down.”
That was his sixth drop this season, which easily leads the league and doubles his entire 2016 season total (3) on just 16 catchable targets. He also leads the league in drop rate among receivers with at least 10 targets, according to Pro Football Focus.
He’s more than halfway to his 2015 season total (10) which was tied for the second most in the league. That suggests regression.
With what we’ve seen from Coop from his first to his second season, regression is not something anyone would expect. He is known for being able to take an issue in his game and make the necessary changes. And it’s how the former 4th overall pick has been a 1000-yard receiver in each of his first two NFL seasons.
I had wondered if perhaps the knee injury that’s bothered him since training camp could be part of the issue. But it’s far too difficult verging on impossible to explain away 6 drops in three games with a nagging knee injury. The issue has to be larger than that, doesn’t it?
“I’d like to find a way to help him get through that,” Del Rio said of Cooper’s drops. “He’s a dynamic playmaking option for us. And when we get him free and get the ball delivered to him like that, he’s gotta be able to catch and go get busy.”
In other words, they need early 2016 Cooper who by midseason was on pace for 1574 yards before again fading away down the stretch with just 366 yards over the second half of the season to finish with 1153 yards.
Based on his late season struggles in both his rookie and second season, you figured he would at least be his best early this season. If he’s not even lighting it up early, that’s potentially a major concern for the Raiders who need him to be the number one receiver and primary deep threat.