Editors note: the video above is from January 2016
Raiders receiver Amari Cooper made an excellent first impression on the NFL. He exceeded 100 yards in two of his first three games. He finished with 1,070, becoming the first Raider since 2005 to reach four digits in receiving yards.
Cooper showed flash and substance, with several signature plays burning defensive backs or turning a short gain into a big play.
Last year’s No. 4 overall pick wasn’t perfect. According to Pro Football Focus, he led the NFL with 20 dropped passes in 2015, and finished the season slow due to a debilitating foot injury that nearly got him shut down.
The frustrating end seems to have motivated Cooper this offseason. He’s working through the spring with vigor, and has shown a more outgoing side during these OTA sessions. It’s a sign that someone who graduated high school in 2012 is growing up fast.
“I always joked around last year that three years ago, he was in seventh period chemistry,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “He’s a young guy, and he was just learning his way around but going to the Pro Bowl while doing it.
“He has (always been) very special, but now he’s more open. He’s more talkative. But everyone is like that their rookie year, no matter who it is. There is so much going on mentally in this game that a lot of guys are more reserved and quiet, not to us, but in general. Now, you see he and ‘Crab’ joking more because he is more comfortable.”
“Crab” is veteran wideout Michael Crabtree, his peer tutor in the passing game. Crabtree wants Cooper to progress and do better than a year ago, something possible with tremendous physical ability.
“It’s one year and every year adds experience,” Crabtree said. “It’s one of those things when you have talent like that you just build off of it, really with the knowledge of the game. You’re getting smarter and different situations on the field, and I feel like he is doing that. I can’t wait to get out there with him in games and do our thing.”
Both Carr and Crabtree can see improved football knowledge for a 21-year old still learning his craft.
“He knows his responsibility on every play and those kind of things,” Carr said. “He definitely is a lot more open personality-wise. I don’t know if he is with you all, but you can definitely see it out on the practice field that he is a lot more comfortable because there is not as much of a learning curve because he’s not in his rookie year.”
The Raiders need Cooper at his consistent best to build off of last year and lead a solid group of skill players. That includes a receiver corps with diverse talents.
“We’ve got ‘Coop,’ we’ve got Seth Roberts. He’s young and I feel like he is going to be real good. Andre Holmes, he’s tough, a taller guy,” Crabtree said. “I feel like we have some weapons.”