ALAMEDA – Raiders receiver Amari Cooper dropped to his knees and slammed his fists into the Ford Field turf on Sunday afternoon, a tantrum lasting a few seconds at most.
That’s as emotional as Cooper gets about his profession. One warning: Don’t associate stoicism with ambivalence. He cares deeply about his performance and his contributions to a Raiders team scuffling through a three-game losing streak.
Cooper knows how important he is to this offense and the team. Not coming through is unacceptable. That’s why, despite a solid rookie season, the drops bother him so.
He has 10 on the year according to Pro Football Focus stats, second only to Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans. He had two in an 18-13 loss to Detroit, including one contributing heavily to a stalled fourth-quarter drive.
He had two drops and one catch for four yards in the Motor City, easily his worst game as a professional.
Cooper didn’t gloss over issues in his first public comments since the Lions loss, especially when it comes to drops.
“Any time you have multiple drops, it’s a big deal,” Cooper said. “When you’re a receiver, you’re supposed to catch the ball. I have to eliminate these drops and move forward.”
Cooper is hard on himself. He expects to make positive contributions and doesn’t dwell on them, but the mistakes become a point of emphasis.
“If you get upset after one drop, there’s a danger of being too hard on yourself,” Cooper said. “If you have more than one in a game, then (it’s an issue).”
Drops have been an issue of late. He has had two drops in three of the last four games. He has been targeted 81 times and has dropped 12 percent of those throws.
If there’s something to criticize about Cooper’s game, that’s it.
It’s not like Cooper doesn’t know how to bring passes in.
“You have to look the ball all the way through,” Cooper said. “You have to have strong hands and not try to run before you catch the ball.”
Cooper knows how to play at a high level. The coaches understand that. There’s no panic on their end despite a troubling trend of passes hitting turf.
“I think he works through it on his own and we make the coaching points that we see,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “I’ve always admired coaches over the years that really helped players when they made a mistake rather than just pointing it out. So we want to study what might be the root of a poor step for a lineman, a poor throw by a quarterback, a dropped pass and help them correct that rather than just point it out. We try to be those type of coaches and Amari is a very prideful guy like all these guys at this level, especially on our side of the ball. We’ve got a super group that is very prideful.”
Cooper obvious hasn’t lost any talent during his slump, but he needs to be in proper head space to maximize it, especially as defenses continue to protect against his big-play ability.
Quarterback Derek Carr is a source of encouragement in these situations, that’s shown through words and action, by getting him involved.
“He’s one of the most confident people there is,” Carr said. “He’s obviously very quiet, but he has no doubt in his skill or his ability. I don’t either. I look forward to watching him play this week.”