Amari Cooper’s rookie year started fast, making the immediate impact most expected from the No. 4 overall pick. The Raiders’ new receiver formed a quick chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr and wowed the league with precise route running and elusiveness after the catch that turned short passes into big gains.
Cooper finished the year with 72 catches for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns, becoming the Raiders’ first quadruple-digit receiver since 2005.
Cooper had less than 46 yards only once in his first 12 games. He only exceeded that sum once in his final four. A foot injury slowed the Alabama alum considerably down the stretch, having more to do with his drop-off than any rookie wall.
Cooper never complained vowing instead to focus on receiver drops that were the only significant issue from his rookie year. He admitted to injury woes at season’s end, but only to say his body was “not fresh.”
He wasn’t a major asset at the end, but he showed the Raiders something. Cooper had a six-catch, 120-yard, two-touchdown performance against Green Bay, and managed to complete a full 16 games.
“Over the last four or five weeks he was playing through a foot injury and some people probably would’ve shut it down,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL radio’s “Late Hits,” “We didn’t practice him as much, but he went out there and tried to do what he could. His stats tailed off at the end, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. It showed his toughness at the end. We’re very excited to have Amari on our team.”
McKenzie discussed several other topics during his interview with Alex Marvez and Mark Dominik while at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Here are some highlights from that discussion:
On the Raiders 2015 season:
McKenzie: “It was bittersweet. You’re aspirations are to get to the Super Bowl. The road we took this year included a lot of highs. There were some lows, but we had some good showings. Players have responded and the coaching has gone well. To have five guys playing in the Pro Bowl is a testament to what we’re doing. We just want to continue that process and get stronger.”
On Khalil Mack and Derek Carr:
McKenzie: “It’s about maturation. You can talk about the talent that any rookie has, but there’s a big difference from year 1 to year 2. Khalil was very productive during his first year, but the sacks, to get to 15 is something else. The same thing can be said for Derek and his maturation. The players are around him helped, but Derek certainly felt better about himself and his talent and knowing the NFL better. Hopefully that continues with those two guys and the rest of the team. We have a young team, and we’re going to keep adding.”
On Charles Woodson:
McKenzie: "He’s special. When I was in Green Bay and he was coming out (in the NFL draft) and saw him get drafted by the Raiders, I thought he was a prototype Raider. When I had a chance to get him in Green Bay and see what he was like on a daily basis, we knew right then he was special. To have a chance to bring him back home in Oakland, I jumped at the chance. It was great not only for the Raider Nation, but also for Charles. I think he sealed his gold jacket there. He’s a special player, a special talent and the NFL will miss him on Sundays.”
On the uncertainty of possible relocation:
McKenzie: “As far as we’re concerned, we’re just plugging away and doing our jobs. We can’t control what’s going on. We love Oakland. I know the players love playing there and the coaches love coaching there. We just want to hear the end result, so we can move forward. That’s where we’re at. We’re going to continue to plug away and do our jobs. I know things are going on behind closed doors as we speak but, we’ll play somewhere on Sundays. That’s all I know. We’re going to continue to work to put the best product out there."