Amari Cooper is the future of the Oakland Raiders

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Amari Cooper is the future of the Oakland Raiders

Illustration by Brittany England/The Pioneer

Illustration by Brittany England/The Pioneer

Illustration by Brittany England/The Pioneer

Illustration by Brittany England/The Pioneer

Erik Khan,
Contributor

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The Oakland Raiders desperately needed a wide receiver going into the 2015 Season. They used the fourth overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft on Amari Cooper, who proved to be a valuable weapon for the Raiders and demands the respect of their opponents.

Cooper provides the Raiders offense with a receiving weapon that strikes fear into opposing defensive coordinators, something they have lacked since the early 2000’s. Back in those days, Oakland’s offense flourished with playmaking receivers like Tim Brown, Jerry Porter and Jerry Rice.

These receivers were a threat to score at any time, due to their polished route running, physical tools and overall knowledge of the game. Cooper is not far behind his Raider alumni in any of these categories, as he exhibited these traits throughout his 2015 campaign.

The numbers speak for themselves: Cooper finished the regular season with 72 catches, 6 receiving touchdowns and a team-high 1,070 receiving yards, all bests among NFL rookies. Cooper was recently named to the NFL Pro Bowl roster, solidifying his status as one of the league’s best.

What is most impressive about Cooper’s statistics is that he recorded them while routinely facing the coverage from the opposing team’s best cornerback. He caught five balls against arguably the best cornerback in the game, Darrelle Revis and torched Cleveland Browns’ Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden for 134 yards.

While Cooper’s stats as a rookie are impressive, the impact he has on opposing defenses is inspiring for Oakland’s future. This is because a player of Cooper’s stature must be accounted for at all times by opposing defensive coordinators. He can beat single coverage effortlessly, as he showed all season long, meaning one man is not enough to contain the first round pick on the field.

Some teams have the luxury of assigning an elite cornerback to cover Cooper, such as the Jets with Revis and hope he minimizes the damage. Most other teams aren’t as fortunate and are instead forced to structure the defensive game plan around Cooper, assigning multiple players to monitor his presence on the field for opponents.

Having a weapon like Cooper who commands attention allowed for quarterback Derek Carr to develop more as a player. Carr was selected to his first Pro Bowl, as he recorded career-highs in passing yards, touchdowns and completions. Carr’s 32 touchdown passes were only four behind NFL leader , New England Patriots Tom Brady.

With Cooper demanding multiple players’ attention on the field, Carr was afforded the opportunity to drop back in the pocket and identify his other favorite target, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, in single coverage. Crabtree finished the season with a team-high 85 receptions and 9 touchdowns, a testament to his skill but also to the respect other defenses are forced to show to Cooper.[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”] “Cooper finished the regular season with 72 catches, 6 receiving touchdowns and a team-high 1,070 receiving yards”[/mks_pullquote]

Cooper is a franchise player that the Raiders can build around moving forward, along with Carr and defensive end slash linebacker Khalil Mack. Throw in Hayward native Jack Del Rio, who provides the team with stability at the head coach position that they’ve been searching for since losing Jon Gruden in 2001, and things are looking up.

Cooper’s rookie season shows that he may be the piece that finally puts the Raiders back in the playoffs and contending for a Super Bowl championship. The fascinating part about his season is that he is only 21-years-old, meaning his chemistry with Carr will only get stronger. More Pro Bowls and All-Pro selections are sure to come.

Revis was impressed by Cooper when the two matched up earlier this season and told New Jersey local news NJ.com, “The sky is the limit for him. A special player, he is.”