As he prepares to enter his fourth season in the pros, Amari Cooper has once again received a great deal of hype. But unlike previous years, will he live up to it this time?
To be fair, people tend to have what is often referred to as recency bias. In other words: “What have you done for me lately?” If a player had been great, but then his level of play falls off, people will instinctively begin to doubt his abilities. There is a significant tendency to forget all of the good that was accomplished in the past, and to focus simply on the more recent negatives. Almost as if to say – “Show us you still got it.”
That is the current perception regarding Amari Cooper. To be fair, a lot of the criticism is justified, as Cooper suffered from a lot of drops over the course of his short career. But some of the blame goes to Derek Carr, who often overlooked Cooper in favor of former teammate Michael Crabtree, particularly in the red zone. Last season, Cooper would find himself wide open, and Carr wouldn’t even look his way in time to notice.
Moreover, the coaching staff seemed to lose faith in him. They also appeared to prefer throwing the ball in the direction of Crabtree instead of Cooper. And while that recipe was successful, it prevented Coop from fully reaching his potential. The good news is there is a new boss in town, and his name is Jon Gruden. Not long after he was hired in Oakland, Gruden emphasized just how great he feels Cooper can be.
“I said it when he came out of Alabama, that he reminded me of a young Tim Brown,” Gruden said. “He has that type of game speed. He’s elusive, and has a wide range of routes he can run. He’s flexible. It’ll benefit him to stay healthy and stay in the same system for a few years. If he does that, great things are ahead.”
As the 2018 season approaches, one thing is clear. This is a new era in Oakland. And Cooper is ready for a major bounce back this year. In his first two seasons in the league, Cooper put up 1,070 and 1,153 receiving yards, respectively. But those performances only served to further magnify the major disappointment he endured last season, when he was only able to muster 680 yards on the year.
With Crabtree now in Baltimore, and Jordy Nelson entering the latter year(s) of his career, the time for Cooper to shine is now. If Gruden and the Raiders commit to making him the center of the offensive game plan, we could see a monster year from the highly talented fourth year wideout.