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Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree set to pose problems for Houston Texans

By The Sports Xchange
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Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree set to pose problems for Houston Texans
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree celebrates a go ahead touchdown catch in the end zone against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland on October 2, 2016. The Raiders won the game 28-27. Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo

HOUSTON -- Imposing, talented and dangerous after the catch, the Oakland Raiders' wide receiver tandem Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree arguably ranks atop the league as a duo.

So, the Houston Texans' defensive scouting report and preparations appropriately devotes plenty of resources intended to curtail their impact.

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Heading into Monday night's game in Mexico City at Estadio Azteca, Cooper and Crabtree have already piled up a combined 107 receptions for 1,439 yards and eight touchdowns. They've victimized several good secondaries and are averaging 11.9 receptions and 159.9 yards per game collectively this season.

"Best tandem in the league right now," Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye said. "We've got to be on our P's and Q's, play with good technique and compete like we always do.

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"Each receiver has got something different. We've got to study them. Cooper has more speed and has a good first step. Crabtree is just crafty. Both have proven themselves and how good they are."

Since last year, Cooper has recorded nine 100-yard receiving performances and Crabtree has five. During the Raiders' win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they combined for 281 receiving yards on 20 receptions.

"First of all, they're big receivers," Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said. "They have great receiving hands. They go get the ball and they are kind of unique sometimes in the way they run their routes. Some of it is not the standard release from the line. They'll give you a lot of different things that you have to study and be on top of or they will run by you.

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"We've been trying to figure that out. The quarterback has done a good job of getting them the ball too, whether it's the deep ball or whether it's a crossing route. They run comebacks, they run curls. They run it all and they do a good job of running it. So, it's going to be a big challenge."

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Drafted fourth overall last year out of Alabama, Cooper caught 72 passes as a rookie for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns and established the NFL record for most catches by a wide receiver 21 years or younger. This year, Cooper has caught 58 passes for 843 yards and two scores.

Cooper is a big, fast and wide downfield target at 6-foor-1, 210 pounds.

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"They've got speed, can run the whole route tree," said cornerback Kareem Jackson, who returned an interception for a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday. "We've got to be close in coverage. It's about being on the same page, communicating and executing the game plan."

A former San Francisco 49ers first-round draft pick following a stellar career at Texas Tech where he won the Fred Biletnikoff award given to the most outstanding wide receiver, Crabtree caught 85 passes for 922 yards and nine touchdowns during his first season with the Raiders last year. Crabtree has 49 receptions for 596 yards and six scores this season.

Like Cooper, he's a sizable wideout capable of outmuscling corners at 6-foor-1, 215 pounds. Crabtree also runs extremely polished patterns.

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"I think they're explosive," Texans two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. "They both do a good job of going up and catching the ball out of the air. They're good run after the catch guys.

"Crabtree has a little more size. They both can run the full route tree and make the tough, contested catch. Both guys can take the top off of the coverage."

The Texans rank third in the NFL in pass defense, allowing just 196.8 yards per game and a total of eight touchdown passes. They've intercepted four passes.

Perhaps more than most NFL defenses, the Texans appear well-equipped for this kind of daunting matchup.

"No question, big matchup, big challenge," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "Both guys are big. One of the things about their whole core of receivers is they're about 6-0, 6-1 across the board. They can run, got good ball skills. Obviously, Amari and Michael are excellent players."

"We're going to have to mix it up on them and basically take the mentality that, look, we're going to play aggressively and that's how we play."

--Although Texans backup running back Alfred Blue was sidelined Thursday for the second day in a row with a calf injury, he remains upbeat about his status for Monday night's game against the Raiders.

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"Yes, I'm optimistic," Blue said.

Blue got injured against the Jaguars last Sunday and hasn't practiced this week. He rushed for 23 yards on seven carries against Jacksonville.

For the season, Blue has rushed for 225 yards on 46 carries. He's averaged 4.9 yards per carry.

Running back Jonathan Grimes has been ruled out for Monday with an illness. Wide receiver Jaelen Strong is out of a walking boot for his sprained ankle. He won't play this game and is expected to miss roughly a month, according to a source not authorized to speak publicly.

Several players were limited, including rookie wide receiver Will Fuller (knee), offensive tackle Duane Brown (quadriceps), offensive tackle Chris Clark (hip), defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (wrist), running back Lamar Miller (ankle), linebacker Brian Peters (quadriceps), safety Eddie Pleasant (neck), outside linebacker John Simon (shoulder) and nose tackle Vince Wilfork (groin).

Offensive guard Oday Aboushi (shoulder) participated fully along with cornerback A.J. Bouye (ankle), tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (neck), offensive guard Xavier Su'a-Filo (finger) paricipated fully.

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