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Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper wants consistent success

By The Sports Xchange
Oakland Raiders receiver Amari Cooper takes off after a catch against the Buffalo Bills. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Oakland Raiders receiver Amari Cooper takes off after a catch against the Buffalo Bills. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- What once was lost was finally found, and to hear Derek Carr tell it, the Oakland Raiders didn't go too far out of their way to help wide receiver Amari Cooper out of a slump.

Cooper caught 11 passes for 210 yards and had touchdown receptions of 38 and 45 yards in a 31-30 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last Thursday.

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The Raiders hope to keep Cooper in view as they take to the road and visit the Buffalo Bills Sunday.

Cooper was targeted 19 times -- the most for a Raiders receiver since Jerry Rice had the same number in a 2002 game in which Rich Gannon threw 64 passes.

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Yes, the Raiders looked at the Chiefs scheme and considered ways to get Cooper the ball -- just as they do against every opponent.

"I didn't know he had 19 targets, to be honest," Carr said. "I was just playing the game as I always am, how I saw it, how I saw them playing it and things that we had talked about. Then I looked and I was like, 'Man, 19. That has to be a record for him.' That's a lot."

As Cooper struggled through four games of ineffective play -- nine catches for 61 yards, no touchdowns -- criticism mounted on offensive coordinator Todd Downing to find ways to get him the ball.

Head coach Jack Del Rio was uninterested in giving details of how Cooper came to resemble the same player who broke 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first two years in the NFL.

"You're getting more into strategy stuff," Del Rio said. "I'm not going to spend a lot of time on that. ... I understand the desire to talk about it. We're just happy he had a great night."

Part of the problem for the Raiders' offense is they went into the game averaging a league-low 54 snaps per game, a figure that Downing said made it difficult to get very far on his call sheet.

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The Raiders had a season-high 32 first downs against the Chiefs, and therefore had 73 snaps, meaning more opportunities for everyone.

In terms of formations, Cooper, according to one count, caught six of his passes out of the slot -- twice as many as he's ever had in a single game.

Cooper operated out of the slot 35 percent of the time instead of his usual 15 percent, and he likes the different looks he'll get from defenders.

"The benefit that I see is you go up against different players throughout the game," Cooper said Wednesday. "If you're constantly going against one player, then a smart player would learn your moves.

"If you're going against all three guys, then you can use the same moves sometimes because they haven't seen it."

Cooper stressed not only knowing his assignments, but those of the other receivers involved in the same play.

"That's very important, because you have to have spatial awareness," Cooper said. "If you only know your route, you don't have that awareness. If you know the guy's route next to you, then you know how much space you have to work with."

Cooper, according to Profootballfocus.com, had three more drops against Kansas City, although none of them were on routine plays. He said he'll spend more time studying those plays than the ones that allowed him to become the second all-time single-game yardage receiving leader in franchise history.

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"I'm always trying to get better," Cooper said. "I think I could have made some of those plays where the ball came my way and I didn't come away with it, definitely."

SERIES HISTORY: 39th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 21-17, including the last two. Raiders won last season in Oakland 38-24 on Dec. 4 to improve to 10-2 after trailing 24-9 with 9:01 left in the third quarter. The Raiders came back to win with two rushing touchdowns by Latavius Murray and two touchdown passes from Derek Carr, one to Michael Crabtree and one to Amari Cooper. The teams also met in 2014 in Oakland, with the Raiders winning 26-24. Carr threw two touchdown passes, Murray had 86 yards rushing and Darren McFadden 50. In the last game in Buffalo, the Bills won 38-35 in 2011 in Week 2 despite 323 yards passing from Jason Campbell and five catches for 146 yards and a touchdown from Denarius Moore.

--The tandem of Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington will be in the forefront with Marshawn Lynch under a one-week suspension for coming off the bench and coming in contact with an official in the Kansas City win.

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Richard and Washington were productive change-of-pace backs as rookies with Latavius Murray getting the most work, so it's nothing new.

"Last year we had a couple of games we had to carry the load when Latavius was hurt, so I think we'll be fine," Washington said.

Said Richard: "Last year definitely got us prepared for this situation. It's a situation we've met before."

Head coach Jack Del Rio believes the offense will take on a different look, one that came to the forefront against the Chiefs after Lynch departed with two carries for nine yards.

"They don't have the size and power, but they have a little more quickness," Del Rio said. "They catch the ball better, are better route-runners. ... if you're playing wide open, they give you a little more juice."

--The arrival of linebacker NaVorro Bowman and his ability to play 60 of 62 snaps as the defensive signal-caller just three days after signing gave the Raiders a lift.

"I was just being me, showing the guys that I'm a complete football player," Bowman said. "I love this game, and that you can just count on me. I let everything else take care of itself as far as guys looking up to me or noticing what I do as a leader.

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"As long as you execute your job and play well, guys are going to respect you."

--Snapping a four-game losing streak began in the week leading up to the game on the practice field and in the locker room.

The Raiders were buoyant, with music playing and players being loose and relaxed.

"Everybody last week was in a better mood, man," running back Jalen Richard said. "We were just enjoying the week, enjoying the process, enjoying the journey. As long as we continue to do that, we'll be fine."

Del Rio's message during the week was to bring back the love of the game.

"We talked a little bit about the 'why,'" Del Rio said. "Why we love to do what we do. Whatever it is, each guy find that little bit that you get excited about. ... it was awesome to get back on track and go out there and have a really fun night."

--The Raiders left the fans in a good mood after beating the Chiefs and now won't return to the Coliseum until they host the Denver Broncos on Nov. 26 -- that's right, more than a month away from their home field.

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After visiting Buffalo, the Raiders will stay in Sarasota, Fla., and practice at the IMG Academy before facing the Dolphins in Miami. The Raiders then have their bye before traveling to Mexico City for a "home" game against the New England Patriots on Nov. 19.

"Hate to be cliche, but we're going to take them one game at a time," Del Rio said. "We've got this East Coast swing, we've got to play two good teams that are playing well now, starting with Buffalo. Then we play Miami, come home and catch a break and go play a home game in Mexico. Should be fun."

Del Rio credited owner Mark Davis with doing what is necessary to make sure the Raiders are prepared.

"MD has told me to do the things you need to do for us to play championship football," Del Rio said. "He's invested in us and providing us with the things we need to travel properly and do the right things for the guys. It's all about being as good as we can be on game day."

NOTES: T Marshall Newhouse was limited in practice after missing the Kansas City game with a foot injury. ... RB Elijah Hood was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster with Marshawn Lynch serving a one-game suspension for contact with an official. ... CB Gareon Conley did not practice with a shin injury and is likely to miss his fifth consecutive game and sixth of the season. ... CB David Amerson, who was removed from the Chiefs game with a foot injury, did not participate in practice. ... LB Cory James, inactive against Kansas City with a knee injury, was limited in practice. ... S Karl Joseph was limited with a groin injury but expected to face Buffalo.

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