New head coach Jay Gruden has been adamant that Cooper will be the focal point of the passing attack, and while the addition of Bryant shouldn't alter that plan, it does mean there's a bit more competition for targets than previously expected. Bryant and Jordy Nelson both have impressive track records in the red zone, an area where Cooper struggled to make an impact prior to last season. Of course, his career-high touchdown total (seven in 14 games) was negated by massive drop-offs in receptions (48), targets (96) and receiving yards (680), with the 2015 first-round pick failing to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his three pro seasons. The Raiders nonetheless made the fairly obvious decision to pick up Cooper's fifth-year option, ensuring that he'll be under team control through 2019 even if he doesn't sign an extension before next offseason. Cooper will turn 24 in June, and the fifth-year option is guaranteed for injury only.
It's no surprise that the Raiders will bring back their top receiver for another season, even if he struggled in 2017. Cooper posted back-to-back, 1,000-yard seasons to begin his NFL career, but he only accrued 48 catches for 680 yards in 2017. The arrival of Jordy Nelson will keep some focus off Cooper and hopefully allow him to reach the 1,000-yard mark again.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden recently compared Cooper to Tim Brown, saying he expects the 23-year-old wideout to be "the main vein of our passing offense", Scott Bair of NBC Bay Area reports. "[Cooper] has to get healthy and stay healthy," Gruden said. "We need him to be the player he was the first two years. I've said it earlier. We're going to make him the main vein of our passing offense and move him around a lot."
Gruden was talking up Cooper in a similar manner back in February before the team swapped out Michael Crabtree for Jordy Nelson. The continued praise hints that Nelson will be a clear No. 2 to Cooper's No. 1, with the 2015 first-round pick likely noticing an uptick on his career marks of 4.4 catches and 7.8 targets per game. Crabtree led the team in targets each of the past three seasons, holding a slight advantage over Cooper every year. Even if the increased role doesn't come to fruition in a major way, Cooper at least figures to bounce back from a nightmare, injury-plagued 2017 campaign. On a less optimistic note, Gruden's comments do hint that the young wideout has dealt with some lingering effects from last year's ankle injury this offseason, though there hasn't been any report of surgery or a major rehab process.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday that Cooper will be "the focal point" of the team's offense in 2018, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. "He has tremendous quickness. He's smart, versatile and he's a gamer," Gruden said of Cooper. "He likes the bright lights, and he'll be the headliner in our offense."
During Cooper's first three NFL seasons, he and Michael Crabtree have largely acted as co-No. 1 receivers with both players tallying similar statistics, but Gruden's comments suggest the target share could tilt much more favorably in Cooper's direction during the upcoming campaign. While the Raiders plan to retain Crabtree in 2018, he'll turn 31 in September and is bound for free agency next spring, so the Raiders have plenty incentive to ensure that Cooper is up for handling heavier volume in the passing game. The prospect of increased targets -- even if starting quarterback Derek Carr fails to show much progression under Gruden's tutelage -- makes Cooper an appealing commodity coming off a disappointing season in which he supplied 48 catches for 680 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games.
Cooper caught three passes on six targets for 115 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 30-10 loss to the Chargers. He finishes up his 2017 campaign with 48 receptions for 680 yards and seven touchdowns on 96 targets in 14 games.
Cooper's fantasy performance in Week 17 was salvaged by an 87-yard touchdown reception, marking his second 60-plus yard score in the last two weeks. The third-year receiver failed to surpass the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career during the 2017 campaign, but he found the end zone seven times despite dealing with a variety of minor injuries throughout the latter portion of the season. The entire Raiders offense was a mess at times as they scored less than 20 points in 10 of 16 contests, but the core of quarterback Derek Carr, running back Marshawn Lynch, Cooper and fellow receiver Michael Crabtree is slated to return in 2018 during what will be a bounce-back effort.
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