Both head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman said something recently that you have great ideas, what are they talking about? Are they talking about different plays to run, different ways of running them?Thats a good question for them. I think it could be anything. I think the great thing here, and Ive said this before for this coaching staff, its so much about the best way to do things not necessarily cookie cutter, our way. If someone has a good idea, lets jump on it and go with it. Its not just me, I think everybody. A lot of people offer up ideas and thats really kind of the idea of the coaching staff, I think everybodys involved. Here and there if Ive got an idea maybe, potentially throw it out there. Some get used and some dont.Do you find yourself using ideas from all of your years of experience from different coordinators?For sure, just experience, things that I have done, different offenses that I have been in, yeah definitely.Alex, there was a 2nd and 7 in the last game where you threw an accurate pass to TE Vernon Davis and he dropped it. On television it looked like WR Randy Moss was breaking open at the same time. After looking at the tape do you feel like that you made the right read?Right read? Yeah, right read. I think if anything it was man-to-man. If anything I would love to get Vernon a ball really pulling him away. I kind of put it up on his face there. He was running a crossing route. With Vernon, weve all seen it, hitting him running there, fast vs. man, how many times have we seen him pull out of that and score, really was the thinking there. If I had to do it over again, more and more ball placement if anything. Its critical vs. man, its the NFL. Six inches here is a big difference playing man defense, and its a big difference for Vernon. For me, looking back at that play, thats what I took away from it.Speaking of just being kind of slightly off, it seems you havent really had like a straight just incompletion. Either you are throwing it away or someones maybe dropped it. Is that somewhat accurate?Yeah, Ive felt good. I havent had that many pass attempts. I dont know how many pass attempts in the two games. The one to WR Mario, Manningham we ran the double move that the safety dropped there. Really saw him get grabbed and throwing the ball and obviously hoping to get the call or the play and didnt get it, but that is the one that stands out in my mind. Other than that, as far as decision making goes, not too many that Id want over again. Throwing the ball where I want to throw it, and if not, getting out of there. That one third down, that 3rd and 7 you were talking about after the 2nd and 7, potentially would like to have that one back. I kind of ran into a sack a little bit. Its a fine line there trying to use your legs and then it working against you.Is it a goal or is it important for you to hit one of these deep passes in the preseason as sort of as a signal for?As far as just setting up tape? Better question for the coaches. Really just trying to show balance out there, not trying to give anybody any tells or anything like that. I feel like we are doing a decent job of it.Alex, when you re-signed here back in March you said that your relationship with head coach Jim Harabaugh was great because he was always honest with you. How has that evolved since that time? Was there any awkwardness at the start when you came back? Whats it been like since?No awkwardness. Anyone thats been around coach Harbaugh for a while realizes, and I think its a great thing about him, hes going to tell you what he thinks. Good or bad he is going to give you his honest opinion. You appreciate that, as someone whos been around for a long time and been with a lot of coaches, you appreciate a guy telling you the truth and being honest with you even if its not always what you want to hear. I definitely appreciate the coaching level, the detailed coaching, work on this. It all comes out as he sees it and I think fundamentally I have improved a lot because of that.Alex, why do you think you will be better on third down this season than you did last season?I think in the end it just comes down to execution. For me as the quarterback it comes to just being decisive, pulling the trigger, good decisions, being decisive within that. Last year at times there were some opportunities out there and for whatever reason didnt get them, maybe unsure, different things, hesitant. As an offense and myself speaking, I think just a little better pulling the trigger this year, taking our shots that are there and executing.At what point did you go back and look at the 3rd downs from the Giants game, from the Championship game? Did you do it the next day or in a couple weeks?That game watching it the next day for sure. Coming off the season, in the offseason OTAs, you have just a huge catalog of everything. Youve got every third down from the entire season which is a lot of third downs. You get to look at how teams are playing us, what were doing, what we need to do better, things like that.Are you watching this by yourself, with all the coaches?Both, literally every single third down snap, coming in watching it with the coaches, going over it by myself, game-by-game, things like that.Can you explain a little bit or give us an insight as to like last year first year in the system do you expect to get the call and make the audibles as well, but this year did you know obviously whats coming and what youre looking for that you dont have to wait for the call every time. Whats that communication like this year?Still waiting on the call. I think you just continue to get a better sense of what were trying to do. Play call intent, what are we trying to get done out of this play call. You do a better job with that, hey were calling this, this is what were thinking. If we dont get that Im going here. You get better at just understanding all that with the play call. The play call is just coming in, but you do a better job of understanding everything that comes with it and then getting to that faster, just operating quicker.Is there ever a point in this preseason where you have just been able to conduct the drive how you want the whole way just to help you with that?It changes week-to-week. Theres more on my plate some weeks than others, it just depends on who were playing and how were trying to attack them. Yeah, I guess I feel like all of our drives have been like that. Weve ran the ball really well this preseason, kept ourselves in better situations. Weve been ahead of the chains, a lot of positive plays. We talk a lot about negative plays killing drives. You continue to put yourselves in good situations, youre productive on first and second down, I think that helps your third down. We were in a lot of third and longs last year, and the entire NFL in general is not good at third and longs. Its a difficult situation. I think that kind of played into our lack of success at times last year, just doing a better job of putting positive plays together.You were under pressure against the Houston Texans. How do you see your pass protection developing this year? Is it better now?I do. I feel like its much better. I said this to CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco after the game, I take credit for quite a bit of that during the game. I felt like a lot of that was self-inflicted. First play, definitely my fault, that 3rd-and-7 sack, I really felt like I ran into that. Same as the other sack, which was really kind of a no-loss, it was right at the line of scrimmage, but on me as well. I really felt like protection was pretty good. There was the one where I got the roughing the passer. Thats the only one that really stands out in my mind. Other than that, protections been great. And I think well do a better job. Same thing, it falls on all of us. Offensive line, it starts there, but its on backs, quarterbacks, receivers, getting the ball out, understanding when were getting pressure, things like that.What can you be doing better to deal with the pass rush?Theres a fine line there getting the ball out in windows and then using your legs, and using them to help you. Not running up into D-Linemen, helping your offensive linemen out, finding the soft spot in the pocket, the quiet spot, things like that.Now that you have WRs Randy Moss and Mario Manningham on the offense, can we expect more long passes in games and fewer check downs?The goal is obviously, the more weapons you have the better. In the end Im still going to take what the defense gives me. Im still going through my reads. Theres no sense to just drop back and throw it up. Now Randy does provide some opportunities where if hes one-on-one and youre going to take some shots, just a guy who plays the ball that well in the air and that kind of ability, thats what you want. You want to create problems. To a certain extent, youre still going to go through your progressions and reads and take what the defense gives you.Would you change your reads, the fact that its Randy Moss?A little. Yeah, for sure, here and there.
Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon issued their lineups for today's series finale in Chicago:
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Eduardo Nunez (R) 3B
7. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
8. Mac Williamson (R) LF
9. Jeff Samardzija (R) P (1-5, 4.57 ERA)
1. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
2. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Ian Happ (S) CF
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Miguel Montero (L) C
8. Javier Baez (R) SS
9. Eddie Butler (R) P (1-0, 2.00 ERA)
The Raiders searched in vain for dynamic receiving production before Amari Cooper came along. Thousand-yard seasons proved elusive even in the golden age of passing stats, with a full decade’s drought after Randy Moss posted a four-digit total in 2005.
Cooper’s made that old hat.
The 2015 first-round pick has two 1,000-yard campaigns in as many seasons. Ditto for Pro Bowl honors. Those feats have become increasingly common, Cooper’s already in rarified air.
Cooper’s career is off to a solid start, but the No. 4 overall pick two years ago believes he can be much better. That especially true later in the season, where production has waned in his first two seasons.
He has nine 100-yard performances in two seasons, with just two coming after week 8. He noticeably struggled with injury at the end of 2015, but wouldn’t make excuses for a production drop last season.
Cooper wants to finish as strong as he starts, and has full confidence that will happen this season.
“Of course it’s been on my mind, but it’s a good thing to me because I feel like I can go nowhere but up,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “I know that I can have a lot more production than I’ve had in the past two seasons, so we’ll just see.”
Cooper has sought counsel from other NFL greats – Calvin Johnson has been in Alamenda this week, offering sage advice – and Raiders coaches have identified ways where he can be even more dynamic working with quarterback Derek Carr.
“Certainly there are things that we think we can do to help,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Also, for him, I think he has a much greater understanding. I thought last year was a step forward. I know he wants to continue to push. It’s great when you have a young, talented player that’s really eager to be special, wants to make a mark in this league. The way he’s working at it right now is outstanding. That’s all we want of our guys.
Cooper is a versatile presence, able to do most everything well. His route running was luaded out of college, though he can be a good deep-ball receiver and can create big plays after the catch. Cooper knows his hands much be more consistent, but the Raiders want to exract more from his natural talents.
“There are a lot of different facets to him,” Del Rio said. “Where his speed is really one of his greatest strengths, obviously, his route running ability was pretty doggone polished when he got here, but even that can continue to improve and the timing with Derek. We think he’ll continue to ascend.”
That’s the goal heading into his third NFL season now armed with greater knowledge of how he’s being covered and muscle memory of what went wrong at times later in the year.
Cooper believes detail work will help him this fall and winter, and that starts in earnest during the offseason program.
“It’s easy to forget the small things like high-pointing the ball, looking the ball all the way through and not trying to run before you actually catch the ball,” Cooper said. “Overall, I’m just working hard in the offseason so that you can come back and you can be dominant.
“I want to be the best Amari Cooper that I could possibly be. I want to be better than every other year that I’ve played football, so that’s how I am looking at this year.”