Here’s a quick reminder that Amari Cooper – arguably the best weapon Derek Carr has at his disposal on the Oakland Raiders offense – is just 23 years old.
Yes, the man with back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, the dynamic wideout who already has 18 career receiving touchdowns to his name, has yet to blow out the candles on his 24th birthday cake.
At just 23, “Coop” is two years younger than Odell Beckham Jr., six years younger than Antonio Brown, and 11 years the junior to the ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald.
But, regardless of age, like the aforementioned trio, Cooper is prepped and ready to become the primary option in what many are hoping will be a resurgent aerial attack for the Silver and Black in 2018.
Since the NFL Scouting Combine back in February, Head Coach Jon Gruden has spoken highly of No. 89, and the importance of getting him going once again in 2018.
Gruden called Cooper the “headliner,” as well as the “focal point” of the offense, but whichever way you slice it, the Raiders head coach has big plans for the two-time Pro Bowler.
“It was cool,” said Cooper when asked about Gruden’s remarks. “Obviously as a receiver, you want to go out there and make plays for your team and win. So for him to say that, it really meant a lot to me. I’m just ready to come out here and work and prove that I deserve to have those opportunities.”
What’s not up for debate, is the fact that barring something unforeseen, Cooper will indeed get those opportunities, even with a plethora of talented wide receivers currently on the Raiders roster.
From new additions Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant, to familiar faces like Seth Roberts and Johnny Holton, the wide receivers’ room in 2018 will look a lot different than just a year ago.
And Jordy Nelson in particular –a veteran of nine NFL seasons – has already been a great resource for Cooper.
“It’s been really cool,” Cooper explained. “Been learning a lot from Jordy, obviously with him being in the league for such a long time. He knows a lot and he’s always sharing his wisdom in the receiver room. It’s been cool being around Marty as well.”
Speaking of Martavis Bryant, the speedster was brought into the fold in Oakland for myriad reasons, mainly to stretch the field, and give the Coopers and Nelsons of the world a little relief.
And even though it’s still the early stages of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Bryant has done just that.
“It will open up the offense a lot more being that he’s so fast, he’s so dangerous with the ball in his hands,” Cooper said. “Man, we have a lot of threats on offense.”
Statistically speaking, 2017 was a down year for No. 89; his 48 receptions were the lowest of his career, as were his 680 receiving yards, but now a few months removed from his third, pro season, Cooper isn’t shying away from a critical look at his campaign.
“Well, I wouldn’t say it was great,” Cooper said. “Definitely some things I need to work on coming into this year and some things that I have been working on so that I can be better on for this season.”
And if Cooper is indeed better, and returns to form in 2018, the University of Alabama-product is set to have a very productive 24th trip around the sun.