Amari Cooper's big season with Raiders slowed by drops

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) When he was drafted in the first round by the Oakland Raiders more than five months ago, the book on Amari Cooper was that he ran pass patterns like a seasoned veteran, understood pro-style offenses and had the best hands of any wide receiver coming out of college.

Some of that has proven accurate. While the former Alabama star is on pace to become the first rookie in Raiders history to reach 1,000 yards in receptions, his growth and progress this season have been stunted by his inability to hold onto the ball.

It's an issue that has plagued the 21-year-old Cooper all year. In his mind, enough is enough.

''Any time you have multiple drops, it's a big deal,'' Cooper said Wednesday. ''It's definitely a big deal. When you're a receiver you're supposed to catch the ball. I just have to go back to the drawing board, eliminate the drops and move forward.''

The fourth overall pick in the draft, Cooper has dropped two passes in three of the last four games. He had two in Oakland's 18-13 loss to the Detroit Lions last week. One would have easily gained a first down while the other came on a quick inside slant when Cooper had plenty of running room.

Following the second drop, Cooper fell to his knees and pounded the turf with his fist.

That gave Cooper 10 drops this season, according to ProFootballFocus.com. That's the second-most in the NFL behind Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans, who has 11.

''I look back at them to see what I could have did to make the play, and then I just move forward,'' Cooper said. ''You just have to look the ball all the way through, have strong hands and not try to run before you catch the ball.''

Cooper's recent slump has coincided with the Raiders' offensive funk.

Oakland has scored three touchdowns and two field goals in its previous 20 drives. That's in stark contrast to earlier in the season when the Raiders scored at least 34 points in three consecutive games.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio doesn't seem too concerned, though. Del Rio waves off Cooper's recent slump as a part of football and sees no reason to panic about a player who leads all NFL rookies in catches (51) and receiving yardage (736).

''He's a good player,'' Del Rio said. ''He's been very consistent in his approach. We like the approach he has. We'll work through whatever things need to be corrected.''

Clearly it's not all Cooper's fault but Oakland's offense is a lot more efficient when he's heavily involved in the game plan. Cooper was only targeted four times against the Lions, matching his season low.

''I feel like there are plays to be made. We're just not making them,'' Cooper said. ''We just have to go back to the drawing board, practice hard, do the right things and we'll start making them.''

Like Del Rio, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr isn't getting too worked up about the passes that have slipped through Cooper's fingers. Instead, Carr focuses on the plays Cooper has made against some of the elite cornerbacks in the league like Cleveland's Joe Haden, Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets and San Diego's Jason Verrett.

''I don't even bring it up to him, to be honest,'' Carr said. ''I just try and encourage him and show him maybe, `Hey, look, these are the type of catches you can make,' and all those things. But I'm not worried about him. He's `Coop, man. He makes a whole bunch of plays. We'll be all right.''

Notes: The Raiders elevated WR Jeremy Ross from the practice squad and added him to the 53-man roster. A spot was vacated when the team released linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong on Tuesday. ... Center Rodney Hudson (ankle) did not practice. ... CB Keith McGill (foot) is wearing a walking boot.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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