Quarterback to receiver connections can become legendary in the NFL: Montana to Rice, Manning to Wayne, and Brady to Welker are just a few that evoke powerful memories for fans. Mark Schofield looks at the first Carr to Cooper connection between Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper.
When the Oakland Raiders selected wide receiver Amari Cooper with the fourth overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, the expectation was that he and Derek Carr would form a potent passer-to-receiver connection. But their first game together did not live up to expectations, with Cooper catching just five passes for 47 yards in Oakland’s Week 1 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. But on the opening drive of the receiver’s second NFL game, he showed why the Raiders made him the first receiver selected in the 2015 draft.
Oakland faces a 3rd and 8 on its own 32-yard line and Carr is in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel on the field. The offense has bunch formation to the right, with Cooper split to the left. The Baltimore Ravens have their 4-2-5 nickel defense in the game and are showing blitz, with all 11 defenders within 6 yards of the line of scrimmage:
At the snap the Ravens send five rushers after Carr, blitzing linebacker C.J. Mosley (#57) off the edge, while dropping six into coverage using Cover 1. Cooper runs a post-corner route at the top of the screen against cornerback Jimmy Smith (#22):
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/NFLReview2CooperVideo1.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/NFLReview2CooperStill1.jpg”]
The Raiders only send three receivers into the primary route ‒ the tight end Mychal Rivera (#81) chips Mosley early and then releases into the flat as Carr is making his throw as a late fourth read. In addition to Cooper’s post-corner route, Michael Crabtree (#15) runs a shallow crossing route while Seth Roberts (#10) runs a deep in-cut. The deep in-cut from Roberts holds Baltimore free safety Kendrick Lewis in the middle of the field, leaving Smith isolated on Cooper.
For his part, the rookie sets up his route well. Smith is in press alignment, but Cooper uses a quick stutter step and angles inside, avoiding a jam. As Cooper nears the top of his stem, he gives a quick look back at the pocket, selling Smith on an inside cut. The rookie then breaks the route to the corner, and Carr hits him in stride:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/NFLReview2CooperVideo2.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/NFLReview2CooperStill2.jpg”]
Cooper deftly settles under the throw, secures the catch, and outruns Smith to the goal line for a 68-yard touchdown.
The Raiders went on to knock off the Ravens 37-33, thanks to a late touchdown throw from Carr to Roberts. Cooper finished the day with seven receptions for 109 yards and the long touchdown, but the technique he displayed on this plays is an indication this will not be his last 100+ yard game.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.