Oakland Raiders: Cooper comfortable enough in Dallas to throw some shade

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images /

Former Oakland Raiders first round pick Amari Cooper, dealt to Dallas earlier this year, is throwing some shade as his former quarterback.

New team, who dis? That seems to sum up the current attitude of former Oakland Raiders first-round draft pick Amari Cooper, pretty nicely.

Not that he can really be blamed. After all, Jon Gruden did run him out of town on a rail after talking him up as the focal point of Oakland’s offensive attack during the run up to the regular season.

But, as this season has descended further and further into oblivion and Gruden unveiled the actual master plan he came in with – a total scorched earth tear down and rebuild – it became more than clear that Cooper wasn’t going factor into the long-term plans. Especially not at the price tag that would be coming due on him in short order.

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Still, seeing Cooper with the star on his helmet is a little bit jarring – or perhaps just disgusting – for member of the Raider Nation. Especially since we’re seeing a much different, much more animated version of Cooper than we ever saw in Silver and Black. In Dallas, he looks loose and like he’s having the time of his life – whereas, in Oakland, he usually looked like he was attending a funeral.

The stark difference between Dallas Cooper and Oakland Cooper can probably be best summed up by one play – after scoring a long touchdown against Washington during the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving day blowout, Cooper engaged in the sort of touchdown celebration we never saw him partake in with the Raiders – shooting the football over the crossbar, a mocking “homage” to Philadelphia 76ers point guard Markelle Fultz.

Perhaps Cooper’s sudden burst of joy and personality has something to do with actually being involved in the passing game. In just four games with the Cowboys, Cooper has the same number of receptions (22) and the same number of targets (32) that he had in six games with the Raiders this season.

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The biggest difference is that he’s making more of his opportunities with Dallas. He’s converted his 22 receptions in Dallas into 349 yards and three touchdowns compared to 280 yards and one touchdown in Oakland. Also, Cooper’s yards per reception are up to 15.9 (12.7 with the Raiders), and he’s averaging 87.3 yards per game, compared to just 46.7 yards per game with the Raiders.

Suffice it to say, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are making Cooper the focal point of the passing game Gruden said he was going to make him – and then never did.

Cooper though, insists this has nothing to do with wanting to prove the Raiders wrong, but rather, wanting to prove the Cowboys were right in dealing a first-round pick for him as he said in a recent interview.

"“I don’t want to prove the Raiders wrong. I just want to prove the Cowboys right. They traded for me, and I’m going to be a good player for them.”"

In the immediate aftermath of the trade, both sides were roundly criticized by many – the Cowboys for giving up a first-round pick for him and the Raiders for shipping him out in the first place. This, though, very well could be one of those rare deals where both sides emerge as winners.

Let’s be honest here – despite posting two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons to start his career, Cooper never truly flourished or lived up to the potential of being a fourth overall pick. He was routinely overshadowed by Michael Crabtree and was never the dominant, game changing force most expected him to be coming out of Alabama.

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And, oh yeah, his issues with drops are something that plagued him throughout his tenure in Oakland.

With the fifth-year option on his contract coming up next year, the Raiders found themselves in a quandary. Cooper – who shares an agent with Khalil Mack – was set to demand WR1 money, despite the fact that he never truly played like a WR1.

And given the way Mack’s contract negotiations went down, Oakland was going to have to invest heavily to keep Cooper in the fold.

Therefore, with so many holes to fill on a depleted roster, Gruden opted for more draft capital with which to rebuild the team – swapping first-round talent for a former first-rounder. Perhaps not a popular move, but given the fact he netted a first-round pick – when most didn’t believe it possible, since Cooper hasn’t exactly played up to his draft status – it was definitely a smart, savvy one.

Over his three-plus years in Oakland, Cooper has never been one to say a whole lot of anything. He stays out of the spotlight and simply focused on football. That was his persona – laid back, low key, non-controversial, bland to the point that he made vanilla look exotic and exciting.

Yet now, with that big blue star on the side of his head, Cooper seems to be finding not just his free throw shot form, but also his voice. And in a recent interview, he used that newfound voice in the most – interesting way.

In speaking of his sudden chemistry with new quarterback Dak Prescott, the usually reserved Cooper said...

"“I realized it from the first practice. I just love his delivery. I love the way he throws the ball. It’s an easy ball to catch. We’re on the same page when I talk to him about something. It works. He’s just a great guy to have as my quarterback.”"

Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders /

Las Vegas Raiders

If you listen to his words and read between the lines just a little bit, it certainly sounds like Cooper is throwing a bit of shade at his former quarterback, Derek Carr.

While perhaps nowhere near as savage as something say, Jalen Ramsey or Josh Norman would say, coming from somebody usually as reserved as Cooper – it kind of is. The implication in those words, of course, is that he did not love Carr’s delivery or how he threw the ball, that it wasn’t an easy ball to catch, and they weren’t on the same page.

If you look at it a certain way, it also kind of sounds like Carr wasn’t a “great guy” to have as his quarterback.

Cooper’s comments are all the more striking not only because he doesn’t actually speak all that often, but because he’s a very smart guy and knows the power of words. There’s no way he couldn’t see what he said being taken not just as praise for Prescott, but as a parting shot at Carr.

In the grand scheme of things, none of this matters, of course. Cooper is in Dallas where he looks to be flourishing and settling into his own skin a bit more – well enough that he can take what certainly appears to be a shot across the bow of his former team and quarterback.

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On the other side of that ledger, the Raiders will pretty much have an entirely new receiving corps next season for Carr to work with. More than that, they’ll have three first-round picks and a ton of cap space to build with as well.

It may not have been a popular deal among fans, or in the locker room, but it’s one that not only seems to be working for both sides, it’s a deal that puts the Raiders in pretty good shape going forward.