DENVER — Jon Gruden inherited a fairly incessant line of questioning about Amari Cooper when he became the Raiders’ coach. And for good reason. Cooper is the team’s most talented wide receiver, and the previous staff was unable to involve him with consistency in 2017.
These questions can fade.
They’ve been answered.
Against the Los Angeles Rams last week, the Raiders’ game plan and opponent largely are what led to a quiet opener for Cooper. He found a greater rhythm against the Denver Broncos when catching all 10 targets for 116 yards in a 20-19 loss at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
“Cooper is involved every week,” Gruden said. “You see the Rams are pretty good with what they did (34-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday). You don’t have to be a genius in this league to figure out it’s hard to make first downs.
“Some weeks, you’re hot. Some weeks, you’re not. Teams can take away one play if they want to. Somebody else has to step up. He’s going to be involved every week. I hope everybody is happy.”
Cooper surpassed five receptions Sunday for the first time since he recorded 11 receptions for 210 yards and two touchdowns against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 19, 2017. That was one of two times he reached 70 yards in a game all year.
He caught one of three targets versus the Rams for 8 yards.
“Last week, (tight end) Jared (Cook) was the guy,” Cooper said. “He went for 180 yards. Today, we didn’t necessarily put an emphasis on throwing me the ball. It’s just how the game unfolded. … It feels great. You want to get into a groove. You want to do everything possible to help your team win. Unfortunately, we came up short today.”
One player’s absence required a cluster of adjustments Sunday on special teams.
Raiders wide receiver Dwayne Harris was inactive with a foot ailment that limited him throughout the practice week. When healthy, he serves as the team’s primary kickoff returner, punt returner and one of their two gunners on special teams. It took a group effort to replace him.
Running back Jalen Richard was the kickoff returner. All five Broncos kickoffs were touchbacks.
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, 33, returned punts for the first time since 2009 when he was 24. He logged one return for 7 yards and fair caught two others.
At gunner, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and safety Karl Joseph handled duties. Denver double-teamed Rodgers-Cromartie on the game’s first punt but not the second. It should have, as Rodgers-Cromartie recorded a solo tackle when dropping a Broncos returner for a 1-yard gain on a 45-yard punt.
That was the game’s only tackle on special teams.
— The Raiders held quarterback Case Keenum to 5-of-11 passing for 38 yards and an interception in the first half. He finished 19-for-35 with 222 yards. Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas totaled 18 yards on five catches. He was targeted 11 times.
— Wide receiver Martavis Bryant’s first reception with the Raiders went for 16 yards. ESPN reported Sunday morning that Bryant has retained New York lawyer Peter Ginsberg. Bryant is playing while he appeals a year-long suspension for allegedly violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Bryant recorded four catches on four targets for 30 yards.