About an hour after the Oakland Raiders’ three-game losing streak began, Josh Norman — the Washington Redskins star cornerback — unleashed a vicious rant on Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.
Norman, surrounded by a herd of reporters and TV cameras in the home locker room at FedExField, was under the impression the pair of receivers had been talking trash.
“So please, whatever you do, do not run your mouth if you’re a wide receiver and expect to show up on Sundays, because I’m telling you, we are here and we are waiting,” Norman said, a borderline maniacal twinkle in his eye.
He offered the following about Cooper.
“So whatever that young cat said, Coop, go on and take it back,” Norman added.
Three weeks after the Sunday night debacle in Washington, the Raiders have yet to win and Cooper has yet to get back on track.
After collecting one pass for six yards against Washington, he’s hauled in three for 17 in the past two games combined.
The downturn for the erstwhile rising talent — which has mirrored the offense’s struggles at large — is perplexing, but there are variables to consider.
Headlined by Aqib Talib, the Broncos’ secondary — which held Cooper to a pair of catches for nine yards — blankets opposing receivers on a weekly basis. Against the Baltimore Ravens, EJ Manuel was playing the part of Derek Carr.
“I saw five ‘wide-open, shook his guy, was open with space’ [situations],” Jack Del Rio said after reviewing the tape from last Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. “[I] would have loved to have seen that ball get delivered to him there.”
Playing a position famous for loud, outspoken and shamelessly self-centered stars, Cooper couldn’t be further from that archetype.
On Wednesday, when a reporter asked Cooper how he was holding up amid the lack of targets — even as Del Rio said he’d been open consistently — the third-year receiver laughed.
“That’s funny. I’m just being me, man,” Cooper said. “I’d like to play well. Hopefully in this next game I can have a few catches and kind of get going.”
Cooper’s most-immediate boss, rookie offensive coordinator Todd Downing, also doesn’t have the type of forceful personality that dominates the NFL ecosystem — at least not when he’s conducting his news conferences which are unilluminating at best and boring at worst.
“Not at all,” Downing said, when asked if he’s seen the wideout’s confidence wane.
“That’s one of the best things we’ve got going on this team. We’re all in this together and it’s all a family environment,” Downing added, trotting out one of the league’s favored metaphors.
“We truly have each other’s backs.”
Against the Los Angeles Chargers, the slumping offensive line needs to have Derek Carr’s back — especially with the pass-rush power couple of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram looming. But at least for Cooper, the Chargers don’t boast any lockdown corners in the class of Norman or Talib.
A loud day from Cooper would go a long way toward helping the Raiders snap their three-game slide. True to character, the understated receiver will be the last person making any demands.
“[I’m ] just being me, just keep doing me,” Cooper said. “Stay true to who I am and the ball will find me.”