Gruden hopes Carr and Cooper can spark offense
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Two days after a deflating loss in his return to the NFL, Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden was still looking for answers. He might have found some in the lack of a deep passing attack in the Raiders’ 33-13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, a game in which the Raiders led 13-10 at halftime.
“You look at the film, we had him wide open deep,” Gruden said Wednesday of Cooper. “We didn’t go there. He was open a couple of times, and for whatever reason we didn’t go that route. Yeah, we want to get him going. That’s easier said than done now.”
Gruden, who coached in Oakland from 1998 through 2001 and in Tampa Bay from 2002 through 2008 before joining MNF’s broadcast booth through last season, was referring to facing Denver’s stingy “No Fly Zone” secondary, with cornerbacks Chris Harris and Bradley Roby and a devastating pass rush on the edge in Von Miller and rookie Bradley Chubb. The Raiders play at Denver on Sunday.
Cooper, meanwhile, has become somewhat of a missing man in Oakland. He has had 9 receiving yards or less in six of his last 13 games.
“I mean my whole focal point is to win,” Cooper said. “If I have under 10 yards and we’re winning, I’m fine.”
Alas, the Raiders are 1-5 in those games, with the lone win coming against … the Broncos, 21-14 last Nov. 26 in Oakland.
Against the Rams, Carr completed just five passes on seven targets to his wideouts for 43 yards, including zero completions and an interception in the second half, per ESPN Stats & Information. After completing 20 of 24 passes for 199 yards before halftime, Carr faded late and finished with a Total QBR of 10.9.
A year ago, Carr led the NFL with seven interceptions on throws of at least 20 yards downfield. His second-quarter end-zone pick on an underthrown ball to Jared Cook came from 21 yards out.
Carr said he saw deep routes developing, but went with the safer passes underneath. Cook had 180 receiving yards, a franchise record for a tight end.
“You sit there and are like, we had a chance at that [deep throw], but there’s a matchup there where we ended up picking up the first down,” Carr said. “Where is that fine line? I’m not going to second guess anytime on the line of scrimmage.
“[Cooper] could possibly win on this one, it’s not for sure, but I know for sure what is going to happen over here. It’s just one of those things, even coach and I talk about. He keeps reminding me, ‘Hey did you see it?’ ‘Yeah, I saw it.’ He’s like, ‘OK, just as long as you’re seeing it we are good.'”
The Raiders re-signing Martavis Bryant, whom they acquired for a third-round draft pick in April but cut on Sept. 1, should help with the vertical game.
Even as Gruden was frustrated by Bryant missing time in training camp with “headaches” and his lack of versatility in Gruden’s offense and said at the time that Bryant had been outperformed by Keon Hatcher, who was cut in the corresponding roster move with Bryant returning.
“I think he’s in a good place right now,” Gruden said of Bryant. “I think he’s healthy. I think he’s ready to go. I’m sold on that. We’ve been in contact with him since he’s been away. As I said when we made the trade to get him, when he’s right, he can be a difference-maker.
“He’s a guy that’s proven. He can go up and get the deep ball in contested situations. He can run away from you. He can make you miss. He can make big plays down the field, that’s obvious. We’re hoping that we can bottle up where he is now — he’s in a great place, he’s healthy, he’s ready to go. He has a great state of mind. We’ll see what happens.”
Besides signing Bryant and waiving Hatcher, the Raiders also placed long-snapper Andrew DiPaola on injured reserve, signed long-snapper Trent Sieg, waived linebacker Shilique Calhoun and reportedly signed a pair of defensive tackles in Clinton McDonald and Johnathan Hankins, though the team had yet to announce the signings. As such, 33 players on the Raiders’ current 53-man roster did not spend any time last season on their 53-man roster.