“Bulked Up” Amari Cooper Hoping To Play To His Potential For A Full Season
In each of his first two seasons, Amari Cooper has watched his production drop drastically in the second half of the season.
Combining his rookie and sophomore NFL seasons, Cooper has accumulated a whopping 1,440 career yards before the midway point of the season and only 783 yards thereafter. Cooper played injured in the second half of his rookie year, but in 2016 the statistical disparity was even worse – a whopping 53% decline in yards-per-game.
“Of course it’s been on my mind,” Cooper told reporters in May when asked about consecutive late-season struggles.
But after nearly being shut down late in his rookie season with a foot injury, Cooper wouldn’t blame injuries for last year’s decline.
“There’s no excuse there because every player in the last eight games has some sort of injury,” said Cooper of the 2016 season where he averaged 98.3 yards per game in the first half of the season to 46.8 yards per game in the second half.
Cooper indicated in May that he has been working on the “little things” as he prepares to bounce back this season, but there’s no question he focused on adding strength in the offseason.
Never considered one of the more physical receivers in the league, Cooper has added considerable muscle mass since the close of the 2016 season – and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Bold strategy by Amari Cooper this offseason to do nothing but eat metal weights as opposed to lift them pic.twitter.com/QNyeDwjIHt
— Armchair NFL (@ArmchairNFL) June 20, 2017
It’s not uncommon for players to bulk up in the offseason (and generally drop some weight during the season), but it’s fair to wonder if Cooper’s evolving physique can keep him healthier for a 16-game season.
Surely that’s what the Raiders are hoping will happen.
Amari looks fantastic physically, looks more like a 7/8 year vet than a dude who is 22 years old
— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) May 30, 2017
Others have speculated (albeit maybe tongue in cheek) that the added size could take away from Cooper’s effectiveness – or create something of the variety of David Boston, who infamously added too much muscle mass. But that theory seems to have already been debunked by eyes at offseason workouts.
Raiders WR Amari Cooper appears to have bulked up this offseason. Hasn't slowed him. Beats CB Sean Smith over the top for long TD.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) June 13, 2017
In his own words, Cooper doesn’t believe the league has seen even half his best in his first two seasons. Given his work ethic and the glimpses of greatest he’s already shown, there’s little reason to doubt him.
Furthermore, if you happen to believe a more physical Amari Cooper will be a more productive Amari Cooper, expect more than a few Steve Smith comparisons in the years to come.