Oakland Raiders

Anatomy of a Big Play: Bombs away by the Bay

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper, right, celebrates with quarterback Derek Carr, left, after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Tennessee Titans Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

After posting six touchdowns as a rookie in 2015, Amari Cooper started the 2016 season in a bit of a slump, failing to score a touchdown in his first four games of the season and failing to exceed 75 yards in three of those. But in Week 5 he got off the schneid in a big way, posting six catches for 138 yards and a touchdown.

It was a performance highlighted by a 64-yard catch and run for six points early in the third quarter to pull his team within a single point of the San Diego Chargers — putting them in position to pick up a big win and claiming first place in the AFC West.

On this play, about four minutes into the third quarter, the Raiders put Jumbo 11 personnel on the field, with a sixth offensive lineman in place of the tight end flexed to the offense’s right. The route combination to the offense’s left is a variation of the “Smash-7” concept which traditionally features a short five-yard hitch or in-route from the outside wide receiver, along with a corner or “7” route from the inside receiver.

This variation features a fade from the slot that makes the play more of a downfield shot play that with the Raiders’ personnel and alignment puts Cooper in a one-on-one match up with a safety. Given Cooper’s route-running ability, that safety is in a bad spot.

The nuance of Cooper’s route is really what makes this play special. This is salty veteran stuff from the 22-year-old.

Because Cooper is in the slot, his defender has a wider variety of potential routes to defend than if he were outside. Because of this, Cooper knows that the defender will have to instantly react to any indication of direction in the route.

At the snap, Cooper works to eat up the cushion of the defensive back, getting right on top of him. Because Cooper decreases the space between himself and the defensive back, he also reduces the amount of time the defender has to react even more, putting him in a steep bind. Once he “steps on the toes” of the defender, he stutters, and takes a single jab step inside, before accelerating back outside, running past the defender, and continuing to widen toward the sidelines, opening up the window for the throw.

Knowing that Cooper’s route will take a bit of time to develop, the Raiders use six offensive linemen to help make sure Carr has time to get the ball off.  The Chargers are able to scheme a bit of pressure, as the left guard is slow to pass off the defensive end and pick up the linebacker blitzing through the B-gap, who is able to get a hit on Carr as he releases the ball.

Carr deserves plenty of credit here as well, as he makes a very slight move to his right — the kind that elite quarterbacks make within the pocket to avoid pressure. This slight move within the pocket gives Carr just the extra split-second of time he needs to make the throw before taking the hit.

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