FLORHAM PARK: Brandon Marshall stood by his locker pondering the question that had just been asked. He waited a few seconds and stared into the distance as he tried to figure out just who Raiders wideout Amari Cooper reminded him of.
After all, while this is Marshall’s first season with the Jets, he has played nine others in the NFL. He’s seen his fair share of elite-level wideouts, played against countless others.
So who, just who, does Cooper most resemble?
Finally, Marshall answered. There wasn’t one, but two.
“It’s like a mix of (ex-Bengals receiver Chad) Ochocinco and (Bengals receiver) A.J. Green,” Marshall said. “I can’t explain it. I’m a fan of him.”
Ever since being selected with the No. 4 pick in this year’s NFL Draft, Cooper has been making countless fans across the NFL. The Alabama product, in just six games, has already caught 33 passes for 519 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite being viewed by scouts as a player that wasn’t necessarily ‘great’ at any one thing, but rather ‘good’ at everything, Cooper has already displayed an elite ability to go up and get the ball. Against the San Diego Chargers a week ago, the wideout reached up into double coverage to make a leaping grab down the field.
Cooper has shown he can get deep, has the speed to pull away from the defense and the hands to make any catch.
“He’s a stud. He’s a stud muffin,” Marshall said. “He’s so smooth. I don’t even know how to explain this guy. I’ve never really seen this type of player before. He’s fast, he’s smooth, he can run routes, his releases at the line of scrimmage—he gives you everything.”
Helping Cooper’s immediate NFL success is Raiders second-year quarterback Derek Carr. The two have found quick chemistry together, and that chemistry has translated to on-field success.
As a rookie, Carr completed just 58 percent of his passes and threw for 3,270 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. But this year, the Fresno State product is on pace to shatter those marks. Replicating what he’s done through the first six games, Carr is set to complete 65 percent of his passes and throw for 3,893 yards with 29 touchdowns and just eight picks.
While Carr said it helps having a player like Cooper that can “turn a one-yard play into a touchdown,” he also credited his improvement in year No. 2 to him simply getting more comfortable playing at the NFL level.
“I just think that the game has slowed down from last year,” Carr said. “Going into your second year after starting your first year, the game slows down a lot. I still have a long way to go in learning this game and all those things. I’d say that’s the biggest spot.”
Cooper and Carr are two of several key pieces on a Raiders offense that has undergone a resurgence over the last two years. In free agency this year, the team added wideout Michael Crabtree, a former first-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers. Aside from Cooper, Oakland also snagged running back Latavius Murray, who has already rushed for 421 yards and three scores, in the sixth round of the draft.
Couple those skill positions, with an offensive line that’s significantly improved, and you’ve got an offense capable of giving a defense fits.
“Definitely, I’d say they have an all around game,” Jets safety Marcus Gilchrist said. “They’ve got two guys on the outside and a good quarterback, a big physical running back that can run the ball and, not even just the running back, they have a big, physical offense live. “
In the box, the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson will look to make their way through Oakland’s offensive line to make the lives of Carr and Murray miserable.
But then again, the Jets game plan Sunday will be the same they’ve had each week of the regular season. And for the majority of each of New York’s first six games, that plan of attack has been successful.
The Jets are allowing the second fewest average total yards per game, the fewest average rushing yards, fourth fewest passing and fourth-lowest points (17.5). New York has also forced 15 turnovers, tied for third-most in the NFL.
“It’s a big challenge. It’s a really, really good group,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “They’ve got talented players, really good design, good coaching. They’re a disciplined group. We’ll have our work cut out for us, but we’re looking forward to the competition.”
Aiding the Raiders chances just a bit is the fact the Jets will be traveling cross-country to meet Oakland in the Coliseum. Once there, the Raider faithful are sure to create quite the rowdy atmosphere.
Oakland fans are known for their uncanny ability to dress up in pirate-themed gear, complete with face paint, spiked shoulder pads and more.
Believe it or not, Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s played in Oakland quite a few times during his decade in the NFL, is looking forward to going back.
“The fans are pretty crazy out there,” Fitzpatrick said. “(It’s like) You’re in the witness protection program. I think it’s a fun atmosphere.
“I’m sure coming off of last week’s win it’ll be nice and noisy.”
This article will also appear in Saturday's edition of The Journal Inquirer