BEREA — Amari Cooper is a model of consistency.
He’s 68 yards shy of his sixth 1,000-yard receiving season in eight years in the league. He’s been a Pro Bowler four times and was voted an alternate this year. He’s considered one of the league’s premier route runners and has strong, sure hands.
He’s proud of the career he’s established.
“I mean, it’s cool,” Cooper said of the collection of 1,000-yard seasons. “It’s something that I expect to do every year barring injury or things like that. Really just trying to reach that next level, 1,500-yard seasons, things like that.”
The 28-year-old wideout believes the best is yet to come.
“It’s definitely fair (to say that),” he said. “Just gotta keep grinding, keep working hard, and I think the opportunity will meet the preparation.”
Cooper has 67 catches for 932 yards and seven touchdowns — tied for seventh in the league — in his first season with the Browns after they acquired him in March in a trade with the Cowboys. He’s in position to set career highs in yards and touchdowns, surpassing the 1,189 and eight he had in 2019 with the Cowboys. He also had eight touchdowns last year. His best reception total is 92 in 2019, so he would have to go on a tear over the final three games, which will be difficult with wind and cold in the forecast for Saturday against the Saints and Cooper fighting through a core muscle injury.
Regardless of how the final three games go, Cooper’s made quite an impact in his first season in Cleveland. He’s signed through 2024 at $20 million per season.
“Really proud of him,” coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “Getting to know him over the course of the season and how seriously he takes it, it means a lot to him.
“His route-running is as good as I have ever been around. His (ability) to create separation, his suddenness, his ability to put his foot in the ground and break with violence at the top of the routes to create separation and just tries to do it right every time, I think that is the biggest thing. His film study is really, really strong. The quarterbacks and he will text on the side often, ‘Did you see this clip?’ or they will send film clips back and forth, so I know how hard he works at it.”
The vast majority of Cooper’s production came with quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who started the first 11 games while Deshaun Watson was suspended following more than two dozen accusations of sexual misconduct. Watson is a three-time Pro Bowler and led the NFL in passing in 2020, so it’s fair to expect even more from Cooper when they have a full season together.
“Obviously the relationship between quarterback and receiver is huge,” said Cooper, who played with Derek Carr on the Raiders and Dak Prescott on the Cowboys. “Every receiver wants to have a great quarterback like Deshaun throwing them the ball. So, yeah, the quarterback really matters to me for sure. So, yeah, it’s a good thing.”
In three games with Watson, including the last two playing through the core muscle injury, Cooper has 10 catches for 140 yards. They’re looking for their first touchdown together. Cooper remains bothered by the injury — he practiced only Thursday this week — and reiterated he’s not thinking about whether he’ll need offseason surgery to repair it.
Watson is grateful to have Cooper in any capacity as he adjusts to coach Kevin Stefanski’s system and life on the field after going 700 days between games.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” Watson said. “It’s a blessing to be able to have Amari and the things that he can do and the things that he’s seen and just be able to be that big brother for me. Because he’s older than me, so I have an opportunity to learn from him and what other quarterbacks he played with was thinking and what he thinks on certain coverages versus certain DBs. And then also for him to be able to talk with the younger receivers and show them the way to be a professional and how to prep for each one of the games. It’s awesome to see.”
As the Browns as an organization and many players individually search for consistency, Cooper is a rock.
“Just the preparation. He don’t really change anything,” Watson said. “He knows how to adjust. He’s a professional. He studies very, very hard and he understands what we want with him in this system.
“And for him to be able to do that, he knows his opportunity’s going to come, he’s not going to force the issue and whenever his opportunities come, he takes advantage of them.”
Cooper’s first 1,000-yard season came as a rookie with the Oakland Raiders in 2015 after he was the No. 4 pick out of the University of Alabama. He fell short with 680 in 14 games in 2017, then reached a grand in three straight seasons before 865 in 15 games last year.
Reaching four digits is important to him.
“Yeah, for sure. It’s a milestone that people respect,” he said. “It’s the milestone that people start to view a receiver like, ‘Yeah, he had a good season.’”
As Cooper stacks milestone seasons and Pro Bowl invitations, it’s natural to think about Hall of Fame consideration if he can keep up the pace for several more years.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there,” he said. “I’m sure every player who’s ever dreamt of being in the NFL has set that goal, but gotta be where your feet are.”