Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer 18d

Can EJ Manuel get Amari Cooper 'rolling' for the Raiders?

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Yeah, you could say that Amari Cooper is off to a slow start for the Oakland Raiders. And you could surmise that he'll be important to new starting quarterback EJ Manuel as he takes over for the injured Derek Carr on Sunday at home against the Baltimore Ravens.

Like, extremely important.

Even with Cooper's league-leading seven drops in four games. It's part of the reason Cooper said he planned on taking extra passes from Manuel both before and after practice this week.

"So I can get kind of acquainted with the way he throws the ball," Cooper said Wednesday.

"All quarterbacks throw the ball a little bit different. I think EJ throws the ball a little bit harder, so I'll have to adjust to that."

Cooper, who has a pair of 1,000-yard receiving years and Pro Bowl nods in his first two NFL seasons, is on pace for just 440 receiving yards, four touchdowns and 48 catches. And now, he has to get used to a new quarterback for the time being.

For his part, Manuel is looking forward to getting Cooper going.

"Definitely, I think we can do a great job with allowing Coop to be who he is," Manuel said. "There's no pressure on him because we know he's a great player. That's why I threw that pass on Sunday, because I know Coop is one of those guys that if you give him a 50/50 chance, oftentimes he'll come down with it.

"So we definitely want to get him rolling. Get his confidence rolling and everything like that and get him some touches early so we can make some plays."

Manuel was referencing the 41-yard, potential game-winning throw against Denver last weekend, the play in which Cooper briefly flashed open down the left side before safety Justin Simmons came over from center field to pick off the ball and seal the Broncos' 16-10 victory.

Cooper agreed that it's imperative to get a few balls thrown his way early in a game to get a rhythm started. But no, he does not ask for passes.

"I just try to stay within the offense," Cooper said.

And that offense, Cooper insisted, will remain the same under Manuel as it was Carr. Still, the Raiders would no doubt like to see said offense actually move against the Ravens, unlike the stuck-in-the-mud looks it has shown the past two weeks, in losses at Washington and Denver.

And even if Denver did show more zone looks on defense against Manuel than it did Carr, Manuel did jump-start the Raiders and had them in position to pull off an unlikely win.

"I saw a lot of poise," Cooper said of Manuel. "He got in there, he was comfortable, seems like he was confident in his preparation."

And that momentum and confidence from Manuel carries over to the rest of the team, yes?

"Of course," Cooper said, "because the quarterback is the leader of the team. He's constantly preparing. He's always writing in his notes. This is his opportunity, so hopefully all goes as planned."

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