How ineffective is Riley Cooper as a starting wide receiver?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Are we being too hard on Riley Cooper?

There has been a lot of talk, both recently and entering the season, that Riley Cooper is not worthy of starting a game and/or cannot get open. With that said, we must consider two things: his blocking and his receiving. While his blocking is terrific (few if any would deny that if they actually watch games), he does struggle to get separation on routes and/or fails to get yards after the catch when the ball is in his hands. Cooper's lack of production has somewhat put the Eagles in a bind with only DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant serving as wide receivers along with tight ends like Zach Ertz and Brent Celek.

The limitation that is put on weapons is tough for a quarterback. If you look at teams that only have one major option as a receiver, most of them struggle to score points. The Eagles quarterbacks, Michael Vick and Nick Foles, have not had that trouble but have stalled on drives and thrown incomplete passes because Jackson and Cooper have not been able to get open. The results have made it hard for the Eagles to grow momentum at times.

So with all the doubts about Cooper as a starter, I figured that I would look into how ineffective he is compared to number two receivers on all teams. The results are not very pretty:

Num Name Team Rec. Yards TD
1 Alshon Jeffery Bears 28 429 2
2 Eric Decker Broncos 29 427 2
3 Hakeem Nicks Giants 21 372
4 Nate Washington Titans 22 362 2
5 Jerome Simpson Vikings 19 342
6 T.Y. Hilton Colts 20 342 2
7 Brian Hartline Dolphins 25 332 2
8 Randall Cobb Packers 25 325 2
9 Donnie Avery Chiefs 16 304 1
10 Michael Floyd Cardinals 21 304
11 Doug Baldwin Seahawks 17 296 1
12 DeAndre Hopkins Texans 22 293 1
13 Kenbrell Thompkins Patriots 18 273 3
14 Robert Woods Bills 16 265 2
15 Nate Burleson Lions 19 239
16 Emmanuel Sanders Steelers 20 231
17 Rod Streater Raiders 16 228 1
18 Austin Pettis Rams 22 222 4
19 Eddie Royal Chargers 18 216 5
20 Jeremy Kerley Jets 14 203 1
21 Davone Bess Browns 21 202
22 Leonard Hankerson Redskins 15 185 2
23 Mohamed Sanu Bengals 18 174
24 Mike Williams Buccaneers 15 164 2
25 Ace Sanders Jaguars 14 162
26 Marlon Brown Ravens 14 150 3
27 Kenny Stills Saints 7 134
28 Roddy White Falcons 14 129
29 Miles Austin Cowboys 15 125
30 Brandon LaFell Panthers 11 113 2
31 Riley Cooper Eagles 8 93 1
32 Kyle Williams 49ers 9 87

Update: Let's throw Jason Avant's numbers into the mix. Avant has 15 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers would essentially place him 23rd in yardage and he is about average for touches.

Keep in mind that these results were calculated through Week 5 (TNF's stats are not calculated). This table shows that Cooper is 31st in both receptions and yards. Compared to the likes of Alshon Jeffery and Eric Decker, you would think Cooper is the number four wide receiver on the Eagles. That said, it would make a lot of sense to view him in that light. Jackson is obviously the number one receiver, you have the tight ends, Jason Avant is targeted quite a bit and then there is also LeSean McCoy, who gets tons of catches out of the backfield.

While we may be displeased with Cooper as a starter, his blocking is obviously the key for Chip Kelly. When you take a step back and realize that he is about the sixth option on offense, his numbers actually make a ton of sense. However, maybe we still should expect more play-making from your starters.

It will be interesting to see how Cooper is used against a Buccaneers defense that features zone coverage and will likely stack the box against McCoy. If Cooper fails to take advantage, he very well may see less time on the field.

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