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Cooper emerging as much-needed outside threat
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OAKLAND -– The Eagles’ search for a wide receiver to take some of the pressure off DeSean Jackson may have come to an end.

Right at Riley Cooper’s locker.

Sunday night, for the third time in the last four games, Cooper had a big performance for the Eagles, and this one was even better because not only did the Eagles win, but Cooper was also on the receiving end of three of Nick Foles’ NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes.

Cooper caught five passes for 139 yards with touchdowns of 17, 63 and 5 yards and also had a run of 18 yards on a backwards lateral in the Eagles’ 49-20 win over the Raiders.

That’s 157 yards from scrimmage, including receptions of 42 and 63 yards.

Career day. Career month.

In his first five games, Cooper ranked dead last among all NFL starting receivers with eight catches for 83 yards.

The last four, he has 17 receptions for 360 yards and finds himself now with 25 catches for 453 yards and five touchdowns this year, all career highs.

Over the last four weeks, only two receivers -- Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green -- have more receiving yards in the entire NFL.

Cooper, who has surpassed his career highs of 23 catches (in 2011) for 315 yards (2010) and three touchdowns (2012), is now on pace for 44 catches, 805 yards and eight touchdowns.

Not bad.

“It’s definitely fun when you feel like you’re contributing, that’s the biggest thing,” Cooper said postgame in the visiting locker room at O.co Coliseum.

“I don’t want 1,000 yards every game, I don’t want multiple touchdowns every game, I just want to contribute every week and be there for my teammates, and that’s what I want to do.”

Ever since Jeremy Maclin was lost for the season with a torn ACL, fans have been clamoring for the Eagles to trade for Josh Gordon, Kenny Britt or some other underachieving one-time mediocre veteran receiver with off-field issues.

But the plan was always to stick with what they had throughout the offseason and try to make it work. The Eagles were never going to part with draft picks for a receiver who doesn’t know the system and might not even fit in.

A lot of people, including some very prominent national columnists, urged the Eagles to cut ties with Cooper after his celebrated offseason incident, when he was caught on video yelling a racial slur at a security guard at a summer Kenny Chesney concert.

But the Eagles stuck with him. And it’s paying off.

“I love Riley to death,” Foles said. “He had that thing, but he’s really grown up as a person.

“I’ve always thought the world of him and he has tremendous ability as an athlete. His ability to go get the ball and make plays is unbelievable. I’m really proud of him for what he’s doing.”

Cooper is catching the ball extremely well right now. His 42-yard catch and run in the first quarter got the Eagles out of the soup on a 2nd-and-16 from their own 10-yard line on their first drive and helped set up Foles’ first TD pass, a two-yarder to Brent Celek.

Cooper opened the second quarter with a 17-yard TD, and less than three minutes later beat corner D.J. Hayden, the 12th pick in this year’s draft, on a 63-yard TD.

Cooper’s final TD was a five-yarder late in the third quarter on Foles’ final completion of the game.

“That’s the Coop I know,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “I think some people wanted to throw him under the bus after the first couple of games because he hadn’t caught as many balls as people wanted him to.

“He’s a big, physical target, and the first touchdown was a great example. He kind of muscled up and kind of got physical and got by the guy. That’s the one thing that Coop can do, is that when he’s covered 1-on-1 against the smaller defensive backs he cannot get knocked off and does a great job catching the football.

“I’m really happy with Coop’s production. He did a couple of things similar to what he did in the Tampa Bay game. We found him when he was covered 1-on-1, and he was real productive.”

Cooper is only the 12th Eagle in history with three receiving touchdowns in a game, the first since Kevin Curtis against the Lions in 2007.

He’s the first wide receiver drafted by the Eagles to catch three TDs in a game for the team since Calvin Williams more than two decades ago in a September 1993 game against the Redskins.

“I was just out there playing my game,” Cooper said. “Playing football, and the quarterback put it right where it needed to be every play, so I give the credit to him.”