NAPA – Derek Carr and Amari Cooper aren’t neighbors, but they don’t live far apart. That made games of catch convenient at local parks this spring, and the franchise quarterback and top receiver have taken advantage.
There’s a concerted effort to enhance chemistry – as if AC/DC wasn’t electric already – in a big year for both. Carr and Cooper had solid seasons in 2015 but are looking to become an elite pass-catch combo this year, pulling out stops to expedite the process.
Cooper joined Carr’s off-the-books passing camp this summer, and the pair asked to be roommates in a training camp that started last week at the Napa Valley Marriott. They aren’t a natural fit. Carr’s a talkative sort, and Cooper, more talkative now with greater comfort as a pro, would never be called gregarious. The pair are working well together, even in tight quarters.
“We’re having a good time, man,” Carr said. “It’s good to come back and just talk ball with him. He tells me his goals, I share my stuff with him and we’re able to… I know how he thinks. I know how he likes to go about his business. I know what he likes to do off the field.
“Amari and I should have the best relationship ever. The same thing goes with all of my receivers and all my teammates, really. The fact that we’re roommates only helps because we get to see each other away from football, away from the coaches. It’s been awesome.”
Carr and Cooper have seemed in sync since the offseason program. Observers made note of the enhanced connection between quarterback and wideout, and great sync is a goal because one can’t truly improve without the other.
Carr and Cooper get that. Carr threw for 3,987 yards last season; 27 percent of that sum went to Cooper. He was targeted 123 times, on 21 percent of Carr’s passes. The completion rate was under 60 percent, a number they’d prefer higher.
Cooper in particular ended 2015 a little disappointed. He was hindered by a foot injury late in 2015 and drops throughout the season, and has been pushing hard to make a greater impact this time around. Cooper is bigger, fresher and confident he’s ready to elevate his game.
That chemistry with Carr is crucial, despite the fact he already trusts Cooper in all situations. Cooper wants to find subtle advantages, even when away from practice fields and meeting rooms.
“(As roommates), we get to talk more,” Cooper said. “We are in the room studying plays and we go over some of the things that I can make adjustments on or that maybe he can make adjustments on.”
The adjustments happen fast these days, something Raiders coaches like to see.
“I think all that interaction helps their rapport,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “They talk football, they talk life and it’s a good thing. Back in the day (49ers quarterback) Steve Young and (tight end) Brent Jones were roommates for years the night before the game. It’s just good, as those two young players grow together, to be more productive...
"They like football, and they want to be great.”