Derek Carr found Amari Cooper between Raiders practice reps, looking to make an adjustment. Quarterback and receiver chatted for a little bit, Carr gesticulated Cooper’s route before both men nodded in agreement.
Then, on the next first-unit rep, Cooper got open early and Carr hit him in stride for a big gain. It’s uncertain what was said in the aforementioned adjustment, but it didn’t take long to get in sync.
That comes with time and, after a year working together, it was clear during last week’s minicamp that Cooper and Carr have strong chemistry.
“It’s awesome to see,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “It’s a big part of what we want to be about is developing our players. You’re exactly right. Now it’s their second year together. I think you see a comfort level and understanding of where each other is going to be. They can count on each other. We want to continue to develop that, push hard for that. You saw some nice example where they were connecting and it looked really good.”
Carr and Cooper connected 72 times for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns last year – he was targeted in 123 instances -- including some big games early in his rookie season. Cooper led the NFL with 20 drops, a stat that bothers him but has had zero impact on Carr’s belief his top wideout can make every play.
“I’m able to trust where he’s going to be,” Carr said. “I’m used to seeing his routes run a certain way. Those are things that take time, like we talked about last year. It’s nice to see all of the hard work in practice that we’ve had together paying off out here in practice and hopefully come August, September and through the season.”
Cooper had one solid spring. He’s fresh, bulked up some with the explosiveness and dynamic ability that made him a fan favorite. He’s a smooth route runner with great physical tools, and precision with the quarterback could take his game to the next level.
Carr and Cooper could be together a while – the Raiders prefer to reward their own – and could provide the dynamic connection the Raiders haven’t had in years.
Carr has been given more freedom within the Raiders offense, and can make adjustments to best use Cooper’s talent. The receiver expects greater returns after a Pro Bowl season he considered a disappointment, and his work with Carr will help achieve that end.
“It’s comfort,” Cooper said. “I know with every route that I run, I know where Derek wants to go with the ball. I know how he wants to throw it. That will be the best words to describe it.
“It’s been a process, definitely. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s communicating because you can’t run every route in one day. It’s just communicating and getting to know him and how he wants to throw the ball and things like that.”