Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been working on deep throws since he was a little kid. His father Rodger would stand a spot anywhere from 38 to 45 yards out, and Derek would have to throw three straight catchable balls before they could go in for the night.
“I’d sit there sometimes hit two in a row and then miss one. He’d say, 'do it again,'" Carr said. “It wasn’t in a bad way. That’s my mindset too. I wanted to make them perfect. It’s just rep after rep.”
Carr throws a ton of deep balls to his receivers, an effort that has been a point of emphasis throughout the offseason. Every wideout has unique preferences, so Carr will throw a slightly different deep pass to Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Andre Holmes.
Finding the right spot hasn’t changed Carr was a kid. It still takes practice, practice, practice.
Carr’s tried several deep passes this preseason, which several attempts slightly off target. During Saturday’s exhibition against Tennessee, he was spot on.
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He hit Cooper on a 29-yard touchdown pass that allowed the shifty receiver to find inside space and catch it low. Earlier in the game Carr dropped a 41-yard smart bomb just over Crabtree’s shoulder for a big gain that led to the first-unit offense’s first touchdown this preseason. They made it look easy, as they have during several connections this preseason.
“That was because of a lot of practice,” Crabtree said. “We've been practicing the go-ball and really all the routes. It was a good ball. I think he couldn't have thrown it any better.”
Crabtree has extreme confidence in Carr’s ability to go long. He likes deep passes when he gets single coverage and safeties shading other ways, calling for go routes in those situations. Carr and Crabtree have connected twice thus far in those situations, and going vertical – it’s a Raiders tradition – could be a valuable weapon in 2016.
Crabtree was Carr’s most reliable option last season. They connected 85 times for 922 yards and nine touchdowns in 2015, and remain in great sync heading into this season.
The receivers’ oldest brother is excited about his second season in Oakland, the first of a four-year extension signed last winter. He believes familiarity in personnel and scheme should help a passing game in fine form a year ago.
“That is always good, that team chemistry, two years back-to-back,” Crabtree said. “This program has not really had the same coordinator, same coach, same players for two years, so that is all good for those guys. I am just ready to put it all together and go out here and play. We got one more preseason game and then we on.”
Most frontline players will sit out Thursday’s exhibition finale, and Crabtree is pleased the starting unit put together several quality drives against the Titans.
Crabtree has had a solid summer, although less spectacular than last year’s camp, when he put on a show each practice while trying to build a rapport with Carr and the coaching staff.
He has built on that in subtle ways, leading a young group of receivers while trying to expand on a solid relationship with his quarterback. That doesn’t just happen in with reps. He has become a sounding board for Carr, who appreciates having a like-minded player leading the receiver corps.
“He’s a really good friend and he’s also someone that has experienced a lot of football and has experienced a lot of different quarterbacks,” Carr said. “He’s experienced a lot of different coaching styles. We talk all the time, if you ever watch during stretch, ‘Crab’ and me will talk from the beginning of it to the end of it.
“It’s something new every time. Sometimes it’s about our boys and sometimes it’s about football and it’s about different coaching styles, different things that he used to communicate that would make sense to him and things that make sense to me. He’s very intelligent and very intellectual when it comes to football. He likes the thinking part of it. It’s fun to be around a guy like that because I’m the same way. So, I like to be able to talk to him like that.”