MINNEAPOLIS – Raiders quarterback Derek Carr stood behind center and surveyed the opposition. He saw that the Minnesota Vikings planned to bring weak side pressure, and his front had it well protected.
It also meant less coverage, and left rookie receiver Amari Cooper in single coverage down the right sideline. It seemed as good a time as any to let one fly.
“With the pressure, I thought the corner might sit on a route heading for the (first-down marker),” Carr said after Saturday’s 20-12 preseason loss to the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. “Amari did a good job of setting the route up. The guy is smart beyond his years when it comes to route running. He set their guy up, and then showed great burst going deep.”
Carr threw a perfectly placed 40-yard bomb to Cooper, who caught it in stride and got both feet down before running out of bounds.
It was the type of play severely lacking from last year’s offense. The Raiders didn’t have the big-play threats. That’s a major reason why Carr completed just seven passes of 40-plus yards in 16 games and averaged 5.5 yards per pass attempt.
Now, between Cooper and Michael Crabtree and the speed and vision of running back Latavius Murray, the Raiders have big-play capability.
That was evident on the Raiders’ second series, highlighted by the Cooper-Carr connection and completed with Murray’s two-yard touchdown run.
“We have some explosive qualities,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Derek throws a great deep ball and we have some guys who can get behind people. We have running backs with some juice, who can take a little running room and turn it into big gains for us. The explosive part of it was pretty good.”
The consistency wasn’t there, though it’s difficult to project what a starting offense would do over four quarters as opposed to four series.
“We felt like we moved the ball well on that second series, though we obviously want more out of the other drives,” Carr said. “We have a lot of stuff to clean up, especially pre-snap, but it felt good to move the ball well.”
The Raiders are trying to push the ball downfield more often. Carr took another shot to a wide-open Seth Roberts following a double move, but the ball landed just outside the young receiver’s grasp. Christian Ponder hit Roberts for a 39-yard gain.
Generally speaking, the Raiders seem unafraid to go for it when the time is right.