ALAMEDA, Calif. — Despite being in their second season as teammates in Oakland, Derek Carr said there are still times even he is surprised by the strength and reliability of Michael Crabtree’s hands.
So sometimes in practice, Carr will test his star wideout by throwing an extra hard pass or one when Crabtree might not be quite ready, just to see whether he can still make the catch.
“He’ll just turn around and just catch it with one hand and it makes you feel like you can’t throw the ball hard at all,” Carr said Wednesday.
“It’s just effortless to him, sometimes he’ll catch the ball and he’s not even looking. … The stuff he does is ridiculous. He can get away with it because he’s gifted in that way. I wouldn’t tell little kids to try and catch like that.”
But it’s working quite well for Crabtree, whose career has undergone a resurgence since he left San Francisco following the 2014 season to sign up with Carr and the Raiders last year.
After matching career highs with 85 catches and nine touchdowns last season, Crabtree is off to an even better start this season.
After setting a career high with three touchdown catches in last week’s 28-27 win at Baltimore , Crabtree has 26 catches for 308 yards and four touchdowns, just one quarter of the way through the season as he builds a strong rapport with Carr.
“It’s growing and it’s been very special,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think from Day 1, Michael has been a guy that we all consider very friendly to the quarterback. He has great hands, he understands how to get open. He’s a very competitive guy. Getting all those guys on the same page is huge.”
Carr lobbied the Raiders last spring to sign Crabtree, who played with Carr’s older brother, David, in San Francisco. Crabtree took part in offseason passing drills with Carr to build that chemistry and the work continues to this day.
They frequently try to get in extra work and practice to make sure they are on the same page on game day.
“What I want most is to be great,” Carr said. “That’s what he wants. We always consistently push each other to make sure we’re getting those reps.
“On top of that, making sure we’re always talking. Even during the games, we sit near each other and he’ll come up to me before the drive. We’ll talk about the situation. He’s in the game like a quarterback. He wants to know what I’m thinking at all times.”
That chemistry has contributed to Crabtree becoming perhaps Carr’s most trusted option in key moments. His 21 catches for first downs are the most in the league and he has been on the receiving end of some of Oakland’s most important passes this season.
Crabtree caught the game-winning 2-point conversion in Week 1 at New Orleans and then made three catches for 49 yards in last week’s game-winning drive at Baltimore, including a 23-yard touchdown with 2:12 left that gave the Raiders a 28-27 win.
“He was so committed to running the routes how I wanted it done, he was so committed to our relationship being right,” Carr said.
“He was so committed to making sure he made so many plays for me that I would always look his way, that’s what he wants and so far he’s done that.”
NOTES: The Raiders promoted TE Ryan O’Malley to the active roster and placed TE Lee Smith on injured reserve. … The team also signed LB Tyrell Adams and LB Darnell Sankey to the practice squad. … RT Austin Howard returned to practice after missing the past two games with an ankle injury. … RB Latavius Murray (toe), RT Menelik Watson (calf), LB Malcolm Smith (quadriceps), TE Clive Walford (right knee) and S Nate Allen (quadriceps) were among the players to miss practice.