Michael Crabtree signed with the Raiders prior to the 2015 season in part, because he believed Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was a player with whom he could win.
"I needed new scenery. It wasn't for me," Crabtree said after signing with the Raiders. "I needed a quarterback that can deliver the ball, and that was hungry like I was."
Crabtree has played a big role in Carr’s development and has formed a dynamic duo along with 2015 top pick Amari Cooper. What has been apparent since Crabtree arrived is the level of trust Carr has in him and how much easier he makes Carr’s job.
“He’s got great hands.” Carr said after Wednesday's training camp practice. “I don’t know why. I think he probably makes it look a little more comfortable than I do the way he catches the ball sometimes.”
That ability to make tough catches helped the Raiders jump out to a week one win over the New Orleans Saints last season and set Crabtree on pace for his best season in five years.
On 2nd and 6, Carr is under quick pressure and has to get the ball out. Even though the Saints cornerback has good man coverage on Crabtree, Carr gives his receiver a chance to make a play.
Plays like this typically are a result of all of the things fans do not get to see. This chemistry is born from practice and a genuine personal relationship. The tape shows that Crabtree is Carr’s “security blanket”. When Carr is in trouble or needs a big catch, Crabtree is who he looks to.
“Honestly, we get along like brothers.” Carr continued. “We’ll argue about something and then 30 seconds later talk about, ‘Just throw me the ball,’ kind of thing. It’s just our relationship is so cool, so fun because we’re the same. Super competitive. We both know how things should get done and how we want them done. I think that that’s what brings the best out of us. I know I can rely on him no matter what.”
Look no further than this play as an example of when Carr is in trouble, Crabtree is his go to outlet.
The Saints send a 6-man rush that gets pressure on Carr. As Carr is forced out of the pocket he looks to Crabtree on his out route. Crabtree is covered pretty well on the play. This is were the chemistry comes into play. Crabtree instinctively “hitches up” his out route, meaning he works back to his quarterback.
This action is what give Carr the space he needs to complete the pass. It seems simple but this play does not happen if the quarterback and receiver are not on the same page. It was the difference between a sack or incompletion and the first down this play resulted in.
There may not have been many moments of trust displayed between Carr and any of his receivers than on this play.
The Raiders could have tied this game with a little over 40 seconds left in the 4th quarter. Instead the chose to attempt a 2-point conversion to win the game. It is entirely possible that Carr went to the line with other plays he could check to depending on how the defense lined up, but he stuck with a fade to Crabtree. Crabtree made the catch despite great press coverage and the Raiders held on for the 1-point victory.
Another offseason with both Crabtree and Amari Cooper will build upon the rapport the trio have had for the last two seasons. Carr will continue looking to the guy with whom he is most “comfortable” in crunch time.