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Carr eager to work with talented, versatile rookie receivers

Updated August 5, 2020 - 12:33 pm

The joined-at-the-hip nature of the quarterback-coach relationship sometimes means the quarterback being privy to the thought process of the coach. So it was in the days leading up to last April’s draft when Raiders coach Jon Gruden looped in Derek Carr on a pair of prospects the Raiders were targeting.

He said, ‘Look, I like this guy and I like that guy.’ ” Carr remembers Gruden telling him the day before the draft.

It was Carr’s first introduction to Alabama’s Henry Ruggs and South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards, two dynamic college wide receivers Carr would soon be calling teammates.

“The next day, we drafted both of them,” Carr said. “It was pretty impressive how that worked out.”

COVID-19 created a major roadblock to Carr and his new weapons building relationships the last three months, let alone on-field chemistry. But the detective in Carr soon began scouring game tape of both players to get a feel for them, and the leader in him resulted in some impromptu practices at local Las Vegas parks.

The effusive manner in which Carr describes his initial impressions — and the praise Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson is heaping on the newcomers — leaves little doubt that Ruggs and Edwards have a chance to make an immediate impact. In the process, they could help lift an offense that averaged the 24th-fewest points in the NFL.

One week into practice, and a handful of football-related walk-throughs, Carr can already see the impact the additions are having on creating an element of explosiveness, depth and options on the Raiders’ offense.

Three years into Gruden and Mike Mayock’s Raiders rebuild, Carr can see the difference with Ruggs, Edwards and Lynn Bowden being added to Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow.

“When we break the huddle, it feels different. When we break the huddle, it’s like, ‘Oh wow! What do you want to stop?’ Because if you want to play this, we are going to do this. You want to do this, we are going to do that,” Carr said. “We have some firepower.”

In an offseason sabotaged by COVID-19, the youngsters have shown an ability to digest the Raiders’ playbook in quick order.

“Both of them have shown in what we’ve done the last couple days that they are very intelligent players, and that’s a huge plus for what we want to do offensively,” Olson said. “We like (Edwards) as a big guy outside, don’t get me wrong. As a single receiver outside by himself, I think he’s going to develop into a great one. But he’s shown the intelligence to move inside and also the savviness in a route runner to run some of those inside slot routes.

“So we’ll start him out outside. We’ll start with Ruggs in the slot and do some things with Ruggs. But those guys are very multiple in what they can do. … The goal is to be able to move all of them around to different spots: the one, two or three position at the wide receiver.”

In particular, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Edwards jumped out at Carr on film.

“He reminds me of that kind of guy, someone that not only can use his physicalness in the route, but also when the ball is in the air,” Carr said. “He runs a double post, he runs a fade against Tennessee. He runs a fade at home at South Carolina. Some of these things that I watched him on film do before the draft, you sit there and you’re like, ‘Bro, this guy you can tell, this guy has a freak talent.’ ”

In the short time Carr has worked with Edwards, he’s already come up with some comparisons for him.

“He reminds me of, when the ball is in the air, of Davante (Adams)” Carr said of the Packers wide receiver. “Great ball skills. … Davante is someone where, there’s just a trust. When (Michael) Crabtree was here, our goal-line offense was hand it off or throw a fade to Crab. He reminds me of that kind of guy, someone that not only can use his physicalness in the route, but also when the ball is in the air.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore onTwitter

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