The Oakland Raiders held their final practice before opening the preseason Friday night at O.co Colisum at their Napa Valley Training Complex Wednesday afternoon.
Quarterback Derek Carr spoke to the media following practice, and during his session spoke about the growth of rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper as well as the improvement of the team heading into the new season.
THE CONTINUED GROWTH OF AMARI COOPER
Since arriving in Oakland, rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper has been impressive, flashing the polished route-running and impressive pass-catching ability that made him the first wide receiver taken in this year's NFL Draft.
As impressive as he's been, Carr has seen even more improvement in the rookie wide out since training camp got underway.
"One thing I can say about him is the guy gets better at something every day. Whether it's a step here on his route, you know, there's so much in the NFL that goes on at the line of scrimmage. As to college you're just running by guys. And so he's gotten so much better and so much growth in just that area. And he's doing great things, whether it's at the top of the route, like he did today on a third down. Whatever it is, there's little things he's getting better at."
WELCOME BACK, CLIVE
Rookie tight end Clive Walford returned to the practice field Wednesday for his second day of work at Training Camp 2015 after missing the first week and a half due to injury.
The imposing tight end provides Carr a big target, and the second-year quarterback gave his thoughts about Walford's return to practice.
"He's a big-time target. Obviously, we all see his size. He has great range, and I've said this too about a couple of guys, he's easy to throw to. Whether it's his route-running ability, or his ability to go get the ball in the air, he's very quarterback friendly. It was good to see him out there."
THE GROWING RELATIONSHIP WITH MICHAEL CRABTREE
Since the team arrived at training camp, it's been evident that Carr and veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree have established an impressive on-field rapport.
Carr spoke about this growing connection, as well as about Crabtree as a person.
"He's a great guy. I love just being around him. We crack jokes, making fun of each other all the time. We're always joking around, just doing stuff like that. But we like to have fun. That's what we like to do, man. With Crabtree, he just wants to have fun and compete, and we just like to do that."
YOU WANT TO LOOK CLEAN
The Raiders open the preseason Friday night, taking on the St. Louis Rams at O.co Coliseum.
While it's just the first preseason game and Carr doesn't know how long he and the starters will be on the field, he believes the most important thing is putting together a clean performance.
"We just want to go out there, you know the preseason is to go out there and execute playing against someone else and look clean. You don't want to have like little penalties like false starts, or offside. You don't want stuff like that. You want to go out there and play your assignment clean. Obviously you want to go out there and be physical. You want to go out there and obviously assert yourselves as a team. That's every football game. But, for the most part you want to make sure we're taking what we've done in practice going under the lights and just being clean with what we're doing."
VERSATILITY OF MARCEL REECE
Since he arrived at the Raiders Alameda, Calif., facility in 2008, fullback Marcel Reece has proven to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
This year the dynamic playmaker figures to be visible in numerous parts of the offense, and Carr spoke about the veteran fullback's valuable versatility.
"I think with 'Cel,' he's a Pro Bowler, man. You can do whatever you want with him. He can get in the backfield and block power and he can go out and run routes, as we've all seen for however many years. For me, one year playing with him. For Marcel, it's up to coach, however they want to use him. Coach [offensive coordinator Bill] Musgrave will figure out ways to use him and those kind of things. With Marcel, it's good to have his talent, because you could do either or with him."
THE RAIDERS ARE IMPROVING
Carr was asked what his barometer this season would be for whether or not the team improved, and the starting quarterback responded by saying the team was already better than they were last year.
"I think we've already improved as a team. Just the feeling around it, just being around the guys out here, it's definitely not the same team, it's not the same feel. We're more competitive, we're more physical – you can already see it. Now, obviously we have to take it to the games, but I feel that just seeing that from that aspect – that's all I have to see so far – we're going in the right direction."