SARASOTA, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars tried to take Raiders receiver Amari Cooper out of Sunday’s game. Sticky corner Jalen Ramsey shadowed the second-year pro, and was effective making quarterback Derek Carr look the other way.
It wasn’t that Ramsey dominated every play. Carr simply had more favorable options available.
Michael Crabtree was the best one. He turned the Jaguars game on its ear with a touchdown catch, a third-down conversion and a massive bomb caught over his shoulder for 56 yards.
Carr targeted Crabtree 11 times in Jacksonville, with eight completions for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Teams scheming against Cooper operate at their own peril this season, because that typically leaves Crabtree in a juicy matchup.
That was the case in Week 7, but it doesn’t always work that way.
Opponents also fear Crabtree, and for good reason. He has been clutch in the season’s first half, likely playing the best football of his career.
The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t want Crabtree to have a big day in Week 6, and put top-flight cornerback Marcus Peters – who can’t keep up with Cooper’s speed -- on his trail. Crabtree was largely negated in that effort, though Cooper dominated to the tune of 10 receptions for 129 yards on 13 targets. Crabtree, by far Carr’s most frequent receiver, was only thrown to four times.
Carr’s message to future opponents from those two games: pick your poison.
“You have to always be ready for everything, and I think that our staff does an amazing job of giving me a lot of options for those instances,” Carr said at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, before Wednesday's practice. “If they’re going to take away (Cooper) this game, we have to get the other guys going. If they’re going to take ‘Crab’ away, we have to get the other guys going.
“What’s great about that (position group) is they’re all good with it. We just want to win. That’s what it comes down to, how can we push the ball down the field… I think our staff does an amazing job of filling that kind of stuff out if they’re trying to take one or the other away.”
Fluctuating target counts can be frustrating for receivers, who are often considered divas demanding the football at all times. The Raiders don’t have those personalities, a luxury quarterbacks dream about.
“We’re together, man,” Crabtree said. “We’re trying to win by any means. We know what’s at stake and I feel like we’re doing everything it takes to win.”
Sometimes, that means being unselfish. Ignoring stats can be tough for wideouts, but that isn’t an issue with two top receivers under contract an extended stretch.
Cooper and Crabtree have different playing styles and personality types, yet yin and yang in this Raiders offense without issue.
“We compliment each other well,” Cooper said. “Having multiple options is really great to have, especially guys that threaten defenses.”