Oakland Raiders

Why Raiders’ Derek Carr could have a big year — even without Antonio Brown

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr takes questions on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019 in Napa, California.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr takes questions on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019 in Napa, California. agalaviz@fresnobee.com

Back in early March, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr expressed excitement about the prospects of adding Antonio Brown as his teammate.

He even said the team would welcome him: “I know the locker room will be arms wide open to accepting Antonio.”

A couple weeks later, the Raiders swung a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers and acquired Brown for two draft picks.

Carr and Brown worked out with each other at a Bay Area school. Carr even invited Brown to son Deker’s birthday party at Bulldog Stadium in Fresno.

The thought of having Brown lining up at receiver Monday night had Carr excited when he spoke to the Denver media this week.

“Oh, man, it’s a whole lot of fun, let me tell you. It’s been great,” Carr said. “I have never been around someone who can consistently work as hard as he does. You think he would show up one day and then not show up the next day. It literally never stops, like the Energizer bunny. As a quarterback, that’s all you can ask for. Then you add his talent and it makes it even more fun.”

Change of plans. The Raiders released Brown on Saturday. Hours later, he signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots.

A look at the offense

Having Brown on offense would’ve helped Carr this season. But the Raiders have been practicing without him for the past month and coach Jon Gruden has been raving about his receivers.

“Preparing to play no matter who’s injured,” he said. “You have to adapt and unfortunately we had to adapt again ... but we are really excited about our receiving corps.”

Going into the opener, Carr will have receivers Tyrell Williams, Ryan Grant, J.J. Nelson, Hunter Renfrow and Dwayne Harris.

The team will likely sign a player off the practice squad. Perhaps Marcell Ateman or Rico Gafford.

On Sunday night, the Raiders will reportedly sign Alameda native Keelan Doss off the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad. Doss was a standout in the preseason and Gruden took a liking to him.

The Raiders are even high on tight end Darren Waller and rookie running back Josh Jacobs.

“We like our receivers now,” Gruden said. “I’m just telling you, we love Tyrell Williams. We like (Darren) Waller as a tight end. We think our backs can catch it and we are going to use all five eligible. We were never going to line up and throw the ball to one guy every play. It’s just not how we do business here.”

Last season, Carr finished with a career-high 4,049 yards, although he threw for 19 touchdowns against 12 interceptions..

He had receivers Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts, Ateman, Keon Hatcher, Harris and tight end Jared Cook — who had 896 yards and six touchdowns. Amari Cooper was there until Oct. 22 before he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys.

Nelson led the receivers with 739 yards, but he just had two touchdowns. As a whole, Raiders’ receivers finished with eight touchdowns.

In the offseason, the Raiders surrounded Carr with help and brought in veterans Williams, Grant and J.J. Nelson. Last season, Williams played for the Los Angeles Chargers. He played in 10 games and finished with 653 yards and five touchdowns.

The Raiders selected Renfrow in the fifth round. The Raiders have liked Jacobs’ cutting ability, balance, burst and vision.

“We got a lot of weapons,” Gruden said. “We got a lot of young guys, at tight end and then our receiving core, and they’ll be fine.”

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Anthony Galaviz writes about sports for The Fresno Bee. He covers the Oakland Raiders, high schools, boxing, MMA and junior colleges. He’s been with The Bee since 1997 and attended Fresno City College before graduating from Fresno State with a major in journalism and a minor in criminology.