ALAMEDA – Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts man the Raiders’ three-receiver sets. That personnel group was required in the huddle late in the second quarter against Denver, and it looked a little different.
Roberts had Johnny Holton on one sideline, Cordarrelle Patterson on the other. This was not a change of pace. It was not a fire drill.
Crabtree got ejected in a brawl with Aqib Talib and the Broncos. Then Amari Cooper was concussed in a violent collision with Broncos safety Darian Stewart.
The Raiders were up just a touchdown ahead at that point, and this unusual trio had to help secure a must-win game. Hand wringing was absent. Anxiety did not cloud the huddle. These guys were as loose as can be.
“We were talking, laughing and having fun,” Roberts said. “We were in the huddle and one of us said, ‘Who would’ve thought it’d be us three out here, going to win a game?’ We had fun. We stayed after it. What impressed me most was that every guy came out with focus and knew their assignment, so we were fine.”
Fine doesn’t describe their performance. Roberts, Patterson and Holton were pretty gosh darn good, combining for seven catches and 151 yards in a 21-14 win.
Expect the same group Sunday against the New York Giants. Crabtree is suspended one game for the aforementioned brawl. It’s virtually certain Cooper sits out with concussion-like symptoms, an ankle injury or both.
Offensive coordinator Todd Downing will certainly call plays designed to highlight Holton’s straight-line speed or Patterson’s elusiveness in space.
Giants head coach Ben McAdoo expects the Raiders focus on the run game. That would be the case anyway, especially after winning with 37 carries against Denver.
“I think we’re going to go Wing-T. We’re going to run the triple option,” quarterback Derek Carr joked. “Hopefully that doesn’t get out.”
Carr’s statement was dripping with sarcasm. His actual point: The Raiders won’t reinvent themselves due to personnel changes.
The Raiders will need reserves assuming big roles, and Carr will make sure the timing’s right for those big moments.
“I do need to spend extra time with them because the guys that get all the reps usually with me, are ‘Coop’ and ‘Crab,’” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Seth gets a lot of reps with me, C.P. on certain things, Johnny on certain things. But now we have to make sure we get them all of those reps that sometimes they wouldn’t get with me.”
Carr won’t have all new receivers in the pattern. Roberts will be vital in the slot, where later-down reliability is key.
Tight end Jared Cook’s speed and versatility should make him a major factor in the passing game. He ‘s tied for first with 42 catches and leads the Raiders with 537 receiving yards.
Cook could be a real asset in this one. The Giants have struggled mightily covering tight ends this season, allowing five catches and 70 yards per game to that position. They’ve also given up 10 touchdowns to tight ends in 11 games.
Cook can also play every receiver position if asked, though he generally operates on the inside.
“We’ve played him at receiver. We’ve played him at tight end. We’ve played him at different spots in the wing and things like that,” Carr said. “It’s fantastic because you need to have weapons. Especially when things like this happen. I know that on the team we’re playing, they’ve lost a lot of weapons. It’s hard just trying to go about your business and things like that.
“When you have a lot of weapons, it’s nice that when injuries or suspension or anything like that happens, we can still play football and move forward.”