Antonio Brown became an Oakland Raider and quickly connected with quarterback Derek Carr. The All-Pro receiver went to Carr’s house and eventually wound up at an East Bay park to play some catch.
That happened a few times in rapid succession, and it will happen more as we head toward the Raiders' offseason program and during the dead period before training camp.
This quarterback-receiver combo must find great sync before the fall, and it’s never too early to start. Brown’s a hard worker by all accounts. So is Carr. The pair also understand the importance of a great connection.
Carr will enter a pivotal season with expected growth and raised expectations thanks to an upgraded supporting cast. Brown is a shiny new toy and, while some may campaign for Rodney Hudson, Brown’s arguably the best Raider regardless of position.
There will be an emphasis on getting him the ball. That’s what Brown wants after averaging 10.8 targets per game over the past six years.
Brown did most of his damage working with Ben Roethlisberger during his nine seasons in Pittsburgh. Carr will be the first full-time quarterback Brown has worked with other than Roethlisberger since entering the league in 2010, so there will be a transition period eased only by practice reps and playing games together.
This transition to a new thrower will have some bumps, even if Carr and Brown are attached at the hip.
“It’s hard to do,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “I remember when we got Jerry Rice, he had a lot of time on task with Steve (Young) and we had to get him on time with Rich Gannon. We had to get Joey Galloway going in Tampa. I remember getting Art Monk in Philadelphia. Transition is tough. It’s tough on Brown and the quarterback, but it’s exciting. We have to work hard. That we will do.”
Getting in sync is vital to timing and ball placement to give Brown the best chance to make big plays. Gruden considers it important the pair know what to do when plays break down. Roethlisberger was excellent extending plays and creating extra seconds waiting for Brown to come open. Carr can and must do some of the same.
“When you watch Antonio play, a lot of his production is on scramble plays,” Gruden said. “Hopefully we can get Derek to create more on his own. With a little better protection, maybe he can buy more time to let Antonio make a play or two.”
Brown will be the best receiver Carr has worked with at any stage of his career. Brown’s on a different level, and the Raiders must maximize that talent whenever possible.
That’s the goal with Carr in 2019, as well. The Raiders beefed up positions around him and will continue doing so in the NFL draft in order, to give him a better chance to shine in what will be a pivotal year for the signal caller.
“I anticipate the system being easier for him, and we’ll be able to rely on him more within the system because of his experience,” Gruden said. “But we’re also going to be better around him. The defense should be better, to get him the ball more. We also have Tyrell Williams, Antonio Brown and Trent Brown and those we continue to add will enhance his performance more. That’s the plan.”