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Raiders’ Carr in passing lane with Crabtree

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NAPA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders were just two plays into a non-padded first practice to open training camp Friday, but two arching throws from second-year quarterback Derek Carr to veteran free agent Michael Crabtree served notice that things could be different in 2015.

Carr did some good things as a 16-game starter in his rookie season. However, an average of 5.5 yards per pass attempt was the worst among starters in the NFL. In Crabtree, plus first-round draft pick Amari Cooper, the Raiders have undergone an upgrade at wide receiver.

Twice during the first practice, Crabtree rose above defenders with perfect high-point catches, plays that seemed nonexistent last season.

“As a receiver, you want to be the quarterback’s friend, right?” Crabtree said.

Drafted 10th overall out of Texas Tech by the cross-bay San Francisco 49ers in 2009, Crabtree has been plagued by injuries. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound veteran is two years removed from his career season, when he caught 85 passes for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. An Achilles tear cost him much of 2013, and last season Crabtree had more drops than usual and finished with 68 receptions for 698 yards and four touchdowns.

A multiyear deal in free agency never materialized, so Crabtree signed for one year with the Raiders. Never an easy person to read, Crabtree made every voluntary session with the Raiders and regularly worked out with Carr away from the facility once the quarterback recovered from a reported injury to his right ring finger.

“He stood out today and made some nice catches,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said after practice. “Mike’s a proven player. I don’t think we have to worry much about Mike other than becoming a good teammate, getting in tip-top shape and having a great year.”

Crabtree’s ability to snag the ball at its highest point and make difficult plays look easy has Carr excited.

“You always hear about how people finish friendly to the quarterback,” Carr said. “He always finishes friendly … whatever the route is, for some reason, it’s just easy to throw to him … catching the ball is boring to him, almost.”

–Wide receiver Rod Streater and running back Trent Richardson began camp on the non-football illness list. Del Rio declined to specify the illnesses but said he expected both players back soon.

–Linebacker Sio Moore (hip) was joined by defensive tackle Stacy McGee and return specialist Trindon Holliday on the regular physically unable to perform list.

–Rookie tight end Clive Walford, a standout during the offseason program, did not practice for undisclosed reasons.


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