Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr catches a snap during the team's NFL football minicamp Wednesday, June 15, 2016, in Alameda, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Eric Risberg
June 15, 2016

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Derek Carr and Amari Cooper had plenty of success their first year together with the Oakland Raiders even as they were still learning each other's tendencies.

With an entire offseason to work on finding the exact spot to throw a pass, knowing the perfect spot to break off a pattern, and making slight adjustments at the line of scrimmage to optimize plays, Oakland's talented young duo expects to be even more productive this season.

''I'm able to throw the ball a lot earlier,'' Carr said Wednesday. ''I'm able to trust where he's going to be at. I'm used to seeing his routes run a certain way. Those are things that take time. It's always going to take time getting that chemistry down. But, it's nice to see all of the hard work in practice that we've had together paying off out here in practice and hopefully come August, September and through the season.''

While it is still only minicamp in June, Carr and Cooper are showing signs of how that improved chemistry can lead to more big plays when the season starts for real in September.

Carr and Cooper are constantly communicating on the practice field as they try to learn the best way to run passes and place passes before the grind of the season starts and much of the focus will be on game plans and specific opponents.

''It's comfort,'' Cooper said. ''I know with every route that I run, I know where Derek wants to go with the ball. I know how he wants to throw it.''

The two didn't have much time together last offseason when Carr was nursing a finger injury on his throwing hand. Carr said the work this offseason has been ''invaluable.''

''It was nice to have hundreds more reps of certain plays,'' Carr said. ''That kind of stuff, there's no price on that. You have to get out there and do it. To see where we're at and to be able to come out here and do it, it helps us go another step closer to what we want.''

Cooper and Carr had an impressive first season together in Oakland when they gave the Raiders their most lethal quarterback-receiver combination since Rich Gannon was throwing to Hall of Famers Tim Brown and Jerry Rice more than a decade ago.

Since those three stars all retired, the Raiders have had no success as they struggled to find a franchise quarterback and game-breaking receiver. In the 25-year-old Carr and 21-year-old Cooper, Oakland has pieces to build around for years to come.

Carr won the job as a rookie in 2014 and had an up-and-down debut season that saw him throw for 21 touchdowns and 3,270 yards but win only three games and struggle to generate big plays consistently with an offense that sorely lacked a game-breaking receiver.

Then along came Cooper, who was taken fourth overall in the 2015 draft and immediately made an impact with Carr. Cooper had 72 catches for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie, showing the ability to get deep as well as turn short passes into big gains.

With Cooper and veteran Michael Crabtree on the outside, Carr had the options in the passing game that he lacked as a rookie and it led to a significant jump in production.

Carr threw for 32 touchdowns and 3,987 yards last season, while helping the Raiders post a 7-9 record that was their best since 2011. With another year together in the same offense, Carr and Cooper are looking to take another jump that will help Oakland make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

''It's awesome to see,'' coach Jack Del Rio said. ''It's a big part of what we want to be about is developing our players. Now it's their second year together. I think you see a comfort and understanding of where each other is going to be. What they can count on from each other. We want to continue to develop that, push hard for that.''

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