A Bryan Edwards highlight catch is becoming more routine by the day in Raiders camp. Wednesday was no exception.
He and quarterback Derek Carr hooked up on a couple of deep balls in which Edwards showed off the size, athletic ability, strength and ball skills to go up and over defenders to come down with a tough catch.
Edwards’ work thus far has led teammates and coaches to come up with some lofty comparisons, with Carr referencing Davante Adams and Raiders head coach Jon Gruden recently comparing Edwards to Hall of Famer Terrell Owens.
That type of praise certainly raises eyebrows, especially with Edwards coming off an injury-riddled rookie season in which he caught just 11 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown. Nevertheless, from a physical standpoint, Edwards certainly profiles as an Owens- or Adams-type weapon.
“Anytime you can get compared to a guy like that, I feel like it’s a huge honor,” Edwards said. “I’m just trying to come here and work every day no matter what’s said about me. Just come in here and be the same guy and make as many plays as I can.”
What might seem impromptu hookups between Carr and Edwards in practice is really more than a year in the making. They go all the way back to last year.
When Edwards was a quiet rookie getting second- and third-team reps, Carr made it a point to look Edwards’ way even though he wasn’t a big part of the game plan.
For Carr, it was reminiscent of his days at Fresno State when a little-known freshman buried deep on the Bulldogs’depth chart became a go-to target in practice.
The young wide receiver was Adams, now one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. While the Fresno State coaching staff wasn’t yet sure what it had in Adams, Carr certainly was.
“He was redshirting, but I wanted to throw him every pass,” Carr remembers.
Carr felt a sense of deja vu last year when he kept looking Edwards’ way during practice, even though the rookie from South Carolina wasn’t a prominent part of the plan.
“I was still trying to throw his rep every day in practice,” Carr said.
Fast forward one year and it’s obvious the building blocks Carr and Edwards laid in 2020 are beginning to pay off. As Edwards continues his climb to the top of the depth chart, the year-long comfort level the pair has nurtured is evident during camp.
“Any time I get on the field and get some passes with Derek, obviously it’s going to build chemistry and trust,” Edwards said. “We just need to continue to do that, and I need to continue to make plays for the guys.”
That includes the growing confidence Carr has in throwing to Edwards in tight-coverage situations.
While it all plays out on the field, the connection actually starts long before the Raiders begin practice. As part of a daily routine, Carr pulls Edwards aside to remind him he has the physical ability and strength to overpower defenders.
“I completely agree with him,” Edwards said. “I’ve got to come down with every opportunity.”
In turn, Carr is growing more comfortable looking Edwards’ way. With tight end Darren Waller sitting out the last two days of practice, that connection has only grown.
“Very fun to throw him the ball,” Carr said. “I’ve said it before, just like Davante could just move through the air, their body control is just impressive.
“I think also you see his strong hands. Sometimes he’ll catch a ball and he’s so strong that he doesn’t bring it into the body where they can punch it out, he’ll just hold it away from them. Not many guys can do that, but he can.”
If Edwards can carry his strong camp over to games, along with fellow second-year wide receiver Henry Ruggs, who has also had a good camp, the Raiders could have a powerful and versatile receiving corp with the big-bodied Edwards, the explosive Ruggs, a dependable slot target in Hunter Renfrow and Pro Bowl tight end in Waller.
All part of Gruden’s grand plan, according to Carr.
“It’s like Gruden is going to get what Gruden wants,” Carr said. “He wanted guys at the skill positions that when he thinks of a play, that’s the guy that can do that. And he’s got exactly what he wants.”
Bryan Edwards file
College: South Carolina
2020 stats: 11 catches, 193 yards, one touchdown