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Raiders still productive despite injuries to key pass catchers

From across the locker room, Derek Carr playfully challenged Raiders rookie offensive lineman Thayer Munford, who recently has gotten significant snaps as a tackle eligible. The gist was if Carr throws Munford a pass, he better catch it.

“Oh, I can catch it,” Munford told the Raiders quarterback.

“I know you can catch it,” Carr replied. “I’m just saying you better catch.”

It was a light moment during the Raiders’ Thursday workday. And to be sure, Munford’s alignment next to starting right tackle Jermaine Elumenor is more to bolster the Raiders’ run and pass blocking than actually targeting Munford as a weapon.

Then again, with the Raiders struggling to keep their key receivers on the field at the same time, maybe it wouldn’t be a surprise if Carr threw to Munford at some point.

It continues to be an issue, as wide receiver Hunter Renfrow surprisingly was added to the injury report Thursday with a hip injury. He joins tight end Darren Waller, who aggravated his hamstring injury in an Oct. 10 loss to the Chiefs and left the game after eight plays.

Waller’s hamstring issues go back to training camp when he missed several practices, leaving one to wonder if he is playing hurt. He has played in all five games but has been ineffective, with 16 catches for 175 yards and one touchdown.

Renfrow recently missed two games with a concussion. He returned against the Chiefs to complete the Raiders’ trio of Renfrow, Waller and Davante Adams.

But with Renfrow and Waller missing practice Thursday, their status for Sunday’s home game against the Texans is uncertain.

That could mean another delay in trying to get the offense the Raiders envisioned on the field together.

In the meantime, the Raiders are still finding ways to score. They are sixth in the NFL in scoring at 26 points per game.

Part of that success is the result of the offensive line becoming more of an asset than a liability but also the chemistry between Carr and Adams continuing to improve.

The two friends were teammates at Fresno State, but they still had to create some synergy as NFL players. There has been a learning curve especially for Carr, as the double-teams Adams often encounters are counterintuitive to what every quarterback is programmed to do when they read that level of coverage.

In other words, find someone else to target lest you risk throwing into traffic.

Or, as Carr put it: “We’re not going to make a living doing that.”

The thing is, Adams is cut from a completely different cloth. And there isn’t a coverage he doesn’t believe he can’t conquer.

“If two guys are next to me, I feel like I can beat two guys if I can beat one,” he said. “It’s not like they’re thinking opposites, they’re literally both right there, and if I can stutter one and make it a one-on-one essentially, then that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Getting Carr and coach Josh McDaniels to understand that took time. But as both showed against the Chiefs when Carr threw a long pass to Adams against a double team, they are learning.

“That was a big trust play,” Carr said. “It was something that I was talking to Josh about on the sideline. Josh was talking about it, and we liked the idea. It’s a risky thing for him to even call versus a double. … But in that point in the game and in that situation, we needed it.”

The result was a 48-yard touchdown.

“It’s just a great example of just not letting the coverage itself, or what their design coverage is meant to do, take you out of the play,” Adams said. “So that’s a good one for us to kind of look at it on tape and say this works so maybe we can do something like that moving forward.”

With Renfrow and Waller still ailing, the Raiders might not have much choice.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at [email protected] Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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