This 2017 season for the Oakland Raiders has been full of concerning headlines. Quietly beneath the finger-pointing people are ignoring the performance of Derek Carr without relation to the other puzzling issues within the offense.
Is it time to hit the panic button? Maybe not, but it’s time take an individual look at Carr’s career-alignment. Will the Raiders be headlining Carr as the franchise quarterback of the Las Vegas Raiders upon stadium completion?
Carr won over Raider Nation and the organization by taking the Raiders out of the gutter of the NFL in his first three seasons.
Carr’s rookie year he took the starting reigns just prior to Week 1 and played with poise and leadership. During his rookie campaign, he battled through adversity as a head coach was fired in-season while starting 0-10. The 2014 Raiders had a 3-13 campaign, but Carr gave some signs of hope amid a rough season.
Carr came back strong in his sophomore campaign with some new weapons on offense and under new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. He was seeing more progression in his game and brought the team to a competitive 7-9 record in 2015.
Then came 2016 and Carr dominated the NFL headlines for his late-game heroics and huge statistical season. Carr was in the MVP discussion until sustaining a tragic season-ending injury. The injury spoiled the Raiders’ outcome during their appearance in the playoffs, surrendering a lop-sided loss without him under center. Then came Carr’s payday for showing his franchise quarterback ability in 2016.
Carr would start 2017 with another new offensive coordinator, in his former quarterback coach and friend, Todd Downing.
If you’re counting, that’s his third coordinator in four seasons, never an ideal situation for a quarterback trying to enter his prime and get better every off-season. Musgrave wasn’t retained due to what the Raiders organization seemingly felt like wasn’t a priority. Some have alluded to the rumors that Downing was gaining interest elsewhere around the NFL for his first offensive coordinator gig. The Raiders fell victim to the pressure and went to the younger, inexperienced play caller. The inconsistency of this offense can be correlated to that instance as just one of the issues. Fair or not, it reflects upon Carr on the field and his progression has taken a step back this season.
The next problem has been the theme Raider Nation knows all too well; the dropped passes. The Raiders are among league leaders in dropped passes and the surrendered yardage because of it is quite startling.
Is Carr settling for his quick-release reads to have more confidence in his pass-catchers; or is he being influenced to do so schematically in Downing’s system?
It seems to be a little bit of both, as head coach Jack Del Rio repeatedly hints that the offense needed to execute better and “let it rip”. The Raiders will have to make some business decisions soon with the struggling Amari Cooper. They’d be wise to back-fill his position in the draft or free agency in the offseason. If not, it’s just another challenge for Carr to live up to his franchise quarterback contract and make it to Las Vegas.
Lastly, in my opinion, the most crucial piece to help assure Carr makes it to Las Vegas is his ability to mentally free himself from the injury fears. Carr has been extremely timid feeling phantom pressures and reacting frantically to the real pass rush. Defenses have choked the intermediate routes and brought the blitz to him. As a result, Carr hasn’t adjusted well this season, rarely using his legs to extend plays as we’ve seen him do very well in 2016 in big moments. The rhythm isn’t there and Carr has sailed passes on some great opportunities downfield. He hasn’t shown the same confidence and it’s very obvious he’s frustrated coming to the sidelines after stalled-drives.
The injuries have mentally rushed his decision-making and Carr needs to recover from it this off-season fast. If not, NFL defenses will continue to prey on his new, smaller, pocket-passing launch points and “quick trigger.”