Quarterback Derek Carr, the face of the Raiders until he isn’t, made personal strides in 2019 in spite of condescending scrutiny. In his second consecutive season in head coach Jon Gruden’s offensive scheme, he achieved the most passing yards in his career, 4,054. Another year in the same system could yield unforeseen dividends for the Silver and Black.
The Great Debate
Without a doubt, Carr has been the most polarizing player in recent Raiders history. Many state that he needs more talent around him to have success like he did back in 2016, when he displayed he can be the driving force that leads the franchise to victory. Others point out that regardless of who you place around him, he will never be the same player he was three seasons ago.
In 2016, Carr was a young rising star in the NFL, but as he entered his sixth season in 2019, fans and media alike began to draw lines in the sand with their stances on the Fresno State product. A man that made game winning throws on fourth down in 2016 has now resorted to throwing the ball away in the same situation when the team needs a play in 2019?
Something has to give, so which narrative accurately fits the Raiders signal-caller? The 2019 campaign highlighted his idiosyncrasies as an NFL quarterback.
The strongest aspect of Carr’s play in 2019 was his accuracy. He finished the season with a 70.4% completion rate, second best in the league behind future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. Another top 10 statistical achievement of the quarterback’s was his 7.75 adjusted net passing yards per attempt.
In year two of the Gruden era, the Raiders signal-caller excelled at making more correct pre-snap reads and audibles than he did the season before, which is quite the accomplishment as the complexity of the offense the coach runs knows no boundaries.
Chris Simms would tend to agree with that statement.
Most importantly, after making the right read, Carr generated some of the most beautiful passes of his career in 2019.
An incredible throw with the perfect amount of touch and accuracy assisted the Raiders into obtaining a home victory over the Lions. Carr’s short/intermediate precision and ability to release the ball quickly will always be a staple of his play. With that being said, there are other areas that need improvement.
Room for Improvement
When a play broke down for in 2019, Carr’s accuracy and quick release navigated him out of trouble more often than not. However, there were times where his legs saved the offense.
In a great play that also contributed to another victory against the Bengals, Carr clearly has the athleticism to create plays with his legs, and there are times when he should, but doesn’t.
It is easy to sit here and criticize plays like this, but it would be nice every now and then to not give up on plays so quickly. Despite scoring two rushing touchdowns last season, Gruden is still seeking more results from his signal-caller when the play starts to break down.
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The final average component of Carr’s play in 2019 was his pocket poise. More often than not, his feet constantly moved for no reason when there was no immediate pressure. As a result, plays such as the following occurred in 2019.
His erratic base and jittery pocket presence led to many head scratching decisions a six-year veteran should be making easily.
Carr had some alarming decision making moments in 2019 and instances that would remind you of a rookie NFL quarterback.
The team didn’t show up in New York, and that included Carr. On this play, he stared at Tyrell Williams from the snap and still proceeded to force the ball into smothering man-to-man coverage. Ultimately, the play resulted in a touchdown for the Jets. New York’s secondary, before this game, was ranked in the bottom five, but Carr managed to make it seem as if they were a top five unit. The following week in Kansas City, he displayed he hadn’t learned his lesson.
Again, he locked on Williams from the snap, and forced a pass which resulted in a touchdown for the opposition in back-to-back weeks. When the team was 6-4 and in contention for a playoff berth, Carr did not show up. In fact, he never gave the team a chance against the Chiefs. The Raiders defense held Mahomes to career lows, and the offense responded with zero meaningful points. Despite two egregious performances, there was one individual outing that spoke volumes.
Last but not least, the worst performance of the season transpired in the final game in Oakland. In the first half, Carr threw for 218 passing yards and the Raiders had a 16-3 lead against the Jaguars. The game changing moment was when Gruden plausibly lost faith in his quarterback on fourth and one at midfield halfway through the third quarter. When you are up 16-3 in the last game at the Coliseum and you need one yard that can extend a drive for a touchdown to put the game out of reach, why do you not do it? If you believe in your signal-caller; you have him go out there and make a play. Instead, the team punted and Carr finished with only 49 passing yards in the second half and the Black Hole said farewell to him with a rain boos instead of cheers.
A collapse in the Oakland finale that diminished playoff hopes for good was possibly the breaking point for Gruden.
The Road Ahead
Overall, Carr did make strides in his second season in certain statistical areas. However, the only stat that matters is winning. Yes, it is a team game, but when your quarterback doesn’t have a 300-yard passing game until the last match of the season, there is an issue. A problem that the Raiders front office will undoubtedly look at as the 2020 offseason begins.
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With a veteran-laden free agent market, and with generous draft capital; Derek Carr’s future with the team is in jeopardy. With the reigning Super Bowl Champions residing in the same division, Gruden knows he will need more from his offense for the remainder of his tenure as the head coach. Defense is important, but the 49ers are a prime example of showing that even the best defenses mean little without an offense that consistently generates points.
In the end, the Raiders have a serviceable starting quarterback. The leap from serviceable to great isn’t simple, but if the Las Vegas Raiders want to beat the Chiefs, it is a necessary leap that will require all the strength within to make.