Since head coach Jon Gruden reclaimed the Las Vegas Raiders sidelines, the hottest debate has been whether quarterback Derek Carr stays or goes.
To keep Derek Carr, or not to keep Derek Carr?
— NFL (@NFL) December 15, 2019
When Allegiant Stadium opens, Carr will indeed be the starting quarterback barring injury. One thing is for sure: Should he continue spiking the ball into the ground on third and fourth downs, Raider Nation will be coming for his job. Watching Carr threatening to run with the football as a last possible resort is going to hasten his departure.
There are many questions about his ability to improvise after a play breaks down. His lack of pocket presence, an unteachable quality according to general manager Mike Mayock, is worrisome as well. It’s been asked whether his broken back and leg have played a larger role in his arm strength. He threw 37 deep passes last season, completed 13 and had only one traveling further than 40 yards in the air.
Getting the old band back together
COVID-19 has nearly brought the NFL to its knees. Las Vegas is no longer hosting the 2020 draft, and teams aren’t permitted to utilize their own facilities. Since coaches can’t have any contact with players under league rules, there is one man capable of teaching the offense: Carr, who can enjoy workouts and pickup games with other players at parks across America.
Save for the rookies yet to be drafted, the skill positions could maintain social distancing running plays against air. After 2019 bore a visual disconnect between wide receiver and quarterback, Zay Jones and Carr have posted videos of their work together. A very encouraging sight and despite the lack of production, Jones was open a lot last year. Gaining familiarity with a wideout midseason is difficult. Getting it now in the offseason is invaluable. Jones, is a natural fit for a Gruden offense.
Nelson Agholor had some heinous looking drops and Philly fans have been brutal in their criticism of the three he had last season when the Eagles had a whole lot as a team. Quarterback Carson Wentz was all over the place with his ball placement, but Agholor can create separation quickly. There simply is no denying that.
Tyrell Williams was a factor early for the Raiders before developing plantar fasciitis in both feet. If he’s healthy in his second year with the team, it would be a huge addition to the offense. Williams has done his best work when he isn’t the primary option.
The unfiltered truth
In a severely impacted offseason, there simply isn’t going to be enough time for someone else to come in and learn the offense and take over. Tom Brady told Howard Stern in an interview, that he thought he could win with the Raiders. Instead, Las Vegas elected to stick with Carr. This was before the coronavirus pandemic brought the country to a halt.
Having established himself as the incumbent, Carr has a huge advantage in terms of maintaining his job. No matter what incentives Mariota has in his deal, it’s going to take a while for him to be brought up to speed in Gruden’s expansive verbiage. While all that is quite possible, the head coach and Mayock will provide the best receiving corps and explosive offense Carr’s ever had.
Pundits and prognosticators have the Raiders selecting one of the three top receiving prospects in 2020, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and CeeDee Lamb. In what appears to be a very deep wide receiver draft, Las Vegas will have no shortage of wideouts to choose from. Running back is also a need. AJ Dillion is a stockily built power back and should be available in the later rounds. A six-foot-tall 250-pound runner, his closest NFL comparison is Jerome Bettis. Don’t think of the Bus who played for the Steelers but rather the one that played for the Rams and the Fighting Irish.
There aren’t many reasons why the Raiders can’t win with Carr. As long as he improves his redzone efficiency, and minimizes turnovers. Next season, his contract is very easy to move on from. If he doesn’t produce in 2020, the backup plan is already on the roster, and another one could be drafted as well.