Raiders: Derek Carr’s 3rd Down Efficiency Better than Advertised

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had one of his best statistical seasons in 2019. Moreover, he thrived in one specific stat.

Carr has had ups and downs in his career. Although he isn’t solely responsible for the Raiders success or lack thereof, third down isn’t an area he struggles on. Last year, the veteran quarterback had a 127.4 passer rating on third downs. That was the highest in the NFL since Tom Brady’s 127.7 in 2016. More importantly, he converted the seventh most third downs into first downs. He completed meaningful passes when Las Vegas needed him to, contrary to general perception.

Checking Down Isn’t That Bad

A common conception around the league is Carr has a penchant for checking down. Likewise, he’s adverse to taking any risk to the point he earned the nickname “Captain Checkdown.” Keep in mind there’s nothing inherently wrong with throwing passes to a quarterback’s safe valve. Sometimes, receivers can’t develop routes because they can’t create separation and/or opposing defenses are playing tight coverage. The problem arises when a quarterback becomes too conservative and doesn’t push the ball downfield.

Related: FB Alec Ingold Should Have an Expanded Role in 2020

It’s frustrating to see quarterbacks dump off the ball or throw it away on third down rather than taking their chances. In regards to checkdowns, Carr had the third most in 2019, so his reputation for completing safe passes is quite accurate. According to Pro Football Focus, the quarterback threw 115 checkdowns in the last two years, or 10.3% of his passes.

It’s just that Carr did something meaningful when throwing those checkdowns. Instead of tossing a 5-yard dump-off on third and long, he helped the Raiders move the chains on third downs. After all, the veteran had 4,054 passing yards in 2019, good for eighth in the NFL. They were clearly moving the ball. It was touchdowns where Carr lagged with 21 or 19th in the league. As a team, the Raiders were converting third downs but weren’t able to turn those in points on the scoreboard. That needs to change if they want to keep up with the division.

The Raiders were aware Carr needed weapons around him, so they got him some this past offseason. That in conjunction with his numbers on third down should help the team see the end zone more often in 2020.

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