One of many criticisms the Las Vegas Raiders faced as a whole in 2019 was their lack of creativity and ingenuity. While Jon Gruden took most of the flak from that critique, its worth asking if Derek Carr is partly to blame for the offense being stale.
Football is a chess match. That’s a phrase many fans have heard several times over. While the statement is supposed to be hyperbole, there is some truth to it. During a football game, like a chess match, you want to remain three steps ahead of your opponent. Great coaches and quarterbacks don’t just think about the current play. Rather, they are planning what they are going to do in the next three plays. Predictability is a killer in a sport that requires some mystery as to what you’re going to be bringing next.
Rematches give Derek Carr and the Raiders headaches
Josh Dubow of the Associated Press tweeted an interesting stat. He laid out quarterback Derek Carr’s numbers when he faces the same opponent twice in a season.
These numbers encompass Carr’s entire six-year career. This means that through his entire time in the NFL, the veteran often struggles in re-matches. These numbers also should expel the possible excuse of play calling or bad offensive schemes. The reason is that it takes into account all offensive coordinators and head coaches Carr has had while in the NFL.
The only positive takeaway is the reduction in interceptions. Nevertheless, that is completely overshadowed by the touchdown and completion percentage drop-offs. Both of those numbers falling off the map can be attributed to several factors. Whether it’s the opposing team taking away Carr’s safety net, covering up the route he’s most comfortable throwing or even just applying more pressure up front. Regardless, it appears that his opponents seem to know what he’s about to do next. Dubow does not address whether or not this includes pre-season match ups. It’s safe to assume that the bulk of these numbers comes from playing division rivals. Those are games you can’t afford to be struggling in. Especially if that second game comes late in the season during a potential playoff run. However, is it possible Carr can become more deceiving with his play when facing a familiar opponent?
How Derek Carr distributes the ball is a key
Deception in a football match up requires you to keep your opponent on their heels and guessing. One knock on Carr is that he can often get a little too comfortable throwing to the same target over. In 2019, Carr targeted Darren Waller 117 times with Hunter Renfrow being the next closest with 71. This upcoming season, Carr and company have to do better job spreading the ball around. In the 2016 season, widely regarded as Carr’s best, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree made up for almost half of the 589 overall targets with Seth Roberts still managing to see 77. This allowed the offense to pull plenty of comebacks because the defense couldn’t just hone in on one guy. For that reason, Carr often ended up going to someone he wasn’t as comfortable with.
Derek Carr needs to buck the trend
This is not a trend Raiders fans would like to see continue with Carr at the helm. It’s one he can’t continue to allow either. Every year you’re going to see your division rivals at least twice and as stated before, those are games you can’t afford to lose. Even if the re-match takes place in the first half of the season it could be the deciding factor for a playoff berth down the road. With the addition of Henry Ruggs III and Lynn Bowden coupled with a healthy Williams the offense should have more ways to drum up deception in 2020.
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