In the storied history of the Las Vegas Raiders, there may not be a player who triggers as much division as Derek Carr. The previous three seasons, Carr has been a lightning rod of discussion among Raider Nation. The discussion has merit on each side, but I’m here to say that Carr will indeed return to the Pro Bowl next year.
This will be the fourth year of the Carr and Jon Gruden duo for the Silver and Black. Till now, the results have been mixed at best. The Gruden offense has been known to be a tough one to get down according to most. This, among other things, might explain why the records haven’t been up to par.
Typically, team wins are the ultimate barometer for success in the NFL. For the Raiders, you see the losses but you’ll notice the quarterback’s numbers are solid. Which then begs the question, what’s causing the issue? Well, it doesn’t appear that Carr is the issue. In three seasons under Gruden, Carr has had three straight 4,000 yard-plus seasons with increasing touchdown totals as well.
His rating has also gone up each year as well, in addition, so have his rushing attempts and yards for those keeping scores. Under his previous coach in Jack Del Rio, Carr saw increasing numbers in his second and third years with him. Considering that you have Carr and Gruden now ‘finishing each other’s sentences,‘ the jump in Year 4 should be substantial. Gruden has been a staunch supporter of Carr and now with the wildness of last season behind them, all signs could point to a breakout season for Carr.
The reason that the Raiders will have a Pro Bowl quarterback in 2021…
A reason that may go undetected by some is the jump for receivers in their second season with ‘4.’ Historically, Carr’s primary pass-catchers tend to see their receptions and yards jump in Year 2. There are actually quite a few examples that prove this interesting trend.
During Amari Cooper’s rookie campaign, he totaled 1,070 yards with 72 receptions. In Year 2, with Carr, his yards jumped to 1,153 and 83 receptions. You see the jump as Carr became more comfortable with ‘89.’
In Michael Crabtree’s inaugural season, he had 85 receptions and 922 yards. These were solid numbers as Crabtree built rapport and chemistry with Carr. The following year, Crabtree saw a nice spike in stats, totaling 89 receptions and 1,003 receiving yards as he became Carr’s go-to receiver.
The Raiders’ most dangerous offensive weapon in tight end Darren Waller also saw an identical uptick. In his first year as the team’s starting tight end, he went for 90 receptions and 1,145 yards. Then, Waller followed this up with 107 receptions and 1,196 yards as his touchdowns also increased from three to nine.
Hunter Renfrow, kindly nicknamed Third & Renfrow, underwent similar growth with the Raiders. Quickly becoming one of Carr’s favorite receivers, Renfrow totaled 49 catches for 605 yards in his first season. While not as big of a jump as others, he did increase his receptions to 56 and his yards went up to 656. They weren’t big jumps, but again, it shows his numbers went up in his second year.
What does this mean moving forward?
All of these stats are promising when you look at the young receivers, particularly Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards. They showed flashes last season, but COVID-19 and injuries affected their rookie campaigns tremendously. Nevertheless, they have been putting in work in the offseason and Carr has expressed giddiness with their second season and how they could make a leap.
If Carr’s trust and chemistry grow in Ruggs and Edwards, oh man, he’ll have the numbers to lead the Raiders back to the playoffs. With that playoff appearance, there would come an honest chance at returning to the Pro Bowl for ‘4.’ Raider Nation surely wants to see Carr’s numbers grow but more importantly, they want their team back in the playoffs. Despite the question marks surrounding the receiving corps, if history’s any indication, there could be some breakout numbers in 2021.
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*Top Photo: Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post