When Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has weapons, he has proven to be lethal. All while dissecting opponents’ defenses in real time, all while striking with the ferocity befitting the White Mamba. Another offseason has come and gone, but heading into training camp, this really might be Carr’s year.
Derek Carr and 2016
It seems like it was only just yesterday when the Raiders exploded onto the scene in 2016. Carr would not finish the season due to a broken leg he suffered on Christmas Eve. Despite not completing the season, Carr still finished fifth in the MVP voting with 15 votes.
Darkhorse No. 4 MVP
CarrÂ has a two-year window to win his first MVP award. Either this year when they take the league by storm, or next year after gaining more comfort, trust, and familiarity under theirÂ belt.Â Carr represents either a shining beacon of hope for Raider Nation or a lightning rod for criticism. No matter what, good or bad, it’s either his fault or he’s the reason why it happened. There simply is no in-between amongst fans.
For the first time in his professional career, Carr is part of a dynastic offense. Gruden’s offense was good, but it was a more conservative approach. The new head coach, Josh McDaniels, has a proven system that has won many consecutive division crowns and led to multiple championships. McDaniels’ scheme worked well in New England, coaching last year’s team, quarterbacked by a rookie, to be the sixth-highest scoring team in the league and make the playoffs as a wildcard.
With his brand new plan, he brought along an elite number one wide receiver, Carr’s best friend and college roommate, Davante Adams.
Enter Davante Adams
Adams had a career year for yards and receptions in 2021, catching 123 passes for 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is, by far, the most productive wide receiver of the last three years. Adding him to a roster with a top three tight end and a top three slot receiver combined with an impressive committee back system would be a major plus. McDaniels has made backup quarterbacks look like the second coming of Tom Brady, with much less of a supporting cast.
Derek Carr and his elite weaponry Â
Even the most purist of football history buffs would be hard pressed to find a better supporting cast than what a Raiders team has ever put together on the field. Immediate comparisons go back to 2002, when the Raiders last went to the Super Bowl. In terms of age and physical ability, an argument could be made that this collection of receiving talent is superior to the older Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Jerry Porter. Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley were amazing, but a healthy Kenyan Drake and Josh Jacobs could challenge their overall numbers in this offense.
Adams has 34 receiving touchdowns in the last three seasons, which is the most in the NFL. In two years together at Fresno State, Carr and Adams combined for 233 catches, 3,031 yards and 38 touchdowns. That was better than any two-year stretch or combination of seasons he shared with Aaron Rodgers. That is ideal for a quarterback who is accumulating yards but is unable to score more than 25 passing touchdowns. Moreover, Rodgers has never thrown fewer than 25 touchdowns in a season with Adams on the field, except when injured. Furthermore, since his arrival in the league in 2014, Adams has contributed to 30 percent of Rodgers’ 261 passing touchdowns.
Third and Renfrow
Despite looking like the dumpy little guy who doesn’t belong on the field, amazingly, Mr. Hunter Renfrow is pound for pound the best player on the team. Renfrow caught 103 passes for 1,038 yards, scoring nine receiving touchdowns last season. Fans adopted the moniker “Third and Renfrow” because of the Wes Welker and Julian Edelman-like efficiency with which he works in the slot in clutch situations. Renfrow’s China route has been the stuff of route tree legends. His footwork is clean, precise, and a carbon copy of every other route he runs. In 2021, he shredded Jalen Ramsey so badly in a scrimmage that Ramsey had to deny it at the podium the next day. While that may come off as disrespect to Ramsey, the fact that it happened is not a slight to him.
Rob Gronkowski became a legend in McDaniels’ system. There was another tight end, who shall remain nameless, who was well on his way to becoming an NFL superstar as well. McDaniel’s offensive game plan makes the most of his tight ends by using ideas, designs, spacing, and careful planning.
In tight end Darren Waller, Carr will have his most favorable matchup on the field every time he drops back to pass. Waller had a disappointing follow-up to 2020, when he set a new team record for receptions with 107. However, many should be anticipating a bounceback year after an IT band injury cost him five games during the season and hampered the effectiveness of his return. Should Waller be able to grasp and master the offense, be able to execute, and finish the catch, he will have a bigger year than Travis Kelce.
Derek Carr’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Before we measure Carr’s head and ring sizes for the preseason victory awards, there are some large looming demons standing in his way of achieving the MVP distinction.
- Right side of the O-line- Brandon Parker, Alex Leatherwood, Dylan Parham, or whoever is blocking the right side of the line has got to be better at protecting Carr. Everything is in place for the offense to be special. But it all goes up in smoke if the line doesn’t hold.
- Kansas City 2x-Â “Woooooooo…To be the man you gotta beat the man.” -Â Ric Flair. If Week 18 at home against the Chiefs isn’t for the AFC West division crown, it’s not going to happen, unless it’s already been secured.
- Turnovers– Carr can not lead or be near the top of the league in fumbles. Historically, he is smart with his decision making and safe enough with the football in terms of throwing interceptions. But the word is out. If you put heat on him early, he will enter the giving mood and pass out gifts to the defense.
- Staring down receivers-Â Usually, the pitfalls of this involve getting guys hurt and leading the defense straight to the ball. However, this particular adaptation of staring down receivers means missing open guys. There is going to be an open receiver or two in this offense every time out. There is no need to stare at one guy; there are plenty of options available. Staring down receivers is only going to limit Carr’s production.
Undersell and overdeliver
Talk is cheap, promises get broken, excuses get made. Last year, the Raiders made the playoffs. Everyone seems to want to forget that when they talk about other teams in the conference and division. The Raiders ran the gauntlet to get to the playoffs and vanquished nearly all the teams placed in front of them now. Carr and the Raiders don’t need to say anything; their play can speak loudly enough.
To whom much is given, much is expected. Carr has the best offensive talent in the league, and the only thing stopping him from becoming an MVP is Derek Carr. The sky is his limit.
*Top Photo: Sports Illustrated