August 04, 2015 - David Wilson
What Can We Expect From Derek Carr in 2015?
Much has been said about Oakland Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr after his 2015 rookie campaign, both good and bad. There were certainly things that Carr could have done a lot better, but also things that he did very well. In reality, he sat somewhere between Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater given the statistics he produced. One thing Carr did do well, especially for a rookie quarterback, was taking care of the football, giving up only 12 interceptions in 16 games and 599 passing attempts. Rookie quarterbacks on bad teams (and the Raiders were certainly that in 2014) often go down in flames, but Carr didn’t. He held it together, provided some leadership, and won the respect of his teammates. The lack of even a moderately talented supporting cast will hamper any quarterback, and Carr had little to work with in 2014 How bad was the Raiders offense? They were historically bad, finishing dead last overall, last in rushing, and 27th against the pass. Already without a running game, Carr had to cope without a number one receiver, as well as no on the roster who could qualify as a reasonable number two guy (especially after Rod Streater went down in week three). Despite a useful contribution from Mychal Rivera, there was also no genuine starting tight end on the roster. Given that, Carr had poor accuracy on his deep passes (23.9 as per PFF) compared to higher level players (Matt Ryan 56.5% PFF) and struggled to find receivers when under pressure, where his completion percentage dropped to 54.2% (PFF). He was considerably more accurate (63.2% PFF) when he could get the ball out of his hands quickly (under 2.6 seconds), no doubt reflecting the type of college offense he ran at Fresno State. From the very start of the offseason though, one thing was clear, Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders have gone all in on Derek Carr, and their free agent and draft strategy was geared almost solely to providing him with the tools he needs to develop. Their biggest free agent signing was center Rodney Hudson to upgrade the offensive line, and they selected wide receiver Amari Cooper with the fourth overall pick of the draft, despite some excellent defensive players being available at need positions. Oakland went offense with three of their first four picks, selecting Miami players Clive Walford (TE), and John Feliciano (OG) in the third and fourth rounds respectively. They also signed Michael Crabtree to further upgrade the receiving corps, and added a blocking tight end in Lee Smith. The Raiders offense has undergone a major overhaul in terms of personnel, and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was brought in from Philadelphia, where he had worked in Chip Kelly’s high octane offense. So Oakland has clearly decided Carr is their guy, being happy not only with the talent he displayed on the field, but also with his work habits and character off it. If the Raiders offense can field a viable running game, that will be a huge help to Derek Carr. Even given his troubles last year and the Raiders awful running game, he was considerably better off the play action than in the other areas of his play. Carr’s quarterback rating jumped from 78.09 To 93.3, and he threw for eight touchdowns and no interceptions. The worrying thing statistically, is that his average gain of 5.46 yards was the lowest in the League for starting quarterbacks and also reflects his inaccuracy on deep balls. Going forward, you would have to expect a significant increase in Carr’s performance, especially in terms of completion percentage (58.1 in 2014), & average gain. All this while continuing to take care of the football as he did as a rookie. This would reflect both the significant increase in talent surrounding Carr, and also his own development as a quarterback. An increase in deep ball accuracy (he doesn’t lack arm strength) and performance under pressure would be evidence of his development as well. The talk coming out of camp already is that this Raiders coaching staff is ‘the best since Gruden’, and that better things are expected of the team this year. If Oakland is to achieve those things, it starts with Derek Carr. But If Carr fails to produce and make a noticeable step forward in his play (given the many factors acting in his favor), then his detractors will have a far stronger argument for their criticism. David Wilson is a graduate of National Football Post's Introduction to Scouting course and a writer for Raider Nation Times. Follow him on Twitter @linebacker41