No question there are a few players on the Raiders who make up the foundation of the team moving forward. One of those positions is the most important in all of football: quarterback. For the Raiders, that position is locked down by Derek Carr.
Other positions have players who are among the best in the league. Khalil Mack first and foremost. But you can add players like Rodney Hudson, Amari Cooper, Gabe Jackson, Latavius Murray, and David Amerson to the list of sure starters. But simply having a great player at the position is not often enough.
Many of those positions need two starters. Others, such as running back, need two good options so the starter doesn't get worn out or just as a changeup.
Quarterback is not one of those positions.
Taking the inevitable possibility of injuries out of the equation, teams need just one franchise quarterback. They are not easy to find, as the Raiders had discovered over the decade plus since Rich Gannon's retirement. And for the first time since Ken Stabler, the Raiders have a young quarterback they drafted in place which takes the position off the list of needs.
It's a pretty good feeling.
"I'm just glad we have [a quarterback]," Del Rio said. "I feel like we have a really good, young quarterback in Derek Carr who's coming off his second year now, took a significant jump last year for us, and we feel like there's a lot of room for growth there. We're really looking forward to getting into to this offseason and further developing him, further developing our football team. It's imperative that you find a guy that you believe can lead your franchise and we think we have one."
Sure, every team needs at least two QB's and perhaps three. They have their backup in Matt McGloin and will probably add an undrafted QB to the mix as well as perhaps a scrap heap QB in free agency. But that's just filling out the training camp roster mostly.
We're talking potential franchise quarterbacks. And with the development Carr showed last season, he has earned that label.
Carr saw his stats go up in nearly every area last season. His threw for nearly 4000 yards with 32 touchdowns to 13 interceptions for a 91.1 passer rating helping to earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Compare that to his rookie season in which he had 717 fewer passing yards and 11 fewer touchdowns with 15 points lower passer rating than a rookie season in which he struggled with his deep ball and decision making. The Raiders weren't looking to replace him after just his rookie season, but they needed to see progress in his second season. They saw the progress they had hoped for.
"Bottom line is that Derek's a good young player," said Del Rio. "He exhibits a lot of leadership, he's got tremendous arm talent, he can make all the throws. I sat up here last year and said I believe he can throw the deep ball well. That was something that we saw on tape, he just didn't have guys that could get the deep balls. We feel like we've collected a couple guys who can go get it with Amari [Cooper] and with that we saw him hit a higher percentage of deep balls and throw more of them last year."
They say it takes three years for a quarterback to completely develop. Carr is well on his way. If he takes another leap forward this offseason as he did last offseason, he will be among the league's top quarterbacks. Del Rio and the Raiders understand there are areas that still room for improvement.
"That's something that he has is arm talent," Del Rio continued. "We'll just continue to grow him as a young player. There's so much to learn at that position. The command that you have to be comfortable, to run the whole offense, to be able to get in and out of plays, to be able to direct traffic, some of the game managing, some of the subtleties that he can help us execute from that position. It's so imperative that that quarterback understand all those things. And he's hungry for it.
"The great thing about Derek is he's a real hard worker. He understands the importance of working hard and putting in the time, and really understanding his craft. There just so many things, it's just a matter of time. It takes time, it takes experience, and he's got two years under his belt and we're looking forward to year three."
As are we all.