For every position in football there's an arbitrary round number they look for players to reach to be considered a good season. For quarterbacks the first number that comes to mind is 4000. Once a quarterback reaches is, they get entered into an unofficial club as a 4000-yard passer. Derek Carr missed that number last season by a measly 13 yards.
Thirteen yards. Basically the distance of one completion and Carr would have been entered into that 4000-yard club in just his second season.
Sure, to get that one completion, Carr could have placed a ball more accurately. But the glaring stat for him was dropped passes.
Last season the Raiders were second in the league with 32 drops, behind only the Eagles with 37 drops. It was even worse than that if you go by Pro Football Focus numbers. They calculated 44 instances where Carr did his job and his receivers simply dropped the ball, which they say was tied with Tom Brady for the league lead.
Regardless of which measurement you go with, the Raiders had a LOT of dropped passes.
What Carr had leading his receiving corps were two rookies in Amari Cooper and tight end Clive Walford, two new free agent additions in Michael Crabtree and tight end Lee Smith, and a former undrafted free agent making the team for the first time in Seth Roberts. All the while his three leading receivers from the year before were either gone (James Jones and Denarius Moore) or didn't see the field (Rod Streater).
The result can be reasoned away as chemistry issues.
The only familiar receivers who saw playing time were Andre Holmes, Mychal Rivera, and Marcel Reece each of whom had arguably his worst season in Oakland.
Holmes caught 14 passes on 33 targets giving him the worst reception percentage on the team (42%), Rivera had one of the worst yards per catch rates (8.8) on the team, and Reece had his lowest yards from scrimmage total (305) since he became the team's starting fullback in 2010.
Cooper was supposed to be the most polished rookie receiver in the draft last season. He led the team with 10 drops - something no one saw coming - along with being hobbled by an injured ankle in the latter half of the season. Those 10 drops were second in the NFL behind only Tampa Bay's Mike Evans.
After coming out early as one of the most dependable receivers in the league, Crabtree's numbers suffered late in the season too. He wasn't much better in the drops category with 8 on the season. That's tied for 7th most in the NFL. Both Cooper and Crabtree ended up catching under 60% of the passes thrown their way.
Others with significant drops were Seth Roberts (4), Andre Holmes (3), and Latavius Murray (3). Four others were tied with one drop each.
So, let's play with some numbers. Going by the 32 drops figure, let's give Carr the league average of 22 drops. That's ten fewer drops, multiplied by his 11.4 yards per catch average and his totals look like this: 360 completions (62%) for 4101 yards. Pretty good numbers.
Drops are going to happen. It's a part of the game just like anything else. Usually attempting to excuse a quarterback's completion percentage on such things is barking up the wrong tree. But even if Carr puts up similar numbers this season with average drop numbers, he would approach top ten quarterback numbers.
Add in that Carr should also see his own performance tighten up having a returning coaching staff for the first time in his career, and you can see why there are high expectations for this offense.