Big plays have been hard to come by for the Raiders this season. The offense is predictable, timid, and impotent. If you’ve been asking yourself if Derek Carr seems to throw a lot more dumps and short passes than usual, it isn’t a figment of your imagination.
During their 4-game losing streak between weeks 3-6, the criticisms of this offense and its far too basic concepts and lack of the long ball started to ramp up. That alone is worth plenty of criticism, but when you go deeper, it gets even more troubling.
It isn’t just Carr not testing the field deep, it’s throwing passes that are practically glorified hand-offs. His average depth of target according to Pro Football Focus is just 4.45 yards off the line. That’s 3.28 yards fewer than last season and nearly half the league average (8.70).
Despite Carr being on pace to throw approximately 60 fewer passes outside of 5 yards than he did last season, he says the problem with the offense is him trying too hard.
“My mistake is about trying to do too much for my team instead of letting our team do it together,” Carr said Wednesday. “I’ll try and make a hero throw or a hero check or whatever it is and that’s my mistake. I think that’s more what he’s talking about is be urgent in your preparation and the process but when you get on the field, just cut it loose because we’re all talented enough to go out there and play well.”
It’s an interesting concept to think that Carr is trying to make ‘hero’ throws in these games. He was making ‘hero’ throws against the Chiefs and that worked out pretty well. That game winning touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree at the left pylon was a play called by Carr.
Does offensive Coordinator Todd Downing deserve some blame for this? Absolutely. Does the issue lie solely on Downing? Absolutely not. I suppose this is where the ‘hero check’ part comes in. Losing five out of six on the fashion they have been losing them can naturally cause the quarterback who has had recent successes to doubt the call from the sideline or at very least figure he has a better plan.
The final play of the first half was such an instance. That was a called Hail Mary. Carr had the time he needed to get the pass away for a jump ball in the end zone. But he didn’t make the throw, opting instead for a dump to DeAndre Washington that went for 15 yards.
“It’s simple math,” said Carr. “Cover two with three receivers. Where everyone’s dropping deep, there’s four, five, six, seven guys for three and at the end of the day you roll out, you can throw it up or you can take a better option underneath, one where we’ve seen guys have been able to break tackles and things like that, maybe keep it alive, those kind of things. Obviously we lost by more than one score. And again, this is another one of those things, we’re correcting everything. And I take it all and I try and ‘yes, sir, whatever you want’, but at the same time I’m gonna continue to play the game how I think is best for our team.”
“I thought our plan was great,” Carr added. “It was on us players. There was nothing in that Buffalo game plan wise that was wrong. Now when they start playing soft coverage, we were able to get some 10 and 12 yarders to Coop and to Jared across face. . . you hit a couple of them and you you’ve got to take what they give you. That’s just how it works. I’ve been doing this now a little bit too long to understand that.”
There you have it. Carr is taking what the defense gives him. He’s not taking what he wants. Even on a play that absolutely had to be a Hail Mary or other plays that absolutely had to be thrown past the sticks, Carr is going for the dink and dunk short stuff and hoping his receiver can fill in the yardage.
This plan seems a lot like going to a casino. You’ll win now and then, sure. They will always give back just enough to keep you betting. But the house always wins.