Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was an MVP candidate and an elite QB until he was lost to a broken fibula late in the 2016 season. He returned to full health and Raider Nation was raring to go for 2017, but Carr and the Raiders have been the NFL’s most disappointing story at 3-5 at the halfway mark.
Much of the blame deservedly went to offensive coordinator Todd Downing. During the team’s four-game losing streak, all the Raiders ran were passes with three-step drops. When you take a three-step drop, you have no choice but to throw short.
Missing in the Raiders’ game plan were play action passes and deep balls. So you can put the blame on Downing for getting away from something the Raiders did well last year.
Then two weeks ago the Raiders upset the Kansas City Chiefs by bringing the deep ball back. But that was only temporary as the Raiders went back to dinking and dunking last week in Buffalo. However, this time, we can’t simply blame Downing, it was Carr choosing not to throw deep. There were enough five-to-seven-step drops designed to go deep. He just didn’t pull the trigger.
At Monday’s press conference head coach Jack Del Rio said of Carr, “Yesterday there were some occasions where we look at the film and he [Carr] looks at it and says, ‘I had more time. I wasn’t under duress. I had more time to scan the field and take some of the shots that we had designed to take.’ Get the ball down the field the way we can, the way he’s capable of. Those are things that are there.”
Carr’s play so far this year has brought out his detractors in droves. They brought back the fact that the book on him coming out of college was that he freaked out under pressure from the pass rush. Most quarterbacks don’t perform as well under pressure but Carr was especially bothered by the rush and it showed in his first two years in the NFL.
Carr had started to change that in 2016, bringing his quarterback rating under pressure up to 70 from 57 in 2015 according to Pro Football Focus. That took him to a much more respectable No. 15 in the NFL. This year, he has regressed to No 31 this season with a rating of 37.6 under pressure.
So why the sudden regression?
It’s possible Carr may of healed physically from his broken leg last year but he hasn’t psychologically. When there’s a rush coming and guys are starting to fall around his feet, he freaks out. After a broken leg, those guys look a little closer than they are. Making matter worse was when Carr attempted to scramble in the pocket against Broncos in week four and fractured his back.
Carr is still the franchise quarterback he’s being paid to be. He’s just doing anything and everything he can to get rid of the ball without getting hit. It’s not uncommon for any player when he first comes back from a season-ending injury. It’s could take a while psychologically for Carr to return to being an MVP candidate again. I would love to tell you it’s going to come the second half of this season but it may not be until next year.