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Derek Carr’s mastery of the fade keeps defensive backs on their heels

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A look at one of Derek Carr’s favorite route concepts

Pete Carroll left USC to become the Seattle Seahawks head coach prior to the 2010 NFL season. He brought with him a press style cover-3 defense that has dominated the NFL, leading to a Super Bowl win over the Denver Broncos. Carroll was also a Marshawn Lynch hand-off away from winning a second Super Bowl over the New England “it was a fumble” Patriots.

In just his second season at the helm of the Seahawks, Carroll’s defense was top ten in the league. In the five years since, his defense has been top five including ranking 1st in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. With this level of success it’s no surprise that other teams are implementing their own versions of this system.

Carroll’s defense is so effective because it is designed to prevent short passes with press coverage due to the cornerbacks playing a step-kick technique mirroring the wide receiver. It also utilizes a single high safety, bringing the other safety down into “the box.” This gives the defense an 8-man front helping to stop the run.

The biggest weakness to any single high defense is the deep pass. The cornerbacks cannot count on safety help because he is responsible for the whole field and may not get there in time. This was the way the Raiders were attacking single high looks and with great success.

Derek Carr has freedom at the line of scrimmage to change play calls and proved himself to be a gunslinger last season. For the huge Kobe Bryant fan, this play was “Mamba Mentality” at its finest.

On 4th and 2 Carr audibles from a run play to a fade route attacking the Chargers press man, single high coverage. Michael Crabtree makes a great catch for one of his 8 touchdowns last season. The fade route was Carr’s go to route against this defense last season.

Most coaches and quarterbacks will play more conservative on shorter 3rd downs. For obvious reasons they will concentrate of converting the first down and make shorter throws with higher completion probability. The situation did not have any effect on Carr’s willingness to throw the fade.

Here on 3rd and 3 Carr again audibles to a fade route to take advantage of the man coverage. Carr is able to complete the pass to Amari Cooper for a 24 yard gain. It is almost impossible for a defense to counter Carr’s aggression in these situations. If the cornerbacks play off, the Raiders will pick up an easy first down.

An interesting observation from the game film was Carr’s willingness to trust any receiver. Most quarterbacks have one or maybe two receivers they will trust enough to throw this type of pass to. Carr did not seem to take the receiver into account, if he saw an opportunity to attack, he was taking it.

Seldom used wide receiver Andre Holmes had 14 receptions in each of his last two seasons with the Raiders. Those are not exactly the stats of a guy you expect the quarterback to just throw the ball up to, but this is Derek Carr we are talking about.

The pass did fall incomplete but it is the fact that it was even thrown that is the most impressive. Carr is telling the defense that they cannot simply concentrate on Amari or Crabtree. This will force the safety to cover the whole field and not just shade to one side or the other.

The next step in Carr’s progression will be utilizing the routes that naturally play off the fade route. Getting the corners to worry about the fade route will force them to play “over” technique. This will prevent those deep passes but opens them up for back shoulder throws, deep comebacks, and hitch routes.

A receiver with Amari Cooper’s elusiveness can really make teams pay with the extra room he will have as defenders play off of him. Look at how much room he has on this hitch route.

Amari will provide plenty of highlights if defenses give him this much room to run this season. Cordarrelle Patterson who the Raiders signed as a free agent this offseason, is another receiver who can hurt teams when he is in space.

The Raiders have a young and aggressive quarterback who has even more weapons to work with. Defenses will have to pick their poison with Carr this season. Do they play press and get beat deep or back off and let the receivers gain yards after the catch? Either way it should be another great season for the Raiders quarterback and explosive offense.


Where will the Raiders 2017 passing offense rank?

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  • 0%
    Downing already on the hot seat (25th-32nd)
    (14 votes)
  • 0%
    I guess it could have been worse (18th-24th)
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    They were so close (11th-17th)
    (31 votes)
  • 22%
    Same as last year (6th-10th)
    (472 votes)
  • 75%
    Carr a favorite for MVP (1st-5th)
    (1599 votes)
2120 votes total Vote Now