Even before Khalil Mack was sent to the Chicago Bears, Derek Carr was what made the Oakland Raiders go. And that is even more true now with the amount of pieces shipped out the door since Jon Gruden has taken command.
But recently, the team has played better football including a win over the Arizona Cardinals and a competitive shootout with the Kansas City Chiefs.
A big reason for the team’s relative success is Carr’s play. The fifth-year quarterback has thrown eight touchdowns to zero interceptions over the last seven games. And last week, Carr threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns despite the fact many of his previous top offensive weapons are no longer on the active roster including Marshawn Lynch, Amari Cooper and Brandon LaFell.
“Yeah, we thought it was probably his best game of the season thus far,” Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson said of Carr’s performance last Sunday. “Again, [he] pushed it down the field. He did a nice job of creating with his feet. Did a great job at the line of scrimmage in terms of some audibles that he made at the line of scrimmage. Again, it’s a process still somewhat. I know everyone hates to hear that. He’s still learning, but we’re happy with the direction he’s going.”
The learning curve that Carr experienced this year might have been unavoidable because live-game reps are the only way to truly know the offense and recite plays.
“And actually apply it on the field,” Olson said. “There’s no question. There’s a lot of guys that have quick, short-term memory and are able to recite plays in a sterile environment. But to actually be able to go out on the field with moving parts and bodies flying at you, that’s another thing. Not only to verbalize it, but to see it within your mind and go out and execute it. That’s where we’re trying to get with it.”
Carr was asked if we was playing the best football he has ever played, he had an answer in line with his OC.
“I definitely do,” Carr said. “Look, the season hasn’t gone how we’ve wanted. We all know that. But, there’s no denying when Coach Gruden got here, just learning from him and [offensive coordinator Greg Olson] Oly and [quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan] Cally, that I feel like a better football player. Anybody can say whatever they want, we can turn the film on and go deep into that and see, man this is what they’ve taught me, these are the things that I’m doing better, all that kind of stuff. I’m just thankful to them, I really am because since they got there, it’s been a learning process. Coach Gruden throws a lot at his quarterbacks and it’s been fun. We’re getting to that place where we’re getting on the same page, we’re communicating. That doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be perfect and just continue to have crazy things happen, but what it does mean is that we’re going to be able to move the ball, we’re going to be efficient, we’re going to be really good together. That right there is exciting to me.”
A good number of people were ready to ship off Carr around the trade deadline. But people seem to have forgotten how good Carr was in 2016. The important part about 2016, it was his FIRST and ONLY time in the second year of the same offense.
Now under Gruden, a difficult playbook to know, Carr appears to be gaining comfort and familiarity.
Today with the Steelers in town, we will see if Carr can continue to improve. but the greatest improvement won’t be apparent until 2019 after he has a full year under his belt in Gruden’s offense.