For the third game of the preseason, it is common to see the first unit play to halftime and even a series into the third quarter. However, extended playing time for the starters has not been Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders’ plan this preseason.
Quarterback Derek Carr has played in just two of the preseason games, didn’t play against the Los Angeles Rams, and has played in just one series in each of the games resulting in a total of 13 preseason snaps.
Maybe Gruden is worried about Carr getting hurt considering the situation at tackle right now and Carr’s history that includes breaking his leg, finger and bones in his back over the past two seasons. Or it could just be that Carr is entering his fifth season as a starting quarterback and doesn’t need to waste his time in the preseason.
After Friday’s game, Gruden did give a brief explanation into why Carr was pulled so early against the Green Bay Packers.
“I have seen enough. There isn’t much more for me to see,” Gruden said. “The battle for us is who is behind Derek [Carr]. I wanted to get Connor [Cook] first team all offensive line for a couple series. But we have a pretty good idea who our starters are on offense. I was really pleased with Derek [Carr] on how he started the game.”
Some may be skeptical of this approach, but not Carr because of the intensity that Gruden brings to practice each and every day.
“Obviously, it’s different because I don’t play as much as before, but we get so many things done in practice,” Carr said. “It’s very tough, it’s game-like and the kind of things I need to see and feel. Going out there today and being able to get hit a couple times, move in the pocket and find throws. You don’t need too much of that in the preseason, but just to get a few plays in here and there is good. If we practice at speed the way that we do, I feel that you can go out there in preseason and play a couple plays and be ready for the season.”
Carr also sees no reason to worry about his rapport with his receivers.
“We get a lot of practice reps, especially the way Coach Gruden designs his practices, it’s all around the quarterback,” Carr said. “He’s setting it up so I can be the most prepared in his mind, it’s not my mind. I feel good about it and if the coach feels good about it, you can guarantee the players feel good about it. I feel in good rhythm, I feel in synch with those guys. I have guys that are easy to throw to, they’re easy to talk to, so it makes it a lot easier.”
On a more macro-level, limiting the starters snaps has been popular around the entire league. The Packers didn’t play Aaron Rodgers and the Rams didn’t play their starters in Week 2 either against Oakland. Games that you would have previously expected to see starters.
Carr thinks the new strategy is due to the loss of important starters to injury before the regular season.
“Well I think that you’re seeing a lot of guys getting hurt,” Carr said. “You see a lot of key guys getting hurt. I turned the TV on yesterday and Tyrod Taylor, a starting quarterback, dislocates his finger, so is it necessary? All those things, it’s tough. It’s for everyone above me to decide. I planned on playing a lot but you know coach said, ‘That was good.’ You start to see the trend which is to not play people, and I think that’s going to be a trend that sticks. They’d rather have their guys week one of the regular season.”
Limiting Carr’s snaps until Week 1 kicks off in Oakland against the Rams could prove to be a wise move. Everyone remembers what the team looked like without Carr two years ago in the playoffs and for a few weeks last season. It wasn’t good. So everything must be done to limit Carr’s injury risk as he is the one who will determine the franchise’s success.