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Raiders want Derek Carr to be more aggressive and get the ball to Amari Cooper but Carr ‘not going to force’ passes

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Baltimore Ravens v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

I have never really bought this whole ‘Gunslinger’ mentality Derek Carr was supposed to have. The Raiders’ 5th year quarterback emulated Brett Favre growing up and even picked the number 4 because of it. Otherwise, there isn’t a lot to the idea that he has similar tendencies to Favre.

What we always knew about Favre is he took chances. More times than not, that approach paid off for him. He won a Super Bowl and is now in Canton.

What we have known about Derek Carr is he doesn’t take a lot of chances. His three interception game in the opener was just the second time in his career he has thrown that many picks. And those weren’t a result of taking chances as much as there were just bad throws and poor decisions.

There was little in the way of being aggressive. Carr was just tentative and the result was a pretty looking completions stat line for the first half, but no passing touchdowns and only 13 points to show for it. That’s not going to get it done.

“Yeah, we are always going to be aggressive. I think that is a mindset we have offensively, and we never want [Derek Carr] to lose that,” said Offensive coordinator Greg Olson. “We say, ‘let’s be aggressive with the football. Let’s not be careless with the football.’ It’s always an aggressive mindset. Certainly, we could have done a better job in that game on Monday night. Moving forward and throughout his career we are always going to want him to be a guy that can push the ball down the field.”

Carr hears this kind of stuff and interprets it as forcing the ball to his receivers or taking unnecessary chances. But there’s a big difference between that and being aggressive.

“I’m not going to force the issue because when you do that, that’s where wasted plays happen,” said Carr. “If they end up covering you just throw it away. Just because you were reading that when you could have went somewhere else. Like that’s where I would get caught earlier on in my career where now I’m just trying to play the game.”

Though Carr has never been too risky with the ball, he has at times in his career been aggressive. We just haven’t seen it in a while. His entire 2016 season showcased him being aggressive to great success. Suffering a broken fibula in week 16 was the end of that.

Monday night against the Rams, the longest pass play went for 43 yards to Jared Cook. Most of that was yards after catch, with the ball traveling about 15 yards in the air on a slant in which Cook got a step on his defender.

Where you saw the lack of aggression was in throwing to the receivers. They were blanketed a lot against the Rams, but Raiders coaches saw several times when his number one receiver Amari Cooper was open and Carr didn’t get the ball to him.

“It’s important to get everyone on track. Amari had one catch. He had one called back. We went to him three or four other times. The ball didn’t go there,” said Gruden, referring to Carr not throwing it to Cooper.

“But you look at the film, we had him wide open deep. We didn’t go there. He was open a couple of times and for whatever reason we didn’t go that route. Yeah, we want to get him going. That’s easier said than done now.”

When your number one receiver has just one catch for 9 yards on the day, that’s a problem. Even if your tight end is setting single game records such as Jared Cook did last week.

The reliance on Cook came with neglecting potentially bigger plays. But the way Carr saw it was taking what was available instead of taking a chance on something bigger.

“Well, there was one. I know exactly which one he was talking about now,” Carr said when asked about his head coach commented about missing Cooper when he was open. “I threw it to Jared and we ended up getting the first down. That’s the one I was talking about, where you sit there and are like we had a chance at that but there’s a match-up there where we ended up picking up the first down. . . I know exactly what play he is talking about because I saw the same one.”

Carr speaks of this as if it were one play Gruden was referring to. But Gruden didn’t say there was one play. He said a play he called was to go to Cooper three or four other times and a couple times of those times he was open and yet Carr didn’t throw him the ball. Olson echoed that. It suggests Cooper was the primary read, he was open, and Carr checked down for something safer. That’s not the Carr of 2016. And that’s not what the Raiders want from him.

Getting it won’t happen overnight. That 2016 season was his second under Bill Musgrave as offensive coordinator. Therefore Carr was comfortable in knowing all the ins and outs of the playbook and could make snap decisions under pressure. Gruden’s playbook is complicated. Carr looked like his comfortability with it was coming along well in the offseason. They would like to see that translate onto the field as quickly as possible.