In one regard, Derek Carr’s stat line last Sunday was stunning. I mean, completing 29 of 32 passes is incredible. Over 30 passes with just three incompletions seems hard to believe. What is also a bit hard to believe about those completion numbers is the yardage total. On 29 completions, he had just 288 yards. That’s less than ten yards per completion.
Welcome (back) to the West Coast Offense, folks. It’s basic tenets are to dink and dunk defenses to death. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a you can see by Derek Carr’s stat line, even near perfection in completion percentage wasn’t enough to pull out the win with it. At least not with the defense failing to hold up their end.
You’ll recall, Gruden and Rich Gannon had a great deal of success in such an offense back around the turn of the century. It’s a conservative offense and that’s how Derek Carr has been approaching it.
After the first week, Gruden said he wanted to see Carr push the ball down the field more. While Carr was reluctant, saying he didn’t want to force it. The game plan didn’t do him a lot of favors either, with just two play action passes the whole game. One sign things are changing is that number went up to eight in the second game.
“Play-action, you’re holding the ball for a long time. The rush is coming and trust me I know that from experience,” Carr said. “To stay on schedule, you hear coaches say that all the time, you have shot plays and sometimes you have to check them down to get six yards, well third-and-4 is a lot better than third-and-10 for a missed shot. . . We have certain plays that we like versus certain looks that sometimes, it’s hey, ‘get us in this manageable situation, we like these calls and this grouping.’ I could go on for hours about that kind of stuff, but you know. I think that taking eight play-action shots against Denver was pretty aggressive and we were able to do some good things against him.”
Short passes to put the Raiders into more manageable was hit or miss Sunday. He had 12 passes for 7 yards or less that weren’t to get the first down. Exactly half of those (6) they were unable to take advantage and get the first down, resulting in a stalled drive. One of those, he opted for a short pass to Marshawn Lynch for a loss of four yards, while missing a wide open Amari Cooper in the back of the end zone.
There were some deeper throws in this game from Carr. And more deep completions than in the opener. Despite Jared Cook catching four passes of 27 yards or more, only one of those was a deep pass. The others were short passes with yards after the catch. Carr had six passes go for 20 yards or more in Denver, three of which were deep passes, with one being the laser touchdown pass to Seth Roberts.
The increase in bigger plays this game makes it even more surprising Carr was unable to surpass ten yards per completion. Which just goes to show you how many short passes there really were.
Short passes aren’t the issue, really. It’s about finding the right receiver and putting it right where it needs to be to gets the most yards out of it.
“I just want to be productive when we throw it,” said Gruden. “I think [TE Jared] Cook averaged 20-yards a catch in the first game. Throwing the ball on-time and accurate is a big part of winning football. We hope to get more big chunk plays. We are making an attempt to do that, and I think you will see some more of that as the year unfolds.”
That’s how Gannon became a Pro Bowl passer under Gruden; By being a smart quarterback who almost always made the right decision. In those four seasons in Gruden’s offense (one after Gruden was gone) Gannon averaged over 26 TD’s and 11 INT with 11.5 yards per completion. And from a yards per catch perspective, Tim Brown had his second and third best seasons. Which means despite the dinks and dunks, there was plenty of deep shots as well.