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Uh-Oh. Derek Carr is throwing more short passes than ever

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Derek Carr’s completion percentage is at an all-time high. And somehow, that is a bad thing.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Carr set career highs in passing yards, completion percentage and yards per attempt in 2018, but as we profiled last month, counting stats can be deceiving when looking at a quarterback’s entire body of work.

Through the first quarter of the season, Carr’s completion percentage has risen to new heights, as it currently sits at 72.1 percent. But completion percentage doesn’t mean squat if you aren’t taking chances downfield, and despite Jon Gruden suggesting that the Raiders would look downfield more often this year, Carr is throwing more underneath routes than ever.

Per Sharp Football Stats, only 19 of Carr’s 129 attempts this year have traveled beyond 15 yards. He’s notched nine completions on said throws, with three of his six touchdowns coming by way of the deep ball.

Carr doesn’t even qualify among Sharp Football’s deep ball passer rating table due to his limited amount of attempts. However, if you lower the attempt minimum, he places at No. 4 in the league in deep ball Quarterback Rating at 127.9, behind only Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Gardner freaking Minshew.

Those numbers paint a pretty picture that screams that Gruden should let it fly more often. But they appear misleading when adjusting your perception of a “Deep Ball” to 20-plus yards.

Sports Info Solutions tracking data shows that Carr has completed only 2 of his 10 attempts beyond 20 yards, posting an IQR (Independent Quarterback Rating) of 81 on such attempts. Last season, he completed 22 of 55 throws beyond 20 yards, good for an 87 IQR.

Sharp Football and Sports Info Solutions’ view of Carr’s deep ball differentiates heavily due to his awesome medial passing this season (Sharp Football doesn’t have a scale for intermediate passing). On intermediate throws this season (between 10 and 19 yards), Carr has completed 16 of 20 passes with a sky-high 152 IQR. That is 45 points higher than his career-high in 2015, and a tremendous leap from his 79 intermediate IQR in 2018.

Unfortunately, Carr is on pace to throw less intermediate and deep passes than ever before in his career. His intended air-yards are at an all-time low as well, sitting at 802 and on pace for 3,208.

Since Sports Info Solutions began tracking NFL data in 2015, Carr’s intended air-yards have steadily dropped every year, from 4,570 in 2015 to 4,206 in 2016, 4,087 in 2017 and 3,606 last year.

Gruden, Carr and offensive coordinator Greg Olson deserve some slack for their inability to push the ball downfield, as this offense was supposedly built for Antonio Brown. To boot, the team’s best deep threat, J.J. Nelson, has battled injuries this year and has been limited to just two games.

Thus, they’ve been stuck force feeding targets to Darren Waller and Tyrell Williams, with the duo combining for 49.6 percent of the team’s targets this year.

Waller has been the Raiders’ saving grace, currently placing first among tight ends and fifth in the entire NFL in target share at 29.6 percent. But among the top 50 members of the target share leaderboard, Waller is tied for dead last in average depth of target at 5.3 yards.

Clearly, Carr’s propensity to throw short passes in Gruden’s offense has only persisted. But with Gabe Jackson expected to be back in the fold after Week 5, Raider fans can hold out hope that an improved offensive line will result in more confidence in taking chances downfield.