Week 12 saw the Raiders lose in a myriad of ways. The run game didn’t resemble what Raiders fans have grown accustomed to watching this season. Derek Carr’s receivers dropped several passes. The offensive line couldn’t protect. The defense made Sam Darnold look his best all season. And don’t even mention the officiating.
Here, we take a look at Carr’s performance, specifically his inability to read the Jets defense. In what turned out to be his worst game of the year, Carr shoulders part of the blame for the offense stalling on the road.
The play above is a play action pass where two receivers run downfield. Carr’s primary read is the flag route at the top of the screen. The Jets cover this well, which means Carr should get to the dig route coming from the backside. The defender in this area is vacating the middle of the field when he sees Carr looking to Zay Jones deep. Carr needs to anticipate this movement from the defense and throw the ball to Tyrell Williams over the middle. Instead, Carr holds his eyes (easier to see in the TV copy) on Jones, and never looks at Williams before deciding to check it down to Jacobs in the flat.
This clip above is pretty damning for Carr. The Jets are playing “trap” coverage and had been in this coverage call several times before this play so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise for Carr. The CB at the top of the screen is giving it away with his inside leverage on the No. 1 WR. As soon as Renfrow breaks his route to the sideline, the CB jumps it well before Carr lets this pass go. Carr (and any NFL QB for that matter) needs to pull the trigger on the hole shot up the sideline. Instead, he stares down Renfrow and hangs the rookie out to dry, leading to a hit that broke ribs and punctured his lung. We likely won’t see Renfrow for the at least a few weeks because of this injury.
Later in the game, the Raiders get into almost the same exact concept as the first clip. This time, Carr’s primary read is the flag route by Zay Jones once again. Carr is looking his way, sees the receiver with as much separation as any NFL WR will ever get, and still can’t bring himself to pull the trigger. He once again completely disregards the dig route coming across from the backside and decides to check it down to the flat.
This one isn’t so much a missed read as it is Carr not reading the field at all. An all-curl concept on 1st down, Carr stares at Tyrell Williams the entire time and neglects to see Darren Waller running the same exact route on the backside with 5 yards between him and the defender. Carr throws to a completely covered Williams leading to a deflected pass that lands right in the hands of a defender—who runs it into the end-zone.
I hate to add fuel to the fire of the Carr haters because I generally think they are a little out of line—wanting to move on from Carr because he’s not an elite NFL QB. One performance isn’t his entire resume. Before this game you would’ve had a hard time naming 10 QBs playing better than Carr in 2019.
That being said, Carr’s biggest weakness; his reluctance to throw the ball downfield, reared it’s ugly head in this game. At this point, the entire NFL knows to play Cover 2 concepts against Carr and let defenders jump the short passes because he rarely throws the ball downfield with authority.
Carr can be an effective QB when the run game is working and when the offense can stay balanced. He can be an effective QB when he has better receivers than what he’s worked with the last two seasons. But right now, if this team falls behind, they won’t come back with Carr at the helm.
NOTE: This article doesn’t excuse the defense and the rest of the Raiders and their coaches for completely whiffing on Sunday. Everyone shoulders the blame.