*Warning* Part of this piece is going to be a critique of Derek Carr's play. If you're not tough enough to handle it....too bad. Cover your eyes.
Now - as previously mentioned - up until this last game against Miami, we were 0-10 in games in which Derek's thrown a pick six.
Obviously, last weekend " bad Carr " reared his head when Derek panicked with early pressure in his face, which helped Miami get off to a fast start ( similar to what happened against Baltimore with his throw to Snead that was uncatchable). Somebody here at SNB ( raises hand) highlighted Derek's inconsistent accuracy and issues with ball placement in the game against Baltimore, but we won't get into all of that. As good as Derek was on that night, his accuracy was still all over the place, and not just on plays where the defense put on a solid rush either. It's all on film. Balls were falling yards short of receivers....balls were being thrown behind receivers, too high, etc. Coming out of that game, I could only feel fortunate that ball magnet Marcus Peters wasn't there to take advantage. I think we remember him....
And no, this latest pick six by Derek wasn't Foster Moreau's fault. However, the number of fans that were slinging blame Moreau's way during the game was fairly eye opening. Broadcaster Charles Davis can take his share of blame for not properly explaining what happened on the play, and doing his part to steer casual fans - who don't know that they're casual fans - in the wrong direction. Still....if you know, you know. And if one spends as much time learning the game, as they do defending Derek, they'd be better for it at the end of the day.
Moreau simply read zone and cut his crosser short by sitting down in the window and making himself available to the QB, which is exactly what you're supposed to do. Particularly, when it's a zone/blitz look and the defense is sending heat right into QB's line of sight.
But on to the actual point of this thread - what's the biggest factor in this organization grabbing their first ever win in a game where Derek's thrown a pick six? A more competitive defense? Meh. Low hanging fruit. We've had competitive defenses before with Derek under center. In particular - 2015 - when Derek tossed a career high 32 touchdowns. In three separate seasons, including that 2015 season, we've had defenses that have given up 24 points per game or less. And as the GOAT Charles Woodson once said, " if you give up 24 points or less in this league, that's a game you gotta win. " Anyone want to take a guess at how many points per game are being given up by the 2021 Raider defense so far this season? 24.
So no, look more so towards the talent at the pass catching positions as the biggest factor here. Waller is obviously superhuman and the very best target Derek's ever had, and Ruggs has every bit the pure, athletic talent and game changing presence that a young Odell Beckham Jr. had in NY. And then of course, Renfrow is just a tough cover for anyone in the NFL....
But after dealing with those three, sublime talents all game long, it's Bryan Edwards who becomes the forgotten man for opposing defenses. He's the invisible man and a late game terror because of the impact of the others around him and the stress that they give defenders all game long. He's a finisher, and typically, the best offenses have a physical finisher. So this is the best, most complete collection of pass catchers that we've had since drafting Derek. Bar none.
However, none of this excellence happens if we aren't even willing to throw it enough to establish all of these talented weapons. This means there has to be a shift in philosophy - as scary as it is because of Derek's penchant for fumbling at the slightest bit of contact, or doing his pick six routine when a rusher gets free and into his face. Gruden is going to have a weekly battle on his hands - in essence: an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other - because he's naturally going to want to guard against the lurking/killer turnover that we all know Derek has in him. But if Gruden guards against the lurking turnover by handing the ball to the RB a little too often, our pass catchers won't be as established in the minds of the opposition and that will make reads a lot tougher pre-snap. Thus, the passing game could suffer.
So the question is - can this continue? I suppose health will have a say. And we know what health means for Bryan Edwards, in particular. We're now in a place where we have to wonder if the depth is truly there to sustain this successful beginning to the season....and maybe Jacobs' return will bring about a little more room for error. But then again, and as previously mentioned, Jacobs' return could also shift the philosophy - and maybe not for the better. Not for a passing game that's been as complete as any other in the league thus far without much of a presence in the running game.
Every defense is geared to stop the run first and foremost. And no matter how good your running game is in this league - you will eventually meet a good team that understands how to stop the run, and how to force the opposition to pass the ball. So if this Raider defense continues to be respectable, ultimately, this team is going to go as far as it's complete passing game takes it.
And to add - as we can all see - the offensive line doesn't have to be super expensive nor perfect in this era, where it's just about impossible to cover dynamic pass catchers who tilt coverage pre-snap and quickly win snaps on a consistent basis....
One player on this offensive line who already has a good understanding of this is our backup center, who's been to the playoffs - twice - with a spotty offensive line that was very similar to this one. Which is to say that our backup center's also very familiar with a QB who was good enough to push his former team over the top late in seasons.
That same QB has started half of the games that Derek's started in his career, but doesn't have half the pick sixes that Derek has. Nope, that QB only has two career pick sixes in four seasons compared to Derek's eleven pick sixes in seven+ years. That QB also doesn't need perfect play-calling....
All to say - that if things continue to look solid with our pass catching corps through the rest of this schedule - " bad Carr " that panics with the rush in his face had better not show up and kill our playoff buzz. Otherwise, the Dolphins and Eagles could have company in their pursuit....
Multiple @NFL sources indicate to me that Derek Carr is a hot commodity. And it is expected that multiple teams will pursue him via trade That could lead to the @Raiders pursuing Deshaun Watson in a blockbuster trade. My story:https://t.co/rnxHJK9KC0— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) February 3, 2021
And obviously, opposing defensive coordinators know the difference because they're fully aware that dialing up a perfectly timed blitz that sends a defender right in the face of that QB - aka Deshaun Watson - is only half the battle. He's a tough tackle. Arden Key, Maxx and many others know that much.
Anyway, Derek said what he said about games VS the Bolts essentially being home games, and we all know that to be true, so I find no fault in him saying it. " Bulletin board material " doesn't even really exist when it comes to rivalries. However....to this point, our " home games " are giving me high blood pressure. Anyone else? I mean, it's still " Just Win, Baby ", but is it too much to ask that we don't spot the Chargers a 14-0 lead? Clean it up before it's too late....dreaded November/December is right around the corner.