Jack Del Rio saw the highs, lows, and everything in between when it comes to Derek Carr. After all, JDR was DC4’s head coach, once upon a time. For three seasons, Del Rio was the head man for the then-Oakland Raiders and Carr was his young and rising franchise quarterback.
Del Rio got to see Carr’s strengths and weaknesses up close and personal.
The JDR-DC4 combo went 25-21 in their three years together in Oakland from 2015-17. The high spot was the 12-4 2016 season that saw the Raiders return to the playoffs, but unfortunately for the Silver and Black, also saw Carr’s season ended in Week 16 due to a broken fibula suffered against the Indianapolis Colts.
This Sunday, the pair will be reunited in Vegas inside the confines of Allegiant Stadium. Del Rio captains a resurgent Washington Football Team defense while Carr orchestrates a rebounding Las Vegas air attack. It’s a pivotal game between the 5-6 WFT and 6-5 Raiders. And, after four seasons apart, how well does Del Rio know Carr?
We’ll find out on the Raiders initial offensive drive and in the second half after adjustments. The history between the two, however, harkens there will be familiarity.
Let’s dig into some of the finer details.
Not only did Del Rio see Carr on a consistent basis as Raiders head honcho, the defensive-minded coach squared off against the quarterback when he was the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator in 2014 — Carr’s rookie season. Let’s not get it twisted, Denver’s team in 2014 was wholly superior to Oakland’s squad, so the lopsided scores 41-17 and 47-14 in the Broncos-Raiders tilts that year aren’t surprising. As a rookie, Carr was a combined 48 of 83 passing for 350 yards, 3 touchdowns, 3 interceptions while getting sacked twice in those two contests.
After that season, Del Rio switched over to the Raiders sideline after he was hired as head coach. With JDR and his staff on Carr’s side, the signal caller completed 62.5% of his passes (1030 of 1648) for 11,420 yards, 82 TDs, 32 INTs while absorbing 67 sacks from 2015-17.
That’s a lot of snaps and a bevy of drop backs — and accompanying film — for JDR and his coaching staff to accentuate their quarterback’s strengths and mitigate the weaknesses.
The book is out on the Raiders: When Carr throws for 300+ yards, the team is 6-0. Under 300 and Vegas is 0-5. For the Raiders to succeed, Carr most succeed via aerial attack.
Del Rio’s WFT defense is stingy in that department — impressively so.
During Washington’s three-game win streak, the defense held opposing offenses (Tampa, Carolina and Seattle) to under 300 yards passing — the high mark a 233-yard passing game from Seattle’s Russell Wilson this past Monday. Even in the last loss Washington took — a 17-10 loss to Denver in Week 8 — Del Rio’s crew only allowed 190 yards through the air.
Del Rio knows pressure and coverage go hand-in-hand and if Washington can’t get to Carr and cover on the back end, the Vegas QB can carve them up — bad. It’ll be quite the chess match between JDR and DC4 regarding pre-snap reads, pre-snap disguises and what happens post snap.
Something’s bound to break Sunday. Either Del Rio’s defense or the Raiders offense.
If there’s one spot where Washington remains vulnerable is against the run. And it was no surprise to hear Carr say: “This is the time to really hit the ground running and get hot.” during the mid-week press conferences. He also stressed getting the run game clicking.
Where Carr will help exponentially is if he decides to take off when his reads aren’t there. Del Rio likely knows the tendencies and how pressure affects Carr, but where the QB can hurt his former head coach is scrambling.
Against Dallas, Carr decisively took off when he didn’t have an open receiver downfield and galloped for 22-yards and a first down. Adding the element of his legs to go along with his arm will force Del Rio to combat something else.
“Over the last couple years, I’ve run for a few first downs here and there, but that’s probably one of the longer ones I have had in a while,” Carr said about the run after the Dallas game. “After I ran, I looked over at Marcus [Mariota] and he just started laughing. I always call myself ‘Carriota’ and he gets a kick out of that one. Anytime I scramble in practice or in a game, I’ll come up to him and be like, ‘Carriota, bro,’ and he’ll laugh at me. Probably just to appease me. It felt good to be able to pick up that.
“They actually got tripped up, and I felt it. Honestly it was just experience at that point. I knew they were in the man coverage look on the backend and when that gain happened and they didn’t have contain, I just took off.”
There was a cold-weather spat between Del Rio and Carr via the media back in 2019:
It is definitely a team game and I’m hoping DC comes thru, plays well and helps his team earn a piece of 1st place in the AFC west! But the fact remains he hasn’t played well in cold weather #LetsGo https://t.co/At5vF42t5t— Jack Del Rio (@coachdelrio) November 27, 2019
Last but not least: Del Rio hasn’t forgotten the sting of announcing his dismissal as Raiders head honcho in the postgame press conference after his Raiders got shellacked by the Chargers 30-10 in the regular season finale in 2017. It was a savage and shrewd move by owner Mark Davis to have Del Rio tell the pool of media he was out.
And that’s probably a little (or a lot) more spice and motivation for JDR in Sunday’s tilt between his WFT defense and the Raiders offense.