I cannot believe I am doing this. Reluctantly and against my own personal tendencies, start the Carr. At this point, this is the only real option the Raiders have. Reading on Twitter the quotes from the Raiders post game press conference, head coach Dennis Allen was very tentative to anoint Carr as the Raiders starting quarterback saying the plan has always been for Schaub to start week one. I fully understand the plan and I understand the franchise looking at this situation from a long term perspective and having a track record of success with sitting rookie quarterbacks, but sometimes you trash the plan and go with what is working.
This is what preseason is about. As I said on Twitter, preseason is about throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks and right now what is sticking in Oakland is Derek Carr. I have been talking about the chemistry lacking from this offense and by extension the entire football team, but tonight what did we all see? We saw wide receivers who have been much maligned catching balls. We saw a young feisty quarterback doing a gigantic leap into the Black Hole. We saw a team wearing silver and black show life on both sides of the ball and respond to their leader.
There were some stunning throws from Carr in this game. He had two exceptional back shoulder throws to Denarius Moore in which he threw the ball to the absolutely perfect spot where only his man could make the catch. Do not get me wrong, Carr was not perfect, he had three throws that were poor. His first pass he threw off his back foot, another by the endzone he looked confused, and the touchdown to Rivera could have been intercepted, but even with those rookie mistakes he made veteran throws that took absolute guts. Let us be clear, this kid went right after Richard Sherman. That takes stones Al would be proud of.
My issue with Carr coming into this season focused on mechanics. To me the offense at Fresno was not one that fit for him. It caused him to rush things and not go through a real set of progressions, and as a result you could see his confidence waning on tape at times. However, if you watched him in Pat Hill’s pro style offense that used play action and balanced play calling, you would see Carr stand tall and confident in the pocket and make smart decisions at the line of scrimmage. To pretend that Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson has not done amazing work with Carr this preseason, then you are ignoring the evidence in your face.
Olson has done great work with Carr and he has the feel of a rookie that is comfortable in his own skin. Sometimes that is the hardest thing for a rookie quarterback to attain, but Carr has been around the NFL since he was a young boy learning from his brother. I still have reservations about Carr and I am honestly hesitant to want to start Carr, I simply see no other reasonable response to that performance. I understand the older free agents were backing Schaub early, but I cannot see how those vets would not view this performance as the evidence they need to back him.
There is so much to say about this performance by Derek Carr, but I have to turn to other aspects of this team. I still see from fans that there are still concerns about the cornerbacks. Let us remember that tonight the top four cornerbacks on the roster did not play. Brown, Hayden, Rogers, and Chekwa all sat tonight. I know the defensive backs have struggled this preseason or at least that is the perception, but when one goes back and sees what coverage was played during the big plays you see it is cover two every time. That strike Wilson threw for the touchdown to his tight end on the first drive was against cover two.
All of my regular readers probably know what is coming next. The Raiders have not played their typical coverage schemes at all this preseason. I am not saying this squad is amazing although I do love the long term potential of the the Hayden, Carrie, and McGill trio, but this cornerback group has enough talent to be good enough to compete. With Hayden out for the first five games I expect the starting cornerbacks to be Brown, Rogers, and Chekwa. Chekwa this preseason has stepped up and become in my eyes a serviceable cornerback and Rogers is a slot specialist.
I have previously said I would cut Rogers, and I stand by that, but the coaches want his veteran presence. With that in mind we will not be seeing much of Carrie or Thorpe which was the starting duo we saw tonight taking on Seattle’s starters. Both Thorpe and Carrie looked like young players who need to learn timing and the little tricks of the trade. They are what they are. The discussion we need to have as fans has nothing to do with the corners, but rather the pass rush. If the Raiders are getting a consistent pass rush and I believe they can, the cornerbacks will have an easier job and look much better.
The only real question I have coming out of this game is, “why was Menelik Watson not starting?” To me the issue with this starting offensive line had nothing to do with Watson. In fact, the issue to me was Barnes at left guard and putting Gabe Jackson in that spot was the solution. I am not the only one who thought Watson was having a much better preseason. In game three of the preseason, Watson had a -1.5 grade from profootballfocus.com, but Barnes had a -5.5. For the entire preseason Watson had a 0.4 grade through three games while Barnes had a -8.7 grade. I simply do not understand why this move was made.
I saw Watson let a pass rusher have some free space on a pass rush, but even then he rode his man out wide and the sack came from the inside. He still provided over three seconds of time in the pocket. Moreover, when the Raiders needed to run the clock out, Watson was absolutely mashing and was the man who sealed the long late run for Atkinson. This offensive line is not a bad pass blocking unit, but they are not designed and Watson included, to sit in shotgun and sling the ball. Watson has room to grow, he is still new to the game, but I think he absolutely should be starting at right tackle.
Just Win Baby
These games mean nothing. The preseason means nothing. What this game does mean though, is if the Raiders expect to win they need to change the plan. I have no issue with any chance Reggie has taken on a quarterback. After my initial issue with drafting Carr, I came around to it because of whom Reggie drafted in the next three picks. It is time though to admit as this franchise did last season that their best chance to win is not by following their plan, but rather scrapping the whole darn thing and flying by the seam of their pants. Sometimes that is precisely what a franchise needs and it may be time for that in Oakland. #StartTheCarr