Derek Carr showing warning lights in preseason
By Evan Ball
Aug 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) throws a pass against the St. Louis Rams in a preseason NFL football game at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
I know what you’re going to say. I keep saying it to myself, too. “It’s just preseason. It’s just preseason.” Derek Carr doesn’t have to be perfect yet.
As a 2nd year quarterback two weeks into preseason, it is absolutely reasonable for Carr to be working out a lot of kinks as he develops chemistry with his new weapons and offensive scheme.
As a returning starter, Raiders fans would like to see Carr building on his successes from last year, while minimizing or eliminating his weaknesses. While the hype train may be touting Carr as being on the verge of an amazing season, there are still lit warning lights on his dashboard which cause some concern as we approach the most important game of the preseason.
By no means has Derek Carr been terrible in the first two preseason games. He’s shown some level of poise, comfort in his leadership, and a competitive fire found in all great quarterbacks. The outlook on his play has been generally optimistic. Carr is currently 10 for 17, for 121 yards with zero TDs and one interception. That’s not bad – especially through week two.
However, comparing him to his Class of 2014 counterparts would actually indicate he’s a bit behind the curve.
Stats courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com. Accuracy % formula per PFF is — ((Completions + Drops) / (Attempts – Throw Aways – Spikes – Batted Passes – Hit As Thrown)). — TL;DR? It means drops, intentional spikes, QB hits, batted passes, and throw aways are taken into account and not held against the QB.
As indicated by the numbers, Carr is behind Bridgewater, Bortles, and Manziel in Accuracy % and QB rating despite being the only one to have zero snaps under pressure. He’s ahead of Bortles and Manziel in Yards Per Attempt, though with such a small sample size that will largely be affected by his 40 yard completion to Amari Cooper. Without the deep cooper completion Carr’s YPA falls to 5.06. It’s important to note that Manziel has spent more time throwing against backups than any other the other QBs in the discussion. Still, the numbers still do not shine favorably upon Derek Carr.
While early season vanilla scheme is partly to blame for some of Carr’s production, it’s something that can be applied to the other quarterbacks as well. The lack of weapons is no longer an issue for Carr. With Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper on the field defenses are forced to spread out dedicate the appropriate attention or face getting dusted for yardage.
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Instead, there seems to be a few key problems with Carr so far this preseason. For starters, his (lack of) accuracy is a big deal. He’s consistently thrown over, behind, or below his targets. Missing open receivers leaves a lot of yardage on the field – especially with the talented Raiders pass-catches this season. Secondly, he’s harshly staring down his intended target. I counted only 3 of his 17 pass attempts in which Carr didn’t immediately stare at his intended target from snap to throw, two of those being built in look-offs on the deep throws to Cooper and Roberts against Minnesota.
Finally, Carr is either making poor reads, or no reads at all. He’s been applauded for being decisive about where he’s going with the ball, but I would heed caution with the compliments in that regard. He’s often made a poor pre-snap read, forcing a throw directly into coverage, or missing a wide open area the defense has given him. He seemingly hasn’t gone through one progression (a skill Bridgewater displayed beautifully against Oakland). Rather, he’s always thrown to his first option. This type of decision-making will get eaten alive by opposing defenses in the pre-season if Carr can’t shake himself out of the habit of trying to go for the guy he thinks should be open regardless of the defensive movement.
On the next page we’ll look at a few examples.
Next: Carr on Film