Oakland Raiders Film Room: CIN at OAK

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Carr’s Troubles with Pre-Snap Reads and Decisions

One of my biggest concerns from the preseason was that Derek Carr almost NEVER went through a progression. Nearly every single one of his passes were clearly predetermined, as evidenced by his agonizing tendency to stare down his intended target from snap to throw. The predetermination didn’t just hurt the team via throws into coverage, even when throwing to an open receiver, he often sacrificed available yardage by missing out on a second open receiver in a better position to get the first down. Unfortunately, this has continued into the regular season and, if not fixed, will be one of Carr’s biggest hurdles in becoming the quarterback we all know he can be.

This will seem like nitpicking, but these are the plays that separate the great quarterbacks from the simply competent ones. It’s 3rd and 14, and Oakland is in 20 personnel (2 RBs, 0 TEs, 3 WRs) versus a very obvious Cover 2 zone by Cincinnati. Considering the depth of the safeties and linebackers it’s clear that Cincinnati is willing to give up the short middle to protect deeper territory.

There are two of Carr’s tendencies at play here. First is his tendency to pick who he’s going to throw to before the play, without looking at the defense or other options after the snap. Secondly, which admittedly is sometimes a strength, is Carr’s propensity for getting the ball out of his hands as soon as possible – often before a play can develop.

Carr makes the throw to RB Latavius Murray at about the line of scrimmage.  To begin with, Carr throws the ball before Crabtree’s and Cooper’s routes get a chance to develop, minimizing the depth of the defenders’ drop depth into coverage and eliminating them as targets.

Next let’s look at the decision to throw to Murray versus WR Seth Roberts on the shallow crossing route. Murray is stationary, with his back to the defense. He’s 14 yards from the first down with no lead blockers (Roberts’ momentum takes him out of the play). Murray’s position relative to the three waiting linebackers creates easy downhill and containment angles for the stop.

Contrast that with Roberts, who is already five yards deeper, already on the run, and has a potential blocker in Cooper in his direction of movement. Roberts’ path of motion creates a much more difficult angle on the defenders. There’s a chance that with a Cooper block, Roberts only has to make one person miss to get to the first down. Murray has to make three people miss with no help. Murray should be the last option on this play, not the first one.