Oakland Raiders Film Room: OAK at CHI

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Inefficiency in the Flat

We all know the calls when we see them. First or second down and long and the team needs an easy completion to get a little momentum going. What’s the play? Wide receiver screen or quick throw to a running back in the flat.

There are generally two problems with these plays. The first is that for years the Raiders have run them excessively. With questions at quarterback and an offense trying to find it’s identity, screens and dumps to the flat are perennially overused to “minimize risk”. And these types of plays are indeed safe – when the opponent is afraid of the deeper pass. Without the constant threat of the deep ball, defenses can, and do, cheat forward and stuff these plays.

Secondly, plays like this require precise timing and a quarterback that doesn’t give the play away before the pass. These are the areas in which Derek Carr struggles. On the wide receiver quick screens, Carr sometimes gets the ball out either too slow to catch the defense off guard, or too quickly to allow blocks to develop (depending on the type of screen). To be fair, it’s a delicate balance that many quarterbacks struggle with.

Running back plays are a similar story. Let’s look at a pass to Latavius Murray in the flat.

On the passes to running backs in the flat, Carr gives the play away by staring down his receiver, giving the defense the indicator to make their breaks on the ball early and stuff the play. Immediately after the snap, Carr’s eyes drift to his left and the Chicago linebackers fade with his eyes – clearly knowing where he’s going.

With Carr predetermining who he’s going to, he gives the play away to the defense and they are immediately in position to crush Murray for a four yard loss. On this specific play, Carr ignores nearly 2/3 of the field, which he could utilize given his decent protection. By the time he’s released the ball, the Chicago linebackers have already abandoned any other receiver and made downhill progress toward Murray.

This has been an issue with Derek Carr his entire NFL career so far. He’s shown some development, namely being able to occasionally look off a safety on a slower developing route, but this is far too consistently his achilles heel. With so much talent around him he gets away with it sometimes, but he needs to have better discipline with his eyes in order to reach his full potential.