Derek Carr had to overcome a lot during his fifth season as the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders in 2018, and put up some fantastic numbers.
The 2018 season for Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders initially was thought to be a redemption season. The team’s 2017 campaign was an outright disappointment all around, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Carr went from MVP candidate in 2016 to an average no body in 2017. Shortly after the piss poor season, the Raiders hired Jon Gruden again has their head coach. The belief was that Gruden can redeem Carr. That he can get him back on track. There was a lot of hype and expectations entering 2018.
Mainly it was the curiosity of how Gruden’s return to coaching will play out, but also how Gruden and Carr would mesh. The narratives and takes got so absurd that there were even some people that believed the two couldn’t work well because Gruden uses cuss words. Well, after an entire offseason and even preseason the two looked to have a great relationship. All that was left was the results of games.
From fans to media members alike, expectations for Derek Carr in 2018 was enormously high because of his contract. Carr is one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league and with that high sum of money comes absurd expectations. Now that Carr had an offensive minded head coach in Jon Gruden, Carr was poised to regain his 2016 form and lead his team to a playoff berth. This Oakland Raiders team was still similarly identical to the one in 2016. They had the quarterback, a solid receiver in Amari Cooper and an elite pass rusher in Khalil Mack. All eyes were on Carr because the team will only go as far as he does.
Shockingly enough, Derek Carr was not ready to explode on the scene in 2018. Maybe because of the fact that he has to learn yet another system in his short five year career. You could see it in the early goings of the first half of the season. Carr was often pressing with horrible decision making that lead to turnovers.
That’s the result of a quarterback thinking too much and not playing with his instinct. He wasn’t embedded into Gruden’s system yet, so he was trying to think of how the play is supposed to progress. Carr’s poor play wasn’t solely his fault. For the second year in a row, the offensive line could not consistently pass protect. In 2017, Carr was taking a lot more shots than in 2016 and that was used as an excuse as to why he wasn’t performing well.
Flip the page to 2018, and the pass protecting woes took a deeper nose dive for the Oakland Raiders. It’s no wonder Carr was constantly checking down. There was simply no time to sit in the pocket and allow deep routes to develop. Even though his first half of 2018 wasn’t great, Carr settled into the offense and began to look like a veteran. He became so comfortable and sure of himself that he set his own record of passes without an interception.
Carr went for 333 pass attempts before finally being picked off in the season finale. He did all of that without Marshawn Lynch, Amari Cooper and legit pass protection. I don’t care how often he went deep, to go that long without an interception is an elite trait. It’s almost as if all he needed was time to get accustomed to Gruden’s play calling.
Now that he’ll be entering year two under Gruden, the expectations will be even higher than prior to 2018. This will be only the second time that Carr will have been under the same offensive system in his career entering his sixth season. The last time he was fortunate enough to have that stability he almost won the MVP title.
Because of that history, there will be people who believe who should be around that level of play or at least close to it. It is year two, so the excuses for him will start to run out. Carr is assuredly the franchise quarterback in 2019, but what about past that? Next season is definitely going to be a litmus test for him.
If he doesn’t look to be progressing towards his 2016 self, then don’t be shocked if Gruden starts to browse other quarterback options. Carr definitely needs to play better in 2019, but Gruden will need to help him out and surround him with some more talent. The weapons around Carr in 2018 was nonexistent, which is why his performance was so impressive. He was tossing dimes with nobodies, imagine if he actually had legit weapons.
Oh wait, we do know how that looks like. 2016 and even 2015 to a certain extent. This offseason will be crucial to the development of Derek Carr, both in free agency and in the draft. Regardless of how the Oakland Raiders play it, 2019 will be filled with high expectations for Derek.