Derek Carr for MVP? The noise 'means nothing' to the Raiders' QB

Derek Carr for MVP? The noise 'means nothing' to the Raiders' QB

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr is the nation’s young quarterback of the moment. That's a title bump he didn't request.

The Raiders signal caller has had an excellent first half to his season, with excellent stats and a series of come-from-behind wins. With it comes positive press.

Sure, Dallas’ Dak Prescott is on the cover of magazines, but he’s being considered for rookie of the year. Carr’s being discussed as an MVP candidate.

Casual current became a Class VI rapid after Sunday’s 30-24 victory over Tampa Bay where Carr threw for 513 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions bringing his team back late in the fourth quarter and ahead with little extra time remaining.

Carr’s numbers have been awesome, but quarterbacks are judged on wins. The 25-year old is best recognized a trusted leader of men, guiding a talented crew to a 6-2 mark halfway through the year. There have been three comebacks in the fourth quarter or later, with Carr seemingly immune to the stress.

The hot takes have come strong this week, with Carr being included with Tom Brady and Matt Ryan among legitimate MVP candidates. Some have chosen him as a favorite. Contrarians say he ain’t so great.

All are dissecting what has changed for Carr between this season and the previous two. Those close to this team have analyzed this topic for months, and there are several factors involved. Carr is more comfortable in his reads and his role in this offensive scheme. He’s also using an improved running game and excellent receivers thanks to a hulking offensive line that allows everyone else to thrive.

Carr, however, is getting all the credit from national types hammering these trending Raiders.

Now feels appropriate to unearth a quote Carr has used several times before, one that describes his mantra in football times like these: Ignore the good and the bad said about you, because neither matter.

Results count. Compliments don’t.

Carr doesn’t pay attention to the chatter. He can admit, however, it’s getting harder to avoid.

“(It is) when people come running up to me and things like that, but halfway through the year, it means nothing,” Carr said. “It’s cool to be, you know, as a little kid thinking about those kinds of things, that’s cool, but that’s probably where it ends for me.”

Family and close friends wouldn’t distract with MVP talk. Plenty of voices remain to break focus from Sunday night’s AFC West clash against Denver, which is carried between film and meetings and practice and workouts and meals and designed rest.

“I would rather not hear anything,” Carr said. “I would rather just go about my business and hang out with my family, to be honest. But, it’s a part of this business, it’s a part of this job so… Trust me, I’m very honored and thankful, don’t get me wrong, but at this point in the year, that stuff is, it’s cool but it’s not for me.”

The NFL MVP is voted upon after the regular season and awarded just before the Super Bowl. It isn’t decided halfway through.

“I don’t believe there’s such thing as a midseason MVP or anything like that,” receiver Amari Cooper said. “But, if Derek keeps playing well, at the end of the season we’ll definitely see.”

If the Raiders go 6-2 in the second half and therefore 12-4 overall, Carr should rightfully be in the discussion for the league’s finest individual award. Most have carried that message.

Khalil Mack, one of Carr’s best friends on the team, couldn’t help but support his boy.

“D.C., that’s my dog, man,” Mack said. “He deserves that. He’s a hell of a player, hell of a person and hell of a quarterback. I’m glad he’s on my team.”

Bruce Irvin was diplomatic about his quarterback’s hot streak, especially with so much football remaining.

“We have a long season left still,” Irvin said. “He’s having a great year and is leading us the way he’s supposed to. It’s Week 9. We have bigger goals than anything individual. We’re trying to make the playoffs, and I’m sure DC would tell you that’s more important that anything else. It’s bigger than us. It’s about we.”

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.