ALAMEDA – The Raiders haven’t given up on the prospect of sending quarterback Derek Carr back under center. They aren’t in a rush to do so, either.
The Raiders have operated in the shotgun and pistol formation after Carr dislocated his pinky on a botched snap against Carolina. That’s three and a half games ago now, and the Raiders have been performing well despite some formational limitations.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s playbook is thick, with variations to fit any situation. The Raiders are 3-1 under new restrictions, which may continue in Saturday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. Or may not.
Carr practiced working under center before beating San Diego last week, and again heading into Saturday’s game. The third-year quarterback swears his finger is fine and that it doesn’t limit him in any way.
The Raiders have been slow to revert to old ways. They prize ball security, and obviously don’t want their star quarterback to suffer a setback.
“We’re going to keep doing what we think puts us in our best position to win,” Musgrave said. “So, we always want to ascertain how his finger’s healing and make sure that ball’s going to be secure first and foremost. But, Derek’s a tough kid, as you know. He’ll do anything. He’s taking snaps before the game under center, at practice.
“He’ll run through a brick wall for us. To come back like he did in the game four games ago when he got hurt… It has nothing to do with Derek’s toughness, we’re using our best judgment as we see fit.”
In addition to some schematic limits, many believe running suffers while in the shotgun. Running with power is harder, especially in short-yardage situations. The running back doesn’t get the same space to get accelerate or see the defensive front’s flow and where creases are created.
“I think it’s a myth when it says (running is easier) under center and those kind of things,” Carr said. “We ran the ball just fine.”
Carr’s right. The Raiders have averaged 30 carries for 139.6 yards per game in three contests without going under center. That’s far better than their 118.2-yard season average.
There was a sequence in Sunday’s win over San Diego that suggests not going under center can complicate things. It came in the fourth quarter with the Raiders down three points. They earned a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, never went under center, and couldn’t punch it in. Carr and offensive coaches have said San Diego executed well in those scenarios.
“We’ve done a nice job of blocking both in the gun, pistol, under center, and San Diego played better than we did there on those plays,” Musgrave said.
Latavius Murray scored two short-yardage touchdowns against Buffalo under similar circumstances.
Head coach Jack Del Rio said not going under center was somewhat of an issue, though he anticipates doing so at some point this season, though proceeding with caution has been the preference thus far.
“I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from that,” Del Rio said. “I think we’re doing what we think is right for us and it’s not that we can’t or haven’t, it’s just that we’re choosing to proceed the way we are.”