Not limited by back, Derek Carr puts finger on why Raiders' offense struggled

Not limited by back, Derek Carr puts finger on why Raiders' offense struggled

OAKLAND – Derek Carr’s return from a back injury was not triumphant. The Raiders lost. Again.

Carr had some good news to report after Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He said transverse process fractures didn’t hinder his ability to play quarterback against the Chargers. Every throw was available.

He didn’t connect on many downfield. His two long completions to Amari Cooper were negated by penalty. Michael Crabtree’s 23-yard touchdown reception, the passing game’s only explosive pass play, was a catch and run.

The Raiders weren’t able to work the ball downfield. Carr didn’t let loose much.

Short stuff wasn’t necessary to protect the passer.

“It had nothing to do with my back,” Carr said. “They play really soft zone coverage. That’s what (Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley) does. He tries to create pressure and hide some things. Usually, when they play soft, you have to take those.”

Carr’s pedestrian stat line didn’t wow. He completed 21-of 30 passes for 171 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions and a 67.5 passer rating. Carr averaged 5.3 yards per pass play, a low sum more common in his early years. Dink and dunk was the strategy Sunday. Carr threw just five passes 10 yards or more in the air, and completed three for 50 yards and an interception. The other 25 were short-range throws, with five behind the line of scrimmage. The passing game had just one big play all day, and couldn't sustain success often enough to generate enough points. 

Carr said the full playbook was available to him against the Chargers.

“We go out there as an offense and we’re going to run what’s called to the best of our abilities,” Carr said. “There was no talk of trying to get the ball out of my hands or to not take hits or anything like that.”

Carr said the Raiders scheme under Todd Downing is “great.” The game plans are sound. Fans have grown frustrated with the coaching staff, coordinators especially, with the Raiders performing well below expectation.

The Raiders rank 30th in total offense and 16th in points per game even after scoring 70 in the season’s first two weeks.

Carr hasn’t put a team on his shoulders during a four-game losing streak where the Raiders are averaging 13.1 points per game.

He’ll naturally take all the blame in these moments. That’s what good leaders do.

He took responsibility for two key picks. The first came from miscommunication, while the second was tipped a bit and killed an 11-play drive already in the red zone.

The problems Carr, believes, are small.

“Details. That's a frustrating thing,” Carr said. “I'm not going to lie to you. I'm really frustrated. We work too hard for that kind of stuff to happen. That's an easy catch, that's an easy play, if I do the right thing, if our players do the right thing. What I'm trying to say, is that it should be an easy play. And it was a turnover. That should never happen. We gave them two gifts.

“It's myself and the whole offense included. We need to lock into every little detail, that's the problem. There's nothing else. Our guys work their tail off. When I get there, guys are there and they're working. We're working hard, but we have to lock in on the details."

Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?


Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?

Jon Gruden doesn’t love offseason restrictions on player-coach interaction. They weren’t so strict when Gruden last coached nine years ago, but the new collective bargaining agreement prevents the new Raiders head coach from extended contact with his players at this stage in the NFL’s downtime.

He has, however, run into several Raiders stopping by the team’s Alameda complex.

Count running back Marshawn Lynch and receiver Michael Crabtree among them. Conversations with those talented, yet mercurial players will be key as Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie decide how best to use the salary cap.

Both guys have a long history of NFL production. Both guys are getting up there in age, and have some drawbacks. Both guys can be cut without a salary cap hit.

Gruden had nice things to say about both guys in a Wednesday interview with the Bay Area News Group.

He was asked directly if Lynch will be on the 2018 roster.

“I don’t know,” Gruden said. “I bumped into him. Some of these players that live locally do come to the facility to get a workout, see the trainer. I’ve been downstairs and met several guys. I have talked to Marshawn briefly. We’ll see. We’ll keep everybody posted. Right now, he’s our leading ball carrier. He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. That’s a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also.”

Lynch started slow but finished strong, and was the team’s best skill player in the season’s second half. He’s contracted to make up to $6 million in 2018.

Crabtree came up later in a discussion of what he likes on the roster.

“I got to bump into Crabtree,” Gruden said. “Hopefully we can get the best out of Crabtree and his career.”

Crabtree is coming off a down year following two stellar seasons in Oakland. He had just 58 catches for 618 yards – he still had eight touchdowns – but his targets and snaps decreased the last two weeks. He seemed at odds with the previous coaching staff, a group that was dismissed at season’s end.

Crabtree is set to make $7 million next season, though none of it is guaranteed.

Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders


Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders

PALO ALTO – Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie became a father on Super Bowl Sunday. Newborn son Elijah Carrie has been the sole focus these last few weeks, as T.J. learns on the job how to be a dad.

Pardon him if he hasn’t thought much about impending free agency. The 2014 seventh-round pick turned full-time starter has a rookie deal expiring soon, with a raise on the horizon following his best season as a pro.

That’ll come in March. Early February, however, has kept him otherwise engaged.

“I’ve been so busy with my little one, and I haven’t been getting any sleep,” Carrie said Thursday. “Learning how to be a dad has been so engulfing that I haven’t delved into the details of what free agency will mean to me.”

Soul searching wasn’t required to realize his dream scenario. The East Bay native wants to stay in Oakland, with a Raiders team he loved as a kid.

“My intention is to be here,” Carrie said. “I’m a Bay Area guy, a hometown kid. I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else. This is a passion for me. I dreamed about playing for the Raiders for such a long time. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to play there for four years, I want to finish (with the Raiders).”

Carrie wants to work with a new Raiders regime. He visited the team’s Alameda complex on Wednesday and met with new head coach Jon Gruden and defensive assistants. The interaction left Carrie wanting more, furthering his belief that be belongs in Silver and Black.

“Coach Gruden is very energetic,” Carrie said. “He’s a coach that likes to have fun but it a very business oriented guy. There are a lot of things, I imagine, that are going to change, just from the way he has done things. It’s going to be different, but I embrace it. It’ll be very challenging entering into a new regime, but there are a lot of positive factors involved with it.”

The Raiders don’t have many cornerbacks under contract come mid-March. They released David Amerson, and could do the same with Sean Smith later this offseason. Gareon Conley should start at one spot, but everything else is wide-open entering free agency and the draft.

Carrie could find value on the open market after recording 70 tackles and nine passes defensed in 16 starts. He’ll explore his options further next month, before free agency begins in earnest March 14.

“I know March is really when it starts to go down,” Carrie said. “My son will be a little older then, so I can focus more on free agency and make some more decisions.”