There were yards aplenty last season for Derek Carr and the Raiders' offense. Carr racked up a career-high 4,054 yards in 2019, good for the eighth-most in the NFL.
Unfortunately for Carr and the Raiders, all those yards didn't translate on the scoreboard as the Silver and Black struggled to punch it in, scoring just 19.1 points per game. Some of that was on Carr. A lot was on the lack of offensive weapons put around him. Tyrell Williams battle plantar fasciitis for most of the season and Antonio Brown was in a straight jacket, leaving Carr with just tight end Darren Waller and rookie slot receiver Hunter Renfrow as truly viable weapons in the passing game.
Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock revamped the offense this offseason, adding Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards and Lynn Bowden Jr. in the draft, as well as signing tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Nelson Agholor in free agency. With those weapons joining Waller, Renfrow, Williams and running back Josh Jacobs, Carr has his sights set on turning all those yards into points in 2020.
“Oh yeah, my vision is that we’ll just score more points," Carr said Tuesday on a conference call with Raiders media. "We many times have been able to move the ball really well, especially last year among the tops in efficiency in how we can move the ball and things like that, but that’s fewer possessions that we did have. So, we need to make sure that when we get the ball into our hands we capitalize in the red zone. I think we talked about it the first time we talked, that if we don’t finish in the red zone everyone is going to be hanging their head and bummed out again. So, we have to finish our drives. I think my vision for us is that we would be a top offense in the red zone and usually, the top offenses in the red zone are taking care of the football, and those are the teams that are in the playoffs and making runs.”
Carr is set up for a career-year as he enters his third season in Gruden's system. The added weapons are the headliner. The speed of Ruggs and the physicality of Edwards will give the Raiders two young, dynamic playmakers who defenses will have to focus on. That in turn should open up more space in the middle for Renfrow and Waller to operate.
Last season, defenses were able to key in on Jacobs midway through the season, knowing that stopping him would grind a Raiders' attack that lacked outside weapons to a halt.
That shouldn't be the case in 2020. The Raiders will have a versatile arsenal that can through a variety of things at opposing defenses, which has Carr excited about the possibilities for the upcoming season as the Raiders look to build on their 7-9 campaign from a year ago.
"I’ve been around some good groups in my time," Carr said when asked about his new receiving corps. "We’ve had some fun years. I’ve been around some times where everyone gets hurt and you just try to figure it out. Whereas here, we have a great group of guys where if someone does get hurt, it’s like you feel for your brother and, ‘Dang, we don’t want to lose anybody.’ But, ‘Hey, we have this element now. Hey, we have this guy that can do this. This guy can run these routes. This guy can take the top off, this guy can run these kinds of routes.’ I guess the opportunities are limitless.
"I think that’s what Coach Gruden wanted. He just wanted a whole bunch of different versatile guys that he can call this or he can call that. In Coach Gruden’s playbook, he wants to go into a game with this many plays [gestures at big space], where some guys go in with this [makes small box with hands]. He wants this many things because if you’re stopping that, he’s going to go here. If you're stopping that, he’s going to go here. He’s not going to just let you stop him and just give up and the game’s over. He’s going to make sure that he’s going to stress you out with every ability that we have, and in that room, there is just so many things. If you think about it, we can put Bryan, Tyrell or Henry, or Zay, all those guys, Nelly [Nelson Agholor], you put whoever you want outside and you put Darren Waller and you got Jason Witten, our tight ends, Foster [Moreau], Derek [Carrier], and then you put [Hunter] Renfrow in there. Who’s going to cover Renfrow? Who’s going to cover our backs? I think that was Coach Gruden’s goal, his vision, his dream when he got here was. We talked about, ‘Hey, it’s going to take some time but we are going to get to a place where we can do whatever we want on offense.’ We can run the triple option if we want, so I think we’re going to do that in Carolina.”
Carr and the Raiders were expected to have a potent offense in 2019. Then, Brown went haywire and the train never left the station.
Things will be different in 2020. Gruden and Mayock have built an offense that can hit defenses from all sides. The cupboard, which once was bare, now is stocked with elite, playmaking weapons that no doubt have Gruden and Carr salivating to take their new unit for a test drive.
That opportunity will come in Week 1 when the Raiders visit the Carolina Panthers. Armed with everything he needs to lead a dynamic offense, the onus now is on Carr to make sure the Raiders' offense reaches its sky-high potential in 2020.