Carr's absence still has Raiders in a rut: 'Derek is gone'

Carr's absence still has Raiders in a rut: 'Derek is gone'

DENVER – The Raiders have played roughly five quarters since quarterback Derek Carr broke his right fibula. They’ve been outscored 35-6 in that span.

A quarter of that came after he got hurt against Indianapolis, when the Raiders were justifiably shell-shocked. The rest stems from Sunday’s 24-6 loss to the Denver Broncos, where poor quarterback play, an inept run game and defensive miscues killed any chance of winning the AFC West.

Now the Raiders must regroup on a short week before opening the playoffs Saturday afternoon in Houston. They aren’t sure who will play quarterback. It could be Matt McGloin, who wasn’t good even before suffering a shoulder/neck injury in the second quarter. It could be Connor Cook, a raw but talented rookie making his first NFL start in the postseason.

[RELATED: Report: Raiders flying in former practice squad quarterback]

There’s one option they won’t have. Carr isn’t coming back to save the day.

That’s something Raiders players and coaches understand, but that doesn't make it easy to move past. Carr was this team’s heart and soul on the field and off. Losing him at such a late stage, with reserves thrust into huge games without much time to prep, is a gut shot. There wasn’t time to come to grips with it, adjust over a longer stretch or even catch a breath.

The Raiders looked lost without Carr on Sunday in Denver. There is a void without him the Raiders are trying to fill on the fly. That's a tall task. Maybe improbable. Keeping eyes forward is the only option, especially with that giant cast on Carr’s surgically repaired right leg.

“We can’t keep talking about Derek, bro,” edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. “Derek is gone. We have to do what we have to do to win. There isn’t any sense to keep bringing up Derek. It is what it is at this point. We got outplayed today. It’s plain and simple.”

The Raiders offense never got rolling. The Broncos were committed to stopping the run – as the Texans will be on Saturday – and dared quarterbacks to beat them deep. That didn’t happen much. Cook and McGloin threw for 171 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 32 attempts.

The defense is also entering a new world order, one where adequate is no longer acceptable. The Raiders won’t be scoring at their usual clip without Carr, meaning points and yards allowed must come down to compete.

The defense fell behind early in Denver and the offense never found a rhythm. That made for one bad day at the office. The Raiders seemed sluggish, without the energy typical of this year’s team. That begs one obvious question: Are the Raiders still reeling over Carr?

“I think you leave yourself open to those kinds of questions for sure,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We’re big boys. We can take it like men and move on. It’s not what we wanted by any stretch. In a lot of different areas, we can be a lot better. As a team, we are better than that. We need to just put this behind us and move on.”

The Raiders didn’t want to use Carr’s loss to excuse poor play. They didn’t tolerate failure just because McGloin started, got hurt and then Cook took over. This quarterback mess could well be their undoing, but the Raiders don’t want to go out with a whimper.

“You have to improvise and overcome,” receiver Amari Cooper said. “…Everybody should be ready to play.”

Jon Gruden, Raiders seeking solid third option behind Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson

Jon Gruden, Raiders seeking solid third option behind Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson

ALAMEDA -- Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson are locked into the Raiders starting lineup. They have been both dynamic and steady during training camp.

Receivers behind them on the depth chart haven’t been so strong.

Head coach Jon Gruden wants better from those guys.

“Hopefully someone can step up and will clearly emerge as the third receiver,” Gruden said Monday after practice. “… We need somebody to step up in that room this week.”

The Raiders will run a game-like practice week heading into Friday’s exhibition against the Green Bay Packers, and regulars will play an extended stretch.

Game performance could lift someone above the rest. The third receiver typically works in the slot, a spot Ryan Switzer manned during the offseason program and early in camp.

Griff Whalen has taken that spot over the last week.

Martavis Bryant is the most talented receiver, maybe in the entire group, but has been slow to absorb the offense and learn multiple receiver positions. Gruden has called him out on that, and has him working primarily with the second and third units.

There will be a competitive battle for receiver jobs, but it’s expected that Bryant and Switzer will end up taking control of snaps behind Cooper and Nelson. That isn’t guaranteed, however. Gruden wants more consistency and production from his wideouts.

“There has been some good and some, I don’t want to say bad, but there have been some ups and downs typical in training camp,” Nelson said. “Sometimes guys come out of the blocks fast and then slow down. Sometimes start slow and then pick it up. The main thing is being consistent.

“Keep reminding them that you can’t let the roller coaster get to you. You’re going to have good days and bad ones. You’re going to run good routes and bad routes. You have to continue to improve and continue to grind. If you do that, you’ll get the results you want.”

The Raiders need more from the slot, which could be an important role with threats on the outside. The competition there is an important one that quarterback Derek Carr is watching closely.

“Yeah, a couple of them are new, fighting for that spot. A couple have been banged up. So, I think we’re all sitting there excited to see what happens,” Carr said. “They’re all, I think, healthy. We’ll see. I think they’re all mentally ready, physically ready. Hopefully come game time, we can sit there and we can evaluate that spot. Because, obviously it’s important.

"When you have guys like Martavis or [Amari Cooper] Coop or Jordy on the outside, you have Jared [Cook] on the inside, someone is hopefully going to get a good matchup on the other side and in the slot, wherever we put them. We have to figure that out and it’ll be exciting. I’m just excited to watch how that goes this week, preparation-wise and then in the game.”

Watch Marshawn Lynch's tee shot that earned him MVP of Klay Thompson's golf tourney


Watch Marshawn Lynch's tee shot that earned him MVP of Klay Thompson's golf tourney

Marshawn Lynch is much better at driving a golf cart than he is at driving a golf ball. 

The Raiders running back, of course, famously took an injury cart for a spin in 2006 after a win when he was at Cal. On Sunday, he took to the links, playing alongside Klay Thompson at the Thompson Family Foundation Golf Tournament in San Francisco.

Thompson gave a look at Lynch's "form" on his Instagram story, and the result was not pretty. 

Courtesy: @klaythompson/Instagram

That won't be considered solid, let alone way too solid, by anybody. Thompson told the Bay Area News Group's Mark Medina that he wants to improve his golf game, and it's probably best if he doesn't turn to Lynch for advice.