It was a typical offseason for Derek Carr in some respects.
The Raiders quarterback entered the offseason with eyes on taking a leap in Year 3 in Jon Gruden's system. Carr endured the normal whispers about the Raiders flirting with other quarterbacks. He handled the addition of Marcus Mariota seamlessly, and then, once the coronavirus pandemic hit, Carr made sure the Silver and Black would be ready to go by organizing players-only practices at local Las Vegas parks.
Carr has been on point in training camp, as he and the Raiders look to hit the ground running when the 2020 season opens for them in Carolina against the Panthers. While the Raiders have many things to iron out still, general manager Mike Mayock has been impressed with everything Carr has brought to the table from the offseason through training camp.
"I think a couple things, and it’s not that it’s a surprise, but I’m just really pleased with the way Derek Carr has taken over this football team," Mayock told Raiders reporters Tuesday. "And it goes back to the offseason, it goes back to all the workouts he had with the players and the players just confirming their buy-in. And that’s been awesome. I think Derek is just a natural. I think he gets better every day with Jon [Gruden] in Year 3. That’s been awesome."
Carr is entering a make-or-break season as the Raiders transition to Las Vegas.
Mayock and Gruden spent the offseason revamping the offense, giving Carr everything he should need to lead what they expect will be a high-powered offense. The Raiders drafted wide receivers Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards, who have impressed early on in camp. They also drafted do-everything athlete Lynn Bowden Jr., and signed Nelson Agholor and Jason Witten. Add those players to a cast that already includes Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams, as well as one of the top offensive lines in the NFL, and it's time for Carr to prove he's the Raiders' future at quarterback.
The Raiders' offense was able to rack up the yards in 2019, but they struggled on third down and in the red zone. Those issues led them to score under 20 points per game, something Carr and Gruden need to fix this season if the team plans to take another leap forward.
Carr had a good statistical season in 2019. But all those numbers didn't come with enough wins to make the playoffs, and that led to another offseason of people questioning his talent and long-term staying power with the Raiders. Carr is sick of all negativity he's endured over the past few seasons.
“I have a lot to prove to myself, I have a lot to prove to my organization. I’m being completely honest with you, I’m tired of being disrespected. So there was no question I was going to play this year," Carr said when asked if he thought about opting out of the season due to COVID-19.
Carr has been one of few constants during two Raiders rebuilds. He has taken his lumps, played behind a poor offensive line in 2018, lacked weapons in 2019 and the Raiders' defense has done him zero favors. Gruden and Mayock understand all of that. They also know Carr has the arm talent to be an NFL quarterback.
But now it's time to find out if he's the guy they want leading the franchise going forward. So far, Carr is doing everything to show he is.