Raiders

Raiders QB Derek Carr shows progress in Jon Gruden's system

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USATSI

Raiders QB Derek Carr shows progress in Jon Gruden's system

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr is maneuvering his way through his fourth offensive play caller in five seasons. There’s a learning curve with each guy, especially someone with Jon Gruden’s high expectations.

So much has been made of this offensive guru-quarterback relationship since Gruden got hired. So much has been said about it as $100 million head coach and $125 million quarterback in their first year working together.

Some have even wondered if it would also be their last. That seems incredibly premature, especially with how hard Gruden is pushing someone he believes can make every throw.

[RELATED: Gruden holds Carr to high standards]

This 2-10 season hasn’t gone well. Carr has produced some bad moments, and some good ones all while working with rookie offensive tackles and a receiver corps in constant flux.

We’re 12 games into this season now, and Carr is starting to steady after rough patches. He was trying to hard at the start, and threw some ill-advised picks in the first five weeks. Then he overcorrected, and ended up playing it too safe while trying to keep possession and survive with poor pass protection.

Carr has found a better groove the past three weeks and believes it’s something to build on in the future.

“I feel like a better football player,” Carr said Wednesday. “Anybody can say whatever they want, we can turn the film on and go deep into that and see, man this is what (Gruden, Greg Olson and Brian Callahan have) taught me, these are the things that I’m doing better, all that kind of stuff. I’m just thankful to them, I really am because since they got there, it’s been a learning process.”

At times it’s not crystal clear in the numbers. There are a few, however, that suggest he’s starting to assimilate to Gruden’s way.

He’d rather have a completed pass, a shot at a positive gain or a flat give up, and Carr is finding those options. Carr is completing a career high 69 percent of his passes, even if his spray chart shows a bunch of dink and dunk. There are times when that’s exactly what his head coach wants.

His adjusted completion percentage, a Pro Football Focus stat taking away incompletions from throwaways, batted passes, drops, spikes and times where he’s hit while throwing, stands at 78.3 percent and ranks No. 5 overall.

“I’ve never completed this many balls in games in my life,” Carr said. “We’re throwing a lot of real concepts and down the field and things like this, and if it’s not there, check down and seeing the back get eight or nine yards. It’s been a lot of fun just learning that.”

Carr has tempered the impulse to go all in, but his reputation for not taking shots downfield is ill placed. While he ranks 17th 42 pass attempts over 20 yards in the air – he’s 20th with just 10 percent of his passes travelling that far – he hits on a solid number. Per PFF, Carr ranks fifth in deep pass completion percentage. In short, he hits on half of them.

Being smart when pushing downfield is another Gruden preference. So is taking care of the football, though that’s true for most every coach.

Carr has played the past seven games interception free, showing he knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em and has been consistently accurate.

“I think so. I think it all helps when he gets some good looks in the pocket like he did yesterday,” Gruden said. “His preparation is excellent. His recognition is really good. He’s got a very fast mind and a really quick release. He can be really accurate if protected, and that’s a combination we like.”

Gruden has liked some of Carr’s recent play but there is always more to do. Carr’s work trying to meld with Gruden and it’s a learning process, one he heaped pressure on in camp by saying he hoped it would look like he and Gruden had been together 10 years. The bar was set then, and it hasn’t been met.

That doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made, with four chances to prove it before the season’s done.

“Coach Gruden throws a lot at his quarterbacks, and it’s been fun,” Carr said. “We’re getting to that place where we’re getting on the same page, we’re communicating. That doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be perfect and just continue to have crazy things happen, but what it does mean is that we’re going to be able to move the ball, we’re going to be efficient, we’re going to be really good together. That right there is exciting to me.”

Derek Carr hanging tough despite unprecedented QB pressure

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USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

Derek Carr hanging tough despite unprecedented QB pressure

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr is getting more now than any point in NFL career, likely more than his days as an amateur.

The Raiders quarterback was sacked five times in Sunday’s 30-16 loss to Cincinnati, bring his season total to 47. That’s a career high by a ton, with two more games to add to the tally.

Carr’s previous high was 31 in 2015, which isn’t too many at all. This year’s total ranks third in the NFL, and it’s an especially shocking number considering how quick he gets rid of the football.

Add 22 quarterback hits to the 47 sacks and Carr has taken quite a beating this season.

“I think he’s hanging in there,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “No question, I am sure he is sore. He knows he is carrying us right now on offense. That’s what a franchise quarterback is paid to do, but we are doing everything we can to support him, to try and put him in position to audible at the line of scrimmage, fix problems, and move the football and ultimately win games. He really has had us in position to win a lot of these games. It’s a credit to him.”

Carr isn’t one to criticize, let alone those who get zero credit for keeping him upright. He was always thankful for the lines Reggie McKenzie spent significant funds creating, with Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and a veteran right tackle.

Now the Raiders have rookies on both flanks and a full on injury plague attacking both sides of Hudson.

Carr has been on the injury report once with an ankle injury, but hasn’t missed a start. The quarterback has improved orchestrating Gruden’s system, and has stellar stats, though not enough wins to show for it.

It’s hard to blame the quarterback for Raiders struggles most weeks, especially with the talent base crumbling around him during Gruden’s tear down/rebuild.

“I think Derek has played great,” Gruden said. “Somebody told me he had 3,700 yards and 68 percent completions in 13 games. That’s astonishing. With three new guards, losing a right tackle, a feature back, three top receivers. The guy is a hell of a player. The guy is a great quarterback. We are very pleased and proud of what he has done. We know we got to get better around him, and that we will.”

The Raiders must add depth to the offensive front, develop young tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker while importing veteran competition on the right. The receiver corps must be overhauled, with maybe some help a running back as well.

The goal is to finish this season strong, and prepare for a 2019 campaign where he should be the starting quarterback working his second year with Gruden.

“We’re going to finish the right way,” Carr said. “We have two more, and we’re going to bring it.”

Emotional Jon Gruden talks about potential final Raiders game at Coliseum

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AP

Emotional Jon Gruden talks about potential final Raiders game at Coliseum

Football in the Oakland Coliseum could be over as we know it following the Christmas Eve game between the Raiders and Broncos.

With the Raiders' future in flux, head coach Jon Gruden was asked about the possibility that Monday's game could be the team's final game at the Coliseum.

"I'm really sensitive about hearing that," Gruden said during his Monday press conference in Alameda. "It's going to be a great atmosphere Monday night, Christmas Eve, Denver Broncos coming to town. I get excited thinking about it."

Gruden was asked to name a favorite memory, but he provided a broader answer.

"Just raging in the Black Hole," Gruden said. "Rocking and raging down there after the Steelers game, after a lot of wins over the years, you know, seeing a lot of the highlights of the great Raiders teams. I get excited, I get emotional about it and hopefully we get it all resolved where we can continue to play here."

That last comment is interesting. The Raiders don't know where they will play in 2019. The team said they wouldn't play in Oakland next year if the city sued them over their move to Las Vegas. The city of Oakland filed a lawsuit last week. So now the team must figure out where to play.

It sounds like Gruden wants to keep playing Oakland.

"It's a real football stadium," Gruden said when asked what he liked about the Coliseum. "It's got dirt, grass, it's got tradition. It's where some of the best games in the history of football have been played. It's where some of the best players in the history of the world played football games."

When another question about the potential final game came, Gruden tried to move on before he got emotional.

"Next question. Next thing you know, I'm going to start crying about a stadium," Gruden said with a laugh.

But the questions kept coming.

"It would be weird," Gruden said when asked what it would feel like if Monday's game was the last ever at the Coliseum.

"I like the old stadiums, I like the traditional joints, to be honest with you," Gruden said. "But I'm also excited about the future of the Raiders. Who are we kidding? It's a sentimental time."

If Gruden is trying to hold back his emotions, the players certainly must know that this could be the final game in Oakland. So will the coaching staff bring it up during team meetings to try and pump up the players?

"We'll certainly talk about it," Gruden said. "Maybe the night before the game, we'll sauce up a video for the guys, get them a true respect of where they are playing."