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


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.”

Raiders report card: Grades for offense, defense in 28-10 loss to Chiefs

Raiders report card: Grades for offense, defense in 28-10 loss to Chiefs

OAKLAND – The Raiders’ hot start cooled off quickly and eliminated hopes of upsetting the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum.

MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes put things out of reach with 28 unanswered points in the second quarter to lock down a 28-10 victory over the Raiders.

The Silver and Black split back-to-back home games and head into a long road stretch at 1-1, following a disappointing performance that proved they don’t match up with the NFL’s elite.

“I tip my hat to the Chiefs,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “They made some great plays, a barrage of plays, in about a five-minute period that really turned this game around. It was a difficult game on a short week for us. I’m proud of our team. We did not quit. We turned the ball over a couple of times in the second half. We had some pre-snap penalties on both sides that are inexcusable.”

Here’s the Raiders report card following a Week 2 loss to an old AFC West rival.

Rushing offense

Josh Jacobs is an excellent player. That much is clear through two games, with the first-round draft pick showing great burst, vision and toughness despite being a defensive focal point. The Chiefs worked hard to slow him down and he still churned out 99 yards on just 12 carries, buoyed by a 51-yard jaunt in the second half.

The run blocking proved solid on the right side, anyway, and should be used consistently to help move the chains and keep the Raiders on schedule. Jacobs cramped up during the second quarter, and might’ve generated some offense during a key moment in this game. The attack fell flat then while the Chiefs surged ahead.
Grade: B

Passing offense

Quarterback Derek Carr couldn’t sustain his hot start, and sputtered some with Jacobs out and Tyrell Williams missing some time with a hip issue. While the Raiders longed to move on completely from Antonio Brown, his loss can still be felt in the air attack. The Raiders don’t have a capable No. 2 receiver at this point, with Ryan Grant struggling in a starting role.

Tight end Darren Waller had six catches for 63 yards but should’ve been targeted even more. Hunter Renfrow made some rookie mistakes, and the backs aren’t involved much in the passing game.

Carr’s interception in the end zone, on first-and-goal no less, was a case of the quarterback trying to do too much. The second was a bad pass interference call that was less Carr’s fault. The quarterback must be better, however, over the course of four quarters.

After the first quarter, Carr was 17-for-26 for 127 yards and two picks. That’s not good enough.
Grade: D-plus

Rushing defense

It’s hard to find fault with this effort, which looks far better than last season. The Raiders allowed just 32 yards on 22 carries, a 1.5-yard average. Johnathan Hankins is anchoring that effort, with help from Josh Mauro and Maurice Hurst.

The Chiefs ran a lot and didn’t get much from it. That’s a good thing that bodes well for the defense if it can eliminate big plays that plagued them in this contest.
Grade: A

Passing defense

This was a disaster in the second quarter. The secondary wasn’t on the same page often enough. The pass rush couldn’t affect Mahomes, and gave him time to make magic happen down the field.

The Raiders couldn’t stop anything during a game deciding stretch, and still have major problems covering tight ends.

Part of that is Kansas City being an offensive juggernaut, but the Raiders must do better at cornerback and safety after giving up so much so quickly against the Chiefs.
Grade: F

Special teams

The return game will suffer if Dwayne Harris (ankle) is out for any length of time. A.J. Cole put two punts inside the 20 and had a 60 yarder. Daniel Carlson hit his only field goal attempt. Allowing a 20-yard punt return is never good, but it’s hard to blame special teams for this outcome.
Grade: B

[RELATED: Carr reflects on breaking Stabler's record]


Kansas City brought the hammer down in the second quarter, all the time required to put this game out of reach and expose some shortcomings the Raiders must shore up before facing Minnesota next week. Gruden came up with a solid game plan, but Chiefs counterpart Andy Reid made better adjustments and found ways to create favorable matchups exploited for big gains.

The Raiders don’t have the talent required to make up for big mistakes. They must play sound over four quarters, and didn’t do that Sunday afternoon at Oakland Coliseum.
Grade: F

What went wrong in Raiders' second-quarter meltdown against Chiefs

What went wrong in Raiders' second-quarter meltdown against Chiefs

OAKLAND – The Raiders scored twice on as many first-quarter drives. They forced Kansas City to punt on both of their series, taking a firm two-score lead into the second period.

That’s when the wheels came off.

Kansas City turned the game on its head during the second quarter, with 28 unanswered points and a Raiders run of three-and-outs.

That disastrous combo sunk the Raiders’ upset bid and set Sunday’s 28-10 loss in motion.

The Raiders were left to identify what went wrong during a pivotal period that ended any shot of a realistic upset chance.

Well, a lot.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes took yards in massive chunks, including four touchdowns from at least 27 yards out. The reigning NFL MVP was 12-for 17 for 278 yards and four touchdowns in the second quarter alonne, averaging 16.3 yards per attempt over that stretch. 

Slot cornerback and team captain Lamarcus Joyner believes there was a recurring theme in the deep-shot onslaught, one that gave two scores away without resistance.

"I think it was just a communication thing,” Joyner said. “I think the guys in this room, one, you look at the one-on-one matchups you want for the most part. We had two plays that we gave to them by miscommunication. Got a lot of new guys in the system, we just have to communicate and we're going to get better.”

The first touchdown of this stretch was a blown coverage, plain and simple. Demarcus Robinson was wide open for a 44-yard touchdown strike, with no one in his vicinity until Gareon Conley came off his man to make a tackle.

The second touchdown drive was the backbreaker, a 14-play, 95-yard drive that ended with a 42-yard strike to Mecole Hardman on, I joke you not, third-and-20. That’s not a typo. The Raiders forced a third-and-long thrice on that drive and gave up big plays each time. There was a third-and-4 early in the drive where Clelin Ferrell’s neutral-zone infraction gave K.C. an automatic first down.

Mahomes had all day to throw during this stretch, including the 3rd-and-20 debacle, leaving the defensive front to shoulder blame for that play and an entire quarter gone wrong.

“We just have to get home. That’s basically it,” edge rusher Maxx Crosby said. “The back end can only hold up so long. We had to keep getting pressure and, in that second quarter, they started throwing the ball deep and winning some 50-50 balls. That’s on us up front. We just have to get home.”

The third score came courtesy of Andy Reid creating a matchup the Raiders tried to avoid like the plague. The Raiders had Daryl Worley shadow tight end Travis Kelce, with him playing deeper than ever in certain packages with four cornerbacks and a single-high safety. On touchdown No. 3, Kelce shifted outside and got locked up one-on-one with shorter safety Karl Joseph. The Chiefs smelled blood, and threw an easy score to Kelce down the left sideline.

Momentum shifted irrevocably at that point and the downtrodden Raiders were ripe for another haymaker. The offense went three and out, and Mahomes went deep again. Robinson was wide open again for a 39-yard score that concluded the scoring.

Raiders execution was a major part of that disaster, but the reigning MVP had something to do with it.

“Well, we had a breakdown in one coverage, I know that, but a couple of those were just incredible throws and catches also,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “You have to tip your hat to them. We didn’t get enough pressure. We let Mahomes move around back there and cock his arm, and when he gets an opportunity to do that he can drop them in there no matter where they are. I tip my hat to them and we have to do a better job next time.”

[RELATED: Carr expresses frustration after loss]

This stretch didn’t deflate the Raiders defense, which took confidence from shutting the Chiefs out in the second half. Joyner pushed against the notion Kansas City went into cruise control, saying a few plays led to big problems.

"We eliminated the mistakes in the second half. I didn't see them back off at all,” Joyner said. “I felt like they were doing the same plays. I mean, if you look at the film, they really scored two big touchdowns off miscommunication. If you look at the film, there's other than a few plays when they beat us while we were in man-coverage and we were on our stuff, so I wouldn't take anything away from my defense. Because if they can put 50 on you, they will."