Raiders

Raiders QB Derek Carr wouldn't change decision on game-changing pick

Raiders QB Derek Carr wouldn't change decision on game-changing pick

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Derek Carr had the Raiders charging downfield late in the fourth quarter Sunday, seemingly primed to score a go-ahead touchdown and buck an early season trend of struggling in the fourth quarter.

They traveled 77 yards with ease before facing a first down at the Miami 13-yard line. Carr found a favorable matchup he wanted to exploit, with Martavis Bryant locked in single coverage against Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard.

Carr lofted a ball skyward, though it was a bit short. Howard blocked Bryant out toward the baseline, leaped up and snagged it for an interception.

The Dolphins maintained the lead and then expanded it two plays later on a shovel pass that Albert Wilson took 74 yards to the house. Game, Dolphins.

Carr's interception started the downhill slide that sent the Raiders to 0-3 following a loss to the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.

“He just saw man-to-man coverage,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said of Carr's throw. “He decided to take a shot, and unfortunately it didn't work out.”

It’s a shot Carr said he would continue to take, even after the unwelome result.

"If we have a one-on-one, we can go to certain looks [and] those kind of things,” Carr said. “I just saw one-on-one with Martavis [Bryant]. Obviously he was hot and he was doing some good things. I just gave him a chance, just like I have a hundred other times in my life. They ended up making a good play.

“It sucks, right? The outcome sucks, but, I think, going back through in my head, getting one-on-one with that guy, I'd probably have to do it again.”

It’s a play that will be second-guessed, like any mistake made by a true franchise quarterback. Carr obviously wishes for a better result there, maybe a bit better throw that only Bryant could've reached.

Carr gave Amari Cooper a chance to make a play down the field late in the first quarter. He heaved it high and deep, but Cooper saw the ball take flight, and stopped running his route while in heavy coverage.

“I had [Cameron Wake] coming up the field, so I stopped, got back inside, and Coop had him beat,” Carr said. “I let it go, but he never saw me. He never saw the ball, so he stopped. Again, that's something, like, obviously you don't want it to happen because we could’ve had a big touchdown [scored]; but he didn't see me. He didn't see the ball thrown.

“I can't get mad at him for that. It's not like he just ran the wrong route or something or blatantly did it. I promise you, he wishes he had that one back. We had the look, we had a good look for the play, so I wish we would have hit that one. That would have been fun.”

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Why Raiders QB Derek Carr should be primed for huge 2019 NFL season

Why Raiders QB Derek Carr should be primed for huge 2019 NFL season

Derek Carr reports Tuesday for his sixth Raiders training camp, his fifth as an unquestioned starter. He snatched the top job as a rookie second-round pick and never let go, weathering an early rebuild that produced an all-too-short-lived competitive renaissance and a lucrative contract.

The Raiders dipped yet again, with Carr drawing ire intensified by a then-record $125 million deal that seems pedestrian by today’s standards. A legitimate MVP candidate back in 2016 is now subject to regular slings and arrows for a downturn that completely isn’t his fault.

Carr’s partly culpable for a 10-22 record since 2016. Stats are nice, but franchise quarterbacks are judged on wins and losses.

He obviously played a role in offensive struggles, but there are mitigating factors here that can’t be ignored. Carr can’t protect himself. He didn’t cycle through offensive play callers, skill players and head coaches. He didn’t trade Khalil Mack or embark on another roster rebuild. He showed up and worked and said the right things and tried to adapt to difficult circumstances.

Mention those points and you’re an apologist.

Hammering well-worn criticisms is easy and more accepted, but saying that he’s at-times skittish, too sensitive, can’t handle head coach/play caller Jon Gruden means you’ve just joined the chorus.

Uneven stat lines foster debate, providing fodder for both sides of the Carr aisle.

Let’s paint a fuller picture here, of a cannon-armed quarterback dealt some crappy hands who has also fallen below lofty, yet realistic expectations in recent seasons.

Carr can make every throw. He’s smart and sneaky fast. The bar is and should be high. After all, that’s where he sets it.

Carr flew under it last season, but was under constant duress last season playing with two rookie offensive tackles. He had no one to throw to last season save Jared Cook. Despite all the tongue-in-cheek rhetoric last summer about Carr knowing Gruden’s system better than its creator, the quarterback was transitioning between systems.

All that and he still set career marks in completion percentage, total yards and -- this won’t fit the popular narrative -- yards per attempt despite being sacked and pressured more than ever.

That’s well and good, but you just can’t throw it away on a last-ditch fourth down to secure defeat, even if the play was never going to work. You can’t throw picks in the end zone, especially late in games. Even 16 career fourth-quarter comebacks won’t excuse that.

Carr’s performance is a polarizing, easily argued topic that depends on perspective and willingness to accept context.

This season should provide a clearer, more objective look at the quarterback.

Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock stacked the skill positions and spent heavily to secure the offensive line.

When Carr thrives well protected and feels safe in the pocket. Having Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams are excellent at creating separation and winning receptions in the air. Having them in the pattern should provide confidence making riskier decisions. Josh Jacobs and the running game should provide balance.

A second straight year with the same play-caller in the same offensive system, a luxury Carr has experienced just once before as a pro, should also provide great benefit.

Carr still can’t play defense, so he can’t completely control outcomes, but he’s in solid position to have an excellent year and find 2016 form, when he ranked among the NFL’s best quarterbacks.

[RELATED: Five bold predictions for upcoming Raiders season]

The football smarts and arm talent remain. The supporting cast is back, possibly better than ever. The situation seems ripe for a monster season and a resurgence that could quiet some critics and noise about Gruden looking harder at alternatives as Carr’s contract becomes easier to escape.

Sailing on the calm would be welcome after a few tumultuous seasons, but that privilege must be earned with on-field excellence.

Entering his sixth season with quality around him, Carr’s in prime position to do exactly that.

Raiders training camp questions: Can Antonio Brown set new standard?

Raiders training camp questions: Can Antonio Brown set new standard?

Antonio Brown talked a good game at his Raiders introductory press conference. He vowed to set a new standard within the Silver and Black as a prime example of work ethic and accountability and, of course, by putting up crazy stats often under pressure.

He only has been through an offseason program since being traded from Pittsburgh, without much chance to back all that up. He has been excellent in spring opportunities to do so, showing great work ethic in private, behind closed doors as he does so often on social media.

The man practices so hard and so fast on every play that receivers can’t help but notice. He talks serious trash during drills, but has gained the respect of Raiders cornerbacks by helping them at times and always raising the level of competition.

Fans attending Raiders training camp in Napa starting this week will see incredible work rate firsthand.

He’s steady, dynamic and shockingly durable, the first Raiders offensive superstar since Jon Gruden’s previous head-coaching stint.

Superstars produce. If healthy, Brown will do that even in heavy coverage. He has six consecutive seasons with at least 101 receptions, 1,284 yards and eight touchdowns, all of them played with the spotlight shining bright. He has had more than 100 catches, 1,499 and 12 touchdowns in half of those years.

The best superstars also lead. That’s what Brown said he wants to do here. That effort ramps up in training camp. He shouldn’t play much, if at all, in the preseason. Risking his health is foolish in meaningless games. He should push his teammates, and his quarterback to be better throughout this summer stint in Napa.

Brown is eccentric. Lots of players are. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if the leadership by example trend continues and he helps elevate teammates by more than just drawing coverage.

The main question from now on is that effort’s sustainability through training camp’s dog days. And, what if the Raiders stumble out of the gate and struggle mightily through a grueling schedule? How will he react then? What if Carr struggles some finding Brown as well or as often as he did with the Steelers? While it didn’t end well with the Steelers, Pittsburgh never finished below .500 while Brown was there, and averaged 10.4 wins per season. We simply don’t know how he’d adapt to steady losing if that happens because he hasn’t been through it as a pro.

[RELATED: Five incredibly bold predictions for 2019 Raiders season]

Brown will set a new standard for work rate and production around here, but maintaining it through tough times might be equally important.