Derek Carr

Five Raiders to watch in Week 15: Derek Carr must raise game vs. Jaguars

Five Raiders to watch in Week 15: Derek Carr must raise game vs. Jaguars

OAKLAND -- The Raiders will play their last game at Oakland Coliseum on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It will be an emotional day for everyone involved.

That includes Jon Gruden, as attached to this East Bay fan base as anyone. The Raiders coach has shut off his emotions all week, driving focus into preparation for this game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That’s the last Oakland moment he can control, and Gruden plans to take advantage.

Gruden desperately wants this win, and a victory might finally provide the opportunity to be emotional about the team’s scheduled move to Las Vegas.

“I wish I had time to stand up here and thank all the fans," Gruden said earlier this week. "I wish I had more time to really sit down and make that the big story here, and thank the fans for their support over the years, and what this franchise has accomplished, and what it means and what Oakland means to the Raiders. So, I’d like to thank everyone that welcomed us back when we came back and I know that they are going to stay with us when we go, but I appreciate all the fans and their loyalty and their support. We’ll try to give you one hell of a show.”

In order to put on a showstopper, the Raiders will need good performances from these five guys.

QB Derek Carr

I generally try to leave the franchise quarterback off these lists, but we’ll make an exception for the last Raiders game in Oakland. He got booed off the field after last week’s first half and again at the end, but this fan base still has a great affinity for the signal-caller who started virtually every game since 2014.

Carr owes them his best on Sunday, and odds are great he’ll put on a show for the faithful. He must improve upon recent performances to execute his plan. Carr will need help from a so-so receiver corps and an offensive line -- Trent Brown’s questionable with a pectoral strain -- that haven’t been at full strength all season.

Emotional Derek Carr is generally the best Derek Carr -- the season opener is a great example -- so we should anticipate him being on top of his game. The Jaguars have struggled mightily this season. but they’re sure to put up a fight during the final game in Oakland.

Carr is capable of putting a team on his shoulders, and he might have to with the Raiders defense playing as it is.

RB Josh Jacobs

The Raiders don’t have much to play for. Their playoff hopes are essentially dead, with the path to the postseason now complicated calculus when it was simple math not long ago. Jacobs is this team’s offensive engine, the player who matters most in what the Raiders do moving the football.

They know that. They believe his fractured shoulder can’t get worse and are hoping to trot him out there Sunday to help win the last game in Oakland. Jacobs' play exponentially increases their chances to win, and Jacobs knows that. He desperately wants to win this game.

The rookie is expected to be active, though it’s unclear exactly how much he will play. A 20-plus carry dose should do the Jaguars in. If he can provide that, the Raiders are in great shape if the defense holds up even a little bit. If not, Sunday could well be a struggle.

CB Isaiah Johnson

There’s no telling how much the fourth-round draft pick will play Sunday. Heck, he might not play at all.

Johnson hasn’t done much since returning off injured reserve, at times a healthy scratch since being activated around midseason. He has sat behind other guys during a playoff push and that made sense, but now it doesn’t. The Raiders are essentially out of the postseason running, with cornerback Daryl Worley either out with a neck injury or moving to strong safety in the base package.

That provides an opportunity to see what Johnson’s got. He won’t be his absolute best, not after missing most of training camp and half the regular season with a facial fracture suffered in the first regular-season game. Rookies can’t make up for that lost time until the following offseason, and Johnson clearly would’ve played earlier had he not been behind.

But it’s time to throw him out there as a test, to see what you’ve got in a talented young player. If he gives up a massive play, so what? The guy has to learn on the job. That’s how Trayvon Mullen has done it, and the Clemson product has thrived despite making some rookie mistakes. It’s time to let Johnson do the same.

DE Maxx Crosby

A devout Raiders follower made a flag to hang over the Oakland Coliseum railing -- enjoy that while you can Raider Nation, the tradition isn’t following you to Las Vegas -- to honor the departing club. He featured a skull and swords as crossbones, with a name filling out the remaining fabric. It said Mad Maxx.

That honors the rookie pass rusher who has already adhered himself to the fan base with one sack and pressure after another. He has proven a better run defender than people have expected. The Silver and Black need him to step up Sunday and generate heat largely missing from recent games.

Crosby currently has 7.5 sacks and would certainly like to reach 10 in his rookie year, needing at least a sack on Sunday to make that happen and give him a chance to compete for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

WR Tyrell Williams

The veteran receiver just isn’t right. Coaches volunteered that Williams' plantar fasciitis has plagued him all season despite it keeping him out just two games in the early going.

Williams simply hasn’t produced at a No. 1 receiver level, which has hurt the offense as a whole. Drops have been a real issue, and his lack of consistent separation can be attributed to his ailing foot.

He is not even on the injury report and is expected to play, and Williams has to produce if that’s the case. He remains the team’s best receiver and has to act like in the final game played in the spot where his grandparents live, in the town where he spent so much time as a kid.

Derek Carr shares special bond with Oakland, where he came of age in NFL

Derek Carr shares special bond with Oakland, where he came of age in NFL

ALAMEDA -- On Christmas Eve last year, Derek Carr took what he thought might be his final lap around the Coliseum after the Raiders' 27-14 win over the Broncos.

He soaked it all in, not knowing if that would be his goodbye to the hallowed grounds that housed the Raiders' glory days and the start to his career in silver and black.

It wasn't.

The Raiders returned to Oakland for one more season, hoping to give those who live, eat and breathe silver and black a final year to remember.

It got off to an optimistic start, with the Raiders sitting a 6-4 with a 4-1 record in the Coliseum through 10 games. But the wheels came off the playoff bus, and now Carr and the Raiders must focus on ending a three-game winning streak and making the Coliseum finale a fitting one for Raider Nation.

"Yeah, I think we talked about it last year, right?" Carr said on the emotions of the Coliseum finale. "We played Denver, it was like maybe, so try and soak it in and all those kinds of things. So, I guess you erase those memories and take on these ones I guess because of all of the players that have played here, this organization’s history, all of those things.

"I was here for [Charles Woodson] last game. There was some pretty cool memories that I have just of my own being on the team, but I think this one will rank right up there. I expect it to be crazy and loud and all those kinds of things, so we’re going to go out there and give our best effort. I promise you that.”

Most people come of age in college. But for NFL quarterbacks, it happens in a different in a cauldron. One that mixes intense pressure with expectations and little room for error. One that is ferocious and can chew people up and spit them out without warning.

The Coliseum has been Carr's arena. It has been the theater of some of his finest moments, memories he'll forever remember. It also lifted him after he broke his ankle at the end of the 2016 season, a moment that showed him all the blood, sweat and tears he has given to get the Raiders where they need to be, has not gone unnoticed.

"I broke my ankle and you could just feel the air go out of the stadium," Carr said of the injury that ended his 2016 season. "I remember sitting there and as I was driving away just the applause and the cheers -- it was like, for whatever reason, in that moment I felt the love back. That's something I'll always remember because I give everything I have for our team, and you give so much it's always nice to hear it back."

A number of Raider greats have called the Coliseum home. From Ken Stabler to Jim Plunkett to Daryle Lamonica to Rich Gannon, Carr will be the final quarterback to don the silver and black in the famed arena. His place in Raiders history is not lost on him and No. 4 still is amazed at where he finds himself.

"Just to put in perspective, like a little kid from Fresno, California is playing somewhere where his dad’s favorite football team did," Carr said. "Like let’s be real about it, it’s pretty awesome. That was a dream come true. Every kid that I’ve ever talked to that’s on a football team, ‘Who wants to be in the NFL?’ Everyone raises their hand. How many of those kids actually get to do it, right? There is very few. It’s hard.

"It’s a hard business to do and do for a long time, and so to be able to be here and play on the same field as all of those legends played on and to actually know some of those guys, talk to those guys, call those guys friends, like that’s kind of weird, but it is a really cool thing.”

When he takes the field Sunday as the Raiders face the 4-9 Jaguars to close out the Coliseum's run, Carr will have one final chance to deliver for those who have adored him ever since the Raiders drafted him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Carr loves the fans, both those that will come with the team to Las Vegas and those who feel jilted and have since turned their backs. If you ask him, only one fanbase has the word "Nation" after the team name. It's Raider Nation.

Likewise, they've loved him back. They've fiercely defended him against critics. Enjoyed triumphs and mourned defeats together. He's their quarterback. He bleeds silver and black just as they do.

[RELATED: Why Coliseum was 'legendary' place even for new Raiders]

Sunday, No. 4 and those in attendance at the Coliseum will have 60 more minutes to share together. Then, the Coliseum will join its lot partner -- Oracle Arena -- as a mausoleum for Oakland's glory days. Something for Raider fans to drive by on I-880 and tell their kids historic tales of the team that left one too many times.

The kid from Fresno is the one charged with turning out the lights at the Coliseum.

Derek Carr, the last in a historic lineage of quarterbacks to call the Coliseum home.

Derek Carr, Raiders know 'nobody cares' about cause of fatal losing skid

Derek Carr, Raiders know 'nobody cares' about cause of fatal losing skid

OAKLAND -- The Raiders are running on empty. They’ve lost too many over the trials of traveling so many miles, and they now seem set to crawl across this season’s finish line.

The Silver and Black survived on adrenaline for so long, but there’s simply nothing left. The Raiders might win another game or two, but it’s hard to imagine them playing well enough over four quarters to beat quality opposition.

The Raiders have valid reasons for wobbly legs. They have been dealing with drama since Antonio Brown went nuclear near summer’s end, with a steady stream of setbacks after that. Let’s not forget about the five-game road trip, the Vontaze Burfict suspension and all those injuries.

The instinct to excuse is strong and could explain this recent Raiders slide. Jon Gruden has gone down that road a few times this season, while ultimately assuming responsibility for this team’s shortcomings.

Derek Carr didn’t want to do that.

“Oh, it’s been crazy. Let’s not sugarcoat it,” Carr said Sunday after Oakland's 42-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans. “Let’s just be real about it. I’m into facts, and it’s been a really weird year. We can get into all the other stuff. Someone should write a book at some point about that, you know? Some of the stuff that went on, but nobody cares. I’m used to that.”

A book may detail this oddball season. The line on the Raiders’ 2019 Pro Football Reference page won’t include any of that. It’ll just reveal a record, some stats and a schedule’s results.

Maybe that’s fitting for a franchise with a simple, direct mantra: Just win, baby.

It’s not much different than Carr’s response to those asking how injuries and other setbacks impact how the team is playing now: Nobody cares.

We could also pair them together.

Nobody cares. Just win, baby.

“Nobody cares about the situation,” Carr said. “Nobody cares who is playing. Nobody cares who has been here, who has not been here. I have learned that in my six years. Nobody cares. We didn’t win the football game, and it is what it is.”

The Raiders didn’t win enough football games down the stretch. The Silver and Black were loving life after a three-game winning streak pushed them up to 6-4 and in a great position to earn a playoff berth.

Fans were stoked, especially those in Oakland to dared to dream about the final East Bay campaign extended to the postseason. It was then that the expectations changed. The bar was raised before the Raiders cleared the original height.

Let’s not forget this is a rebuilding team that always eyed 2020 to fight for division crowns and wild-card spots. The team needs another excellent draft class and a productive free-agent signing period to further what Gruden started after being hired in Jan. 2018. First, there was a teardown. Then there was an ascent that began in earnest this season but didn’t solve all of this team’s problems.

The offense received perceived quick fixes. Some worked (Trent Brown). Some didn’t (Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams). The defense was always another year away while the unit was rebuilt with the draft, largely from the ground up.

The Raiders played better than the sum of their parts around midseason and were able to notch some good wins. But all the fatigue and attrition put the Raiders in a position where they can’t make up for mistakes of any kind. If Brown and rookie running back Josh Jacobs are done for the year -- that’s certainly possible now that playoff prospects have essentially been dashed -- struggles should continue.

[RELATED: Carr, Raiders' offense hear boo birds as slide continues]

The next goal is to find a way to put on a good show in the final game played in Oakland. The Raiders have one left, coming up next week against Jacksonville. It might be tough considering the circumstances but, as we now know, nobody cares.

Just win the last one, baby.

“They deserve a fun showing, a fun game, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Carr said. “It’s honestly, it’s weird, it’s sad. I know some of the Raider faithful will probably be a little sad that it’s the last time, but it’s out of our control. I mean, it is what it is.”