After the Raiders’ first exhibition game last week, Oakland head coach Dennis Allen was asked if rookie quarterback Derek Carr would be getting any game reps with the first-team offense.
“It’s not really part of the plan right now,” Allen told reporters. “We’ll evaluate everything as we move along. The plan is to work Matt Schaub as the starting quarterback. I think he’s done a good job of doing that.”
Yet Friday night, in the Raiders’ 27-26 victory over the Detroit Lions at O.co Coliseum, there was Carr coming into the game late in the second quarter to join the first-team offense.
In starting Friday, Schaub had completed 8-of-13 passes for 87 yards and an interception, a second straight game with less-than-exciting results.
As Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group wrote, “Schaub looked lost and unsure how to move the offense on a consistent basis.”
Meanwhile, Carr had a terrific game in his debut on his home field, before being injured late on a sack that may have damaged his ribs. How serious the injury is won't be known for a while.
On Carr’s first series, he drove the team deep into Detroit territory. He missed his first throw, but then connected with newcomer James Jones for a 16-yard gain, then appeared to connect with Jones again for a touchdown from 9 yards out. But officials ruled that Jones didn’t make the catch in the end zone (a decision upheld by review). The Raiders settled for a Sebastian Janikowski field goal of 26 yards to go into halftime trailing 16-6.
Then on the Raiders’ first series of the third quarter, Carr on third-and-5 found Brice Butler open, but Butler wasn’t able to hold on for what would have been a certain first down.
On the Raiders’ next series under Carr’s direction, the rookie shined. After taking a sack, he connected with Butler for a first down on third-and-10, connected with Greg Little for a 38-yard gain to set up first-and-goal and then hit undrafted rookie tight end Jake Murphy on a 3-yard pass for a touchdown on play action.
As Michael Rothstein, who covers the Lions for ESPN.com tweeted, “That was a pretty nice touch throw by Derek Carr on that TD pass. Also, Lions bit on double moves and play fakes that whole drive.”
On the ensuing series – after a 51-yard punt return by rookie T.J. Carrie -- Carr led Oakland to a field goal to cut the deficit to 23-20.
Late in the game, Carr was sacked and removed and taken to the locker room when he indicated sore ribs. He was replaced by Matt McGloin, who would eventually lead the team to a last-minute victory. Carr later told a reporter from Sports Illustrated he wasn't sure what the damage was, but "I just heard a loud crunch. I don't know if my rib's broken, but it hurts."
For the night Carr finished 9-of-16 for 109 yards and a TD .
So what does it mean that Allen changed his mind and trotted out Carr with the first team Friday night?
It’s possible that as training camp progresses and the rookie continues to look comfortable – while Schaub has yet to really claim the job the Raiders want him to win – Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Olson will want to see more and more of Carr with the first-team unit against frontline defenders. With the Sept. 7 opener against the Jets getting closer and closer, Oakland likes what it sees in Carr, who’s appeared much more solid and comfortable in the pocket since Olson worked on his footwork recently, widening his base.
After Friday night’s performance, Carr has to be given the edge over Schaub this summer -- if the injury isn't serious. Whether that means he’ll start over the veteran in Game 1 is still to be determined. But for now, it seems Carr – sooner or later – will be the starter.
Tweeted Bay Area News Group columnist Tim Kawakami after Carr’s TD toss to Murphy: “Again, not reacting to JUST that last play, but it’s pretty clear Derek Carr is going to be the Raiders’ starting QB soon enough. Week 5? 6?”
To Jim Trotter of ESPN, the situation is starting to look like last summer’s, when Terrelle Pryor beat out Matt Flynn, who’d been acquired from the Seahawks to be the starter.
Tweeted Trotter: “Will Dennis Allen backtrack for the second straight year and name a new starting QB entering Week 1? It’s getting interesting.”
Now 1-1 this summer, the Raiders will play at Green Bay next Friday night against the Packers.