Derek Carr didn’t trade Khalil Mack. He also doesn’t block for himself, he didn’t fire successful offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave after the 2016 season and he’s not responsible for the fact the Raiders have a lousy pass rush and a revolving-door lineup at cornerback.
So, the team's 1-4 start isn't all on him.
But the Raiders quarterback also isn’t playing like the franchise quarterback he was supposed to be when Oakland gave him a five-year contract extension worth as much as $125 before the 2017 season.
As the Raiders get ready to face the Seattle Seahawks Sunday in London, Carr is still struggling to find the effectiveness and consistency he had in 2016, when he and the Raiders went to the playoffs.
Through five games, Carr leads the NFL in interceptions, having been picked off eight times. His total quarterback rating (QBR) – ESPN’s complex rating system – has regressed from 54.6 in 2016 to 51.0 in 2017 to 47.0 this year.
Carr’s completion percentage is higher than it’s ever been at 71.3 percent (his career mark is 62.1), but he’s also throwing shorter routes than ever before in Jon Gruden’s West Coast scheme.
And, there’s this: As Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders noted this week (based on stats from ESPN), Carr’s performance in the red zone is abysmal. When Carr is inside his opponent’s 20-yard line is when he makes the most mistakes. And it’s getting worse, not better. In 2014 his QBR was 96.9. Since then it’s 51.1 (2015), 41.7 (2016), 29.7 (2017) and 14.8 this season.
That, wrote Kacsmar, is a “wow” trend.
And, though the Raiders’ passing attack looks good on the stat sheet, ranking No. 6 in the NFL at 316 yards per game and 8.1 yards per attempt, the Raiders are 24th in the league in points per drive. So, offensive possessions are being killed by turnovers, penalties, incompletions and other errors.
This week, Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson told reporters Carr has been pressing and putting too much pressure on himself, trying to force big plays. His struggles, said Olson, are understandable.
“First year in the system,” Olson said. “He’s on his fourth coordinator now in his time in the league and I think it’s a comfort level in the system. It’s a matter of sometimes pressing. For us right now, trying to get him to calm down and play in a more relaxed mode so that doesn’t feel like he has to press to make plays.
“When you look at the turnovers he’s had, he’s been pressing, trying to make a play. We like that part about him and he’s a competitive guy, he wants to make every play. Just make better decisions going forward.”
The Seahawks pass defense, however, will be a tough matchup for the Raiders. Seattle is No. 2 in the NFL in interceptions and is sixth best overall, allowing just 226 yards per game.
Oddsmakers have made the Seahawks 2½-point favorites. Sunday’s game in London is set to kick off at 10 a.m. (Bay Area time).