On the one hand, Derek Carr and the Raiders aren’t shy about throwing the football.
In three games this season, Carr has thrown the ball 111 times – 40 against the Rams, 32 against the Broncos and 39 against the Dolphins. He’s also completed 76.6 percent of those throws (85) for 936 yards and two touchdowns. His completion percentage is No. 2 in the league behind Drew Brees' 80.6.
On the other hand, there are two troubling aspects to Carr’s passing game this season as the 0-3 Raiders get ready to host the Cleveland Browns this Sunday at O.co Coliseum, still in search of victory No. 1 of 2018.
The first is, Carr has thrown five interceptions.
The second is, few of Carr’s passes have stretched the field.
Now fully immersed in Jon Gruden’s offense, Carr is throwing the ball often, but mostly those throws are very short.
As Marcus Mosher of USA Today’s RaidersWire reported Monday, Carr completed just two throws over 12 yards vs. Miami and 19 of his 27 completions were within five yards of the line of scrimmage – and nine of those actually came behind the line of scrimmage.
With wideouts such as Martavis Bryant, Amari Cooper and Seth Roberts and a tight end such as Jared Cook, Carr has receivers who can stretch the field, but the Raiders are specializing in what columnist Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal calls “a dink-and-dunk” ball-control passing game.
As Graney noted, the Raiders had six passing plays that went for 20 or more yards against Denver in Week 2, but most of those yards came after the catch.
“Such is a recipe for moving chains that can’t always be counted on,” wrote Graney. “Some weeks the other guys are going to cover and tackle better.”
Gruden has long been connected to the West Coast offense, which specializes in shorter throws and hitting receivers in stride against defensive mismatches. But Carr has shown in the past he can throw deep with a strong, accurate arm. He did it often in 2016. This season, however, Carr will likely continue to keep throwing short, through Gruden says he loves big plays.
“I just want to be productive when we throw it,” Gruden said this week. “Throwing the ball on time and accurate is a big part of winning football. We hope to get more big-chunk plays. We are making an attempt to do that, and I think you will see some more of that as the year unfolds.”
Kickoff for Sunday’s game vs. the Browns is set for 1:05 p.m.