At almost the midway point of the 2015 season, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was opening eyes all around the NFL.
League observers were looking at Oakland’s young passer and seeing a far different player than the one they studied in his rookie season. Though he showed promise in that first season of 2014 – throwing 21 touchdown passes vs. just 12 interceptions – his 5.5 yards per pass attempt and inability to challenge defenses with deep throws were warning signs to some that Carr may not be as good as the franchise hoped.
But after the seventh game of 2015, a 34-20 victory over a New York Jets team with a solid defense, the analytics website Pro Football Focus declared that Carr had taken a huge step forward in his second season. It noted he had put together five consecutive positive performances with two of them rated excellent.
In the Jets game he passed for 333 yards, four TDs, no interceptions and had four passes dropped. His passer rating was 130.9.
Wrote Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson: “What we are seeing is Carr emerge as a real quarterback and make the kind of developmental leap we never saw over his rookie season.”
Part of that was Carr having a better supporting cast: two top-echelon wide receivers and a better offensive line. Part of it likely was a new coaching staff. But a big part of it was Carr’s own improvement that caused Monson – his critic in a pair of early below-par games – to change his mind.
“Earlier in the year I wrote that it may be time to pump the brakes on the Carr hype after those two shaky performances to start the year,” Monson wrote. “For now, it’s time to get the hype wagon onto the open road.”
Carr finished 2015 with 32 TD passes vs. 13 interceptions and boosted his numbers in yards per attempt (5.5 to 7.0), quarterback rating (76.6 to 91.1), completion percentage (58.1 to 61.1), yards (3,270 to 3,987) and yards per completion (9.4 to 11.4).
This week, Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, in pointing out that Carr “is really, really good” wrote that only one other quarterback in NFL history, Dan Marino, has thrown more TD passes his first two seasons than Carr.
Carr’s 53 scoring throws are second only to Marino’s 68 – and Marino set a record at the time in his second season with 48 TD passes. Carr’s 53 edge out Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson, who had 52 over their first two years.
Wrote Smith: “Mentioned alongside Marino, Manning and Wilson, Carr is starting his career in some very good company.”