Camp Preview: Unlocking Derek Carr's Potential Is Jon Gruden's Primary Job

Jon Gruden found a kindred spirit in Derek Carr. While they don't have everything in common, the franchise quarterback and new Raiders head coach share an insatiable work ethic and an obsession with football's little details.

That's important, considering their relationship is vital to this season's success.

Unlocking Carr's potential is Gruden's primary job. The head coach has said that several times. Gruden installed a varied, versatile offense to achieve that end. He tests Carr regularly in practice, and will be a hard grader in training camp.

Finding Carr's 2016 form could lead to big things. He was a legitimate MVP candidate before breaking his ankle in Week 16, as efficient and error free as anyone in the league. The Raiders have skill players to help this Carr go fast.

All Raiders, however, are dependent on Carr's performance.

That's obvious. Gruden and his assistants must do everything possible to get Carr ready, while preparing backups enough for a worst-case scenario.

Who's Here:

Derek Carr, EJ Manuel, Connor Cook

Best Of The Bunch: Carr

The Raiders franchise quarterback has made three straight Pro Bowls. He would be the first to say 2017 wasn't a true all-star year. Carr was hindered by reverse process fractures in his back, which only cost him one game but impacted his performance far longer than that.

The Raiders offense struggled under coordinator Todd Downing, with player and coordinator failing to establish good rhythm.

He's capable of far better, as status as his 2016 stats suggest. Carr can be efficient and daring, as an excellent field general. If all goes as planned, Carr plays every snap this season and plays them well.

Top Camp Battle: Manuel vs. Cook

The backup quarterback job hasn't been awarded yet. If decisions were made after the offseason program, it'd be Manuel's gig. The veteran outshined Cook's accuracy especially during spring practices, showing touch with his signature cannon arm.

Manuel has 18 starts to his credit, including a quality effort last season in Carr's stead. Experience in should give him a pronounced leg up – don't forget Gruden loves veterans – playing for a backup job to be earned this preseason.

Biggest Long Shot: Cook

The Raiders traded up slightly to draft the Michigan State alum in 2016's fourth round. The move hasn't paid off yet. Cook couldn't beat Manuel out last year, and must reverse that result to remain in the Raiders' good standing.

Odds of Cook getting cut seem slim, even if he struggles this summer. Teams frequently carry three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, and Cook has potential and arm strength that could develop with time under Gruden and his assistants.


Carr is the established starter, someone with a solid track record, work ethic and physical skill. Carr's expected to take every snap, but the entire position group must be ready. The 2016 season is proof of that. Carr got hurt in Week 16, backup Matt McGloin went down the next week and Cook started his NFL game in the playoff. That, dear friends, is a recipe for disaster. Having a quality backup is essential – just as the Philadelphia Eagles – these days, even if Carr's QB1 for a reason.

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