A year ago, it looked like the Raiders and quarterback Derek Carr were both on the rise.
The Raiders improved to 7-9 and Carr was one of the big reasons for the improvement. In just his second year in the NFL, his touchdown passes soared from 21 to 32 and his quarterback rating from 76.6 as a rookie on a 3-13 team to 91.1. The rest of the NFL was watching, and Carr cracked the NFL.com’s annual offseason ranking of its top 100 players, coming in at No. 100.
Said teammate Michael Crabtree at the time: “Derek Carr is a competitor. The ultimate competitor. That chemistry man, you can’t beat it. He’s my quarterback.”
Now, as the Raiders get ready to head into training camp in late July, Carr and the Raiders are coming off huge seasons and getting more recognition for what they’ve accomplished. The Raiders are being lumped among Super Bowl contenders in 2017 after going 12-4, and Carr has leaped from No. 100 in last year’s rankings to No. 11.
In 2016, Carr completed 63.8 percent of his throws for just short of 4,000 yards (3,937), had 28 TD passes vs. just six interceptions and had a career-best 96.7 quarterback rating. He also was sacked just 16 times, compared to the 31 he endured in 2015.
Wrote Nick Shook of NFL.com: “It’s time to wax poetic about Carr, who along with Khalil Mack is the driving force behind the Raiders’ renaissance. Head coach Jack Del Rio showed plenty of trust in Carr right off the bat in 2016, entrusting the quarterback to throw for the two-point conversion that ultimately lifted Oakland to an opening-weekend road win over New Orleans. It grew from there.”
The Raiders finished 2016 with the NFL’s sixth-best offense, and Carr led seven fourth-quarter (or later) game-winning drives.
How important is Carr to the Raiders’ hopes in 2017? Enormous.
Last season, the Raiders lost Carr in the next-to-last regular-season game. Then Oakland lost its playoff opener without him.
When asked after the season what was the biggest lesson he learned in 2016, head coach Jack Del Rio said this: “Don’t lose your quarterback.”
Now Carr is fit and back on the field. And he goes into this next season rated as one of the league’s best players. And, he's only 26.