After his big game against the Chargers this past weekend, Derek Carr is getting some national notice.
The rookie quarterback may be 0-5 as a starter for Oakland this season, but observers aren’t putting that on Carr. Certainly, the team has been woeful in many other areas, including on defense, on the line and in the running game.
As Carr gets ready for his next test, leading the 0-5 Raiders against the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals this Sunday afternoon at O.co Coliseum, people are seeing big growth in a player who just might be the guy to lead a franchise turnaround.
Current NFL.com analyst and former longtime Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt, for one, is a big believer in the first-year QB from Fresno State who had his best day in the 31-28 loss to San Diego, throwing for 282 yards and four TDs while positing a quarterback rating that was his best by far this season (107.7).
“That performance – which included touchdown passes of 77 and 47 yards – showed this Oakland team is not like its predecessors in terms of downfield ability,” wrote Brandt this week. “And it demonstrated Carr’s promise. He has great touch on the ball and outstanding competitiveness. He’s a mature guy, but he’s also a fighter, and I see plenty of big days ahead for him.”
For the season now, Carr is 102-of-167 (61.1 percent) for 1,016 yards, eight TDs and five interceptions, with an 81.8 quarterback rating.
Carr posted his numbers despite playing with a knee and ankle injuries suffered in the loss to the Dolphins in London on Sept. 28. Those injuries are still bothering him, but not enough to keep him off the field.
As Bill Williamson of ESPN.com reported, Carr was reported limited in practice Wednesday for the fourth straight practice because of those problems, but it’s not going to keep him from playing Sunday against Arizona.
At this point, Carr is settling in and taking command. When Dennis Allen was fired as head coach and replaced by Tony Sparano, Carr was given the go-ahead to play more aggressively, and the result was a breakout game against a solid Chargers team.
“I’m the same person,” Carr told reporters this week. “I didn’t change who I was. But instead of sitting back and not stepping on toes, he (Sparano) said, ‘It’s your team. It’s your team, take it over. That means you can demand more now. We’re past the rookie step. There’s no more rookie. You’re the leader of this football team. The franchise, here, now go.’ Now I can demand things from guys.”
So, what Raiders fans may now see for the remaining 11 games is a more wide-open offense and a more gunslinging Carr. He showed in the game against the Chargers that he’s got a strong, accurate arm and he’s not afraid to use it.
Oakland still may not come away with very many victories in 2014 – just one would be different – but if Carr can develop and show this franchise that he can be a playmaker this season, the Raiders can be comfortable in building around him and not having to worry if they need a quarterback.
A key test comes Sunday against a talented Arizona defense. Carr had one terrific game. Can he put together two in a row?
If he can, it will appear even to people outside the organization that the Raiders have found their guy, and it’s Derek Carr.