Suddenly, Derek Carr is starting to look again like one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks.
After a rough start this season in Jon Gruden’s new offensive scheme – including eight interceptions over his first five games – Carr has come on strong. He hasn’t thrown an interception in seven straight games while throwing nine touchdown passes, and Gruden has been impressed by his accuracy, grasp of the system and competitiveness.
In his most recent game, a 40-33 loss to the Chiefs this past weekend, Carr was 29-of-38 (76.3 percent) for 285 yards and three TDs. As the offensive line has shown some improvement in pass protection, it’s helped Carr – even as he’s been given a makeshift crew of wide receivers because of injuries and the trade of Amari Cooper.
“His preparation is excellent,” Gruden told Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle this week. “His recognition’s really good. He’s got a very fast mind and a real quick release. And he can be really accurate if protected.”
Gruden said the pass protection has improved in recent games and Carr has taken advantage of it.
“Derek’s been hot. Derek’s been playing well,” said Gruden. “He’s really picking up the system well. He made some great audibles (against the Chiefs), made some great throws and I’m excited about that."
Carr’s quarterback rating of 95.0 this year is higher than his career mark of 88.7 and second only to his 96.7 rating in 2016. His completion percentage of 69.0 is also a career best, as is his average of 7.4 yards per pass attempt.
Plus, as Carl Cockerham of SB Nation noted Tuesday, Carr is starting to play as he did in 2016, when he was an MVP candidate. Cockerham noted Carr’s passer rating under pressure over the past seven games is 102.6, and his deep-ball passer rating for the season is a very good 91.9.
Carr will get a chance to continue the trend when the 2-10 Raiders take on the 7-4-1 Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday at home. Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m.