This week I had the pleasure of working and calling the Raiders–Broncos game at O.co Coliseum in Oakland on the radio. Yes, you read right, I said pleasure. After playing numerous games in the Coliseum, I jumped at the opportunity to call the Week 5 matchup for Sports USA Media so I could safely watch the madness unfold and witness the crazy Raider fans in attendance. This game was also a chance for me to get to see one of the NFL’s young stars play against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
Second-year quarterback Derek Carr is a fast-rising star with loads of talent and a release quicker than the skewer on my bike tire. What I witnessed was a well-played game by this young gunslinger, and even though Oakland lost, he made several plays that should have the Raiders faithful, or crazies, looking forward to a bright future.
The first play that caught my eye was a simple slant route completion to Amari Cooper. What looks like an easy throw is not quite so, especially when thrown from the shotgun formation.
Throwing a slant from the gun requires great feet and hands and a quick release, all of which Carr has in his repertoire. The accuracy and location on this throw allows Cooper to keep his head and eyes up, assess the defender’s position and turn a five-yard completion into a 21-yard gain. Witness the snappy release and zing on the ball, and your skeleton-painted face has to crack a smile.
During every well-played game there’s always a throw or two a QB would like to have back. On this play, Carr misses an opportunity to gouge the best secondary in the NFL with a simple go route.
Michael Crabtree has leverage on one of the best cover corners in the league, Chris Harris Jr., but unfortunately, Carr drifts and steps too far left into the bucket, and his throw drifts out of bounds. You can’t get these chances back, so next time look for Carr to step upfield and give his big receiver a chance by keeping his throw in the field of play.
This next play is an example of why Raiders fans should be excited about their young gunslinger. It’s third-and-seven in the fourth quarter, and the Broncos are showing a seven-man blitz.
Carr knows right away he has single man-to-man coverage across the board. He quickens his drop, uses his eyes to hold the free safety, steps up into the blitz and delivers a perfect strike, low and behind Crabtree in the seam. Most impressive to me is Carr’s anticipation, location and his ability to make this throw with a defender going low on his legs. Third-down completions like this and others he made in the fourth quarter extend drives and keep your offense on the field, ultimately giving your team a chance versus any defense. This was a big-time play from the youngster.
Now for the play that changed the outcome of this game.
It’s third-and-five and the Raiders are marching down the field on the NFL’s best defense. Denver rushes six defenders, leaving them in man-to-man coverage again. The Raiders have the perfect play called, double shallow crossers, with the hopes of gaining leverage and outrunning the defenders for the first down.
Versus man coverage, a receiver on a shallow cross is taught to look and book, meaning give the quarterback your eyes so he knows you’re hauling ass against the defender. On this play, both young receivers are not looking, and with pressure in the pocket Carr is forced to throw the ball early. Unfortunately it’s behind his intended target, Seth Roberts, and lands in the hands of Harris Jr. who turns it into six points for the Broncos. This is a play Carr will agonize over since better location could have resulted in a first down. He also stands and watches instead of chasing after Harris.
Overall, I was impressed with Derek Carr’s passion, poise and ability to make some big-time throws. He stood in there versus one of the best defenses in the league and gave his team a chance to win late in the game. As he continues to gain valuable experience and the trust of his teammates, the future looks bright in Oakland. Keep your face paint and your spiked shoulder pads handy, Raiders fans—more wins are in your future.