Raiders Went Deep in NFL Draft

Tom LaMarre

by Tom LaMarre

Had wide receiver Antonio Brown behaved like a man, quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense might have had a big season in the team’s swan song in Oakland last season.

By all accounts, Brown simply could not be covered when he worked against the Raiders’ secondary before the season started, something that happened often as Brown was selected All-Pro four times and chosen to play in the Pro Bowl seven times during his nine years with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Then Brown’s disappearing act and childish behavior forced the Raiders to release him before the season started.

The Silver and Black were 6-5 before losing four of their last games to finish 7-9, and to some people Carr was at fault.

“I gotta be honest with you, it doesn’t even bother me one bit,” Carr said in an interview with Vic Tafur if The Athletic. “And that is being completely true to myself. No one outside of who I am is going to push me harder than me.

“Like, I always encourage guys to go ahead and wake up when I wake up, study how much I study, work hard like I work hard. I’m not the least bit looking to my left or to my right when I’m doing a rep, I’m focused on me.

“It’s just that when you’re the same face and you’re one of the last same faces that’s been around for seven years, people just look for things to point out.”

Although tight end Darren Waller, who became Carr’s favorite receiver, rookie wide receiver Hunter Renfro and rookie running back Josh Jacobs had big seasons, the Raiders struggled with the lack of a deep receiver to stretch the field and open up the offense—a role Brown was expected to play.

It didn’t help that starting wide receiver Tyrell Williams was slowed by a foot injury for much of the season.

Carr passed for a career-high 4,054 yards last season, eighth most in the NFL, completed 70.4 percent of his passes and had a career-high passer rating of 100.8. However, his 21 touchdowns were tied for 19th and his 6.5 yards per pass attempt was among the lowest in the NFL.

But Coach Jon Gruden remains in his corner despite persistent rumors that the Raiders want to dump Carr.

“I really think Derek is a heck of a player, and I got a lot of respect for what he has done in what was some tough circumstances," Gruden told Tafur and The Athletic. “So I’m not going to answer every media rumor out there, just can’t do it. I’m just going to listen to my serious rock and roll, classic vinyl and keep working. But I love what Derek Carr did, I love what he brings to our team and anxious to continue to build around him.”

The Raiders did what they could to help Carr in the NFL Draft, selecting speedy wide receiver Henry Ruggs III with the 12th overall selection, and then in the third round added explosive wide receiver Bryan Edwards of South Carolina and versatile Lynn Bowden Jr. of Kentucky, who plays several positions including wide receiver.

The Raiders also signed free agent wide receiver Nelson Agholor, formerly with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Carr, who was in contact by 3-mail with General Manager Mike Mayock during the draft, reportedly is excited to start working with the newcomers.

“He was fired up after the Ruggs pick and then there were a bunch if emojis I couldn’t make out after the Bowden and Edwards picks,” Mayock told reporters. “I guess he was also very happy about those.”

Of course, the naysayers were all over Carr even after the Raiders made those moves to add explosiveness to their offense.

One headline even said that Carr would be out of excuses with all the new help, but for anybody who has been paying attention, the Raiders quarterback has never made excuses or pointed fingers after losses, but has often let the blame fall on him.

Carr has said things like: “We win and lose as a team, but you can always put it on me, because I’m the quarterback. … We just need to score more and win more. That’s my mindset. I don’t care about anything else.”

For the record, Carr has led the Raiders to 18 comeback victories in the fourth quarter since joining the Raiders in 2014, an NFL record for a quarterback in his first six seasons, including seven as the Raiders went 12-4 in 2016.

That’s an ability you simply can’t teach.