The Las Vegas Raiders had to rely almost completely on Derek Carr’s passing on offense last Sunday because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers completely shut down running back Josh Jacobs.
Jacobs, who rushed for a franchise rookie record of 1,150 yards last season, was limited to 17 yards on 10 carries, a 1.7-yard average, in the Buccaneers’ 45-20 victory.
In six games this season, Jacobs has 394 yards on 116 carries, a 3.4-yard average, and five touchdowns, and Carr knows the Raiders (3-3) must get him back on track this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns (5-2) on the road.
“To be completely honest, just some of the schemes that we’ve played against are sold out to stop the run, and still we’re an inch or two away, a step here, step there away from some really, really big runs,” Carr told reporters this week. “We’ve played some different teams, which brings different things than we’ve seen last year because they play different schemes, but I wouldn’t say that teams are just playing us different.
“I know it hasn’t been stat-wise it hasn’t been exactly what (Jacobs has) wanted, but as he knows, just as I know, these runs are so close from just popping and being some explosive gains.”
With rookie speedster Henry Ruggs III back from an injury and Nelson Agohlor providing another deep threat at wide receiver on the other side of the field, Carr has been throwing the ball down the field more in the last two games, which should help open things up for Jacobs and the running game.
Carr has completed 6-of-12 passes thrown 20 yards or more down the field in the last two games after going 6-of-10 in the first four weeks of the season.
“Yeah, it’s something that when we get all our guys rolling and healthy, that’s a part of what Coach (Jon Gruden) wants to do, and so when they are healthy and we’re rolling, there’s a rhythm to it too,” Carr said. “The play-calling, the game-planning, you know who you have every week, and you start, ‘Oh, that looks good. Now we can do this. Or now we can do that off of this.’ All that kind of stuff. Now it’s just becoming who we are.
“And it’s something we were doing all training camp when we had all our horses, we’d try this, or we’d try that. There were some days where we were like taking shot after shot after shot seeing which ones we liked for the season. … And to different guys, so now as everyone’s getting healthy and we’re staying healthy week-to-week, it’s just a part of what we do.
“We also have the ability to do the West Coast offense, where Coach loved the quick game. Get the ball out, yards after the catch. That’s his background, that was kind of my background at Fresno State a little bit. Get it and go, do it that way and so we’re kind of seeing this merge of all this speed and the West Coast and all this stuff, and it’s been kind of fun.
"... Yeah we threw for more yards than a lot of people have against (Tampa Bay), but to us, we’re like, ‘Man, we left three plays (that didn’t quite connect) that could have gave us another 100 yards on the field.’ We’re that close from doing that, so we’re growing and we’re still trying to get that right and hopefully we’ll start hitting on all those.”
Carr completed 24-of-36 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns with one interception against the Buccaneers, and for the season is 152-of-211 (72.04 percent) for 1,726 yards and 13 touchdowns with two interceptions.
In addition, Carr is on pace to run the ball more this season than he has in any of his first six seasons with the Raiders, gaining 53 yards on 15 carries, with seven of those runs going for first downs.
“Yeah, he’s clearly improved his footwork, I think, each of the last couple of years,” Gruden said. “I think the supporting cast has also improved. His accuracy on the field has been impressive. His mobility in the pocket has been good. He’s been really accurate. I see improvement in a lot of areas.
“And he has extended some plays. Big first down the other day, scrambled for a touchdown pass against Buffalo. Some memorable plays with his feet this year and we’re excited about that.”
Said Carr: “We’ve talked about that since coach Gruden got here. I think finally now you’re seeing a lot of completions outside the pocket on scramble drills, me running for first downs and things like that, multiple first downs in games. That’s stuff that we have stressed, it’s becoming second nature for me.”
However, Carr and Gruden realize Jacobs is the runner they really have to get going.
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