Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders offense have struggled in 2017. With a few changes, Carr can regain the MVP form he showed in 2016.
The Oakland Raiders are coming off another loss to the hated Kansas City Chiefs and find themselves at 6-7. They were a 10-3 team at this point last season. There have been many contributing factors into the regression but none have been more apparent than the struggles of quarterback Derek Carr.
Carr hasn’t gotten much help from his inconsistent receiving corp or defense, but he has had issues of his own. The good news for Raider Nation is that these issues can be corrected if the coaching staff makes some adjustments. Those lack of adjustments are, of course, one of the biggest factors that has led to this wasted season.
Rookie Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing has had his struggles this season, though, and as you will see, it would also be unfair to put all of the blame on him. There are some adjustments he can still make to return Carr to last season’s MVP candidate form. Let’s dive into the tape and find out what those adjustments are.
This is going to be the most obvious one to anyone who has watched the offense this season. They simply do not run enough play action and misdirection plays. They allow the defense to line up and attack by not making them have to react to pre-snap motion or worry about play action passes.
Defenses that are forced to think and react play slower and as a result will not generate as much pressure on Carr. The Raiders have had success when they have used play action, even without really establishing the run. The first meeting with the Chiefs this season was a prime example.
Misdirection leads to open receivers. pic.twitter.com/PApfhD3Icw
— Chris Reed (@LVRaidersreview) December 17, 2017
Amari Cooper was able to score on this flea-flicker — though the defender falling certainly helped. Carr also had Seth Roberts running wide open on the offenses right side. The run action froze the secondary, giving Roberts a free release into open field. Downing should expand the creative section of his playbook.
6 and 7 Man protections
The biggest issue Carr seems to be having this season is with pressure. Last season, either due to the loss of blocking tight end Lee Smith or by design, the Raiders utilized six offensive linemen quite frequently. This season, the offense has relied extensively on 5-man blocking. This has had an effect on Carr feeling pressure, sometimes even when there isn’t any.
Carr has looked uncomfortable in the pocket this year. He needed to stand tall and deliver the ball. If he did, this was a touchdown. This out and up is a great in game adjustment designed to take advantage of KC squatting on routes. pic.twitter.com/GwyyaIngy3
— Chris Reed (@LVRaidersreview) December 12, 2017
Carr had Johnny Holton open for a touchdown on this out-and-up route. He had a clean pocket and should have pulled the trigger. He felt pressure from his right that wasn’t actually pressure. Instead of standing tall and delivering the ball, he rolled out of the pocket. By the time he was able to reset and throw the pass, Holton was working back to Carr on the sideline. This should have been a touchdown but instead this play ends in an incompletion, out of bounds.
Adding extra blockers should help calm Carr down in the pocket and increase his accuracy. As Austin Gayle of PFF points out, Carr’s passer rating under pressure this season is a paltry 43.2. His passer rating under pressure last season was 70. This seems to indicate a mental — not physical — issue this season. Giving him another bodyguard should take care of it.
Using his legs and moving the pocket
Defenses have copied Washington’s plan to attack the Raiders offensive line and have had great success doing so. Washington realized the Raiders interior linemen were much better than than their tackles. To attack the tackles, teams have played their ends in a wide-9 technique with double-3 techniques to occupy the guards and prevent them from helping the tackles.
I know this coaching staff doesn’t want Carr to run but if teams want to continue playing this wide 9 alignment, he has to take advantage of it. pic.twitter.com/vFmHnaDtNK
— Chris Reed (@LVRaidersreview) December 13, 2017
This alignment forces one on one blocking for the offensive tackles. Again, an added linemen could alleviate this and the offense could take advantage of it. The wide alignment opens running lanes like the one shown here. The offense could also use their tendency to go empty to open this lane even more. Man coverage would pull the linebackers and dime safeties out of the middle of the field giving Carr open field to pick up first downs.
Getting Carr rolling out will force defensive ends to stay home more instead of rushing up field. This will slow down the pass rush when he stays in the pocket as well as take advantage of his accuracy on the move.
Crabtree needs to come up with this ball. This is pinpoint accuracy from Carr rolling to his left. Raiders need to take more advantage of his athleticism. pic.twitter.com/IOm9FNLXYM
— Chris Reed (@LVRaidersreview) December 12, 2017
The hardest throw for a right handed quarterback is on the move to his left. Carr makes that throw with pinpoint accuracy while making it look effortless. It would have been a better play if Michael Crabtree didn’t drop it though. It is puzzling how Downing will call these plays then completely abandon them, even though the offense is having success with them.
The Raiders playoff hopes are almost non-existent at this point. None of the other required scenarios matter if they can’t win the upcoming Sunday Night game against the Dallas Cowboys. If the offensive coaching staff makes these adjustments, Carr should start to look like his former self. If the Raiders are going to win out, he will have to.