Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr Takes Charge, Making The Offense His Own

Dec 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) calls a play against the Green Bay Packers in the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Packers defeated the Raiders 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) calls a play against the Green Bay Packers in the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Packers defeated the Raiders 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders are enjoying an offseason of continuity for a change, and perhaps nobody is taking more advantage of that than Derek Carr, who is taking control of the offense and making it his own.

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For the Oakland Raiders, one of the only constants since their Super Bowl drubbing at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all the way back in 2002 has been change – and not change in a good way. With a revolving door of head coaches and especially quarterbacks, the Raiders have found themselves at the bottom of the league in just about every meaningful category for more than a decade running. But things certainly seem to be changing – only this time, they’re changing in a good, positive, productive way.

For more than a decade now, the Raiders have been searching for a franchise quarterback. They’ve been trying to find that guy who can put the offense on his shoulders and guide this team forward. Obviously, they haven’t had a whole lot of success in finding that guy over the years. But it is looking a lot like their search ended when they were able to snatch Derek Carr up in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Now, entering just his third year in the league, Carr still has much to prove. Obviously. Though he made a tremendous leap from year one to year two – and even bigger things are expected of him in year three – he still hasn’t won anything just yet. He still hasn’t ascended to that mythical “elite” status as a signal caller. Yet.

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At this point, Carr is already a very good quarterback. Yes, there are some flaws to his game that he needs to work on, but most of them are a result of inexperience. Carr needs to learn he doesn’t have to do it all. He needs to learn to dial things back and let the plays come to him rather than forcing something that isn’t there. These are things that will be smoothed over with a little more experience.

What the Raiders – and their fans – should be getting very excited about is the fact that heading into year three – a year of continuity in which he’s not “learning a new language” – Carr is taking control of the offense and is beginning to tweak and fine tune OC Bill Musgrave‘s plays to better suit his skill set.

Most will write it off a a simple, innocuous play made during OTA’s. And turth be told, it was. Running a red zone drill, Carr checked out of the original play and called his own number, waltzing in for a score. Not that big of a deal, right?

"“We did something … we haven’t even installed yet, but we just checked to it and went with it because we’re already at that point. Everyone celebrated and it was awesome and it was cool, but at the same time, we wouldn’t have been able to do that last year because we didn’t know the checks. We didn’t know, versus certain looks. We wanted to do certain things and stuff like that. Just little things like that we’re already a step ahead.”"

Innocuous play, yes. But in a bigger picture sense, it’s something to be excited about simpy because it highlights Carr’s comfort level with the team’s offense as well as his progression as a quarterback.

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Rather than relying on Musgrave to tell him where he wants the ball and how he wants it thrown, Carr is able to make those judgments on his own – and even begin to check out of plays and into something that might give them an advantage against the way the defense is lined up.

The great quarterbacks are able to look out over a defense and instinctively know where the best match up is or what the best play to run against them might be. Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers – all of those guys are great because of their ability to check out of a play and put their team in a better position.

Their ability to read defenses and improvise at the line is what sets them apart from second tier quarterbacks whose ability in that category might not be as good – think Alex Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick, perhaps.

Both of those guys are very good at what they do – they manage the offense and a game just fine. But they’re not the type of quarterback who can instinctively make the right reads and checks at the line – they don’t seem to have that instinctive ability to improvise like some of the league’s best.

Which is why it should be exciting for Raiders fans to see Carr have such a firm grasp on the offense that he’s now able to put his own twist on things. He’s able to experiment with Musgrave’s plays and is better develop that instinctive sense some of the league’s best have.

"“I’ve been working on throwing the ball on certain routes, like I want to throw it extremely early just to try it, just to test it and see what you can get away with in OTAs because there is nobody out there, games aren’t on the line yet. If I think it will make something better, I want to work on it. We’ve been able to do that a couple of times and see the benefits.”"

The continuity in Oakland’s coaching staff is paying dividends for the team as a whole. But they’re paying off even bigger for Carr. Rather than having to learn a whole new set of terminology and new schemes, Carr is in a position where he can begin experimenting and tweaking. He’s comfortable enough to read the defense and check into a different play. That’s something that should be encouraging for the Raiders.

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It’s something that seems innocuous now, but will become more important as the season gets underway. Carr’s ability to check out of a given play and into something more advantageous is going to be critical not just for his own development, but for the success of the team as a whole.

Fans and the team should be encouraged by and excited about the fact that Carr is taking command of the offense, is putting his own signature on it, and is making it his own. After all, that’s what all of the great ones do.