Derek Carr’s Week 3 performance against the Arizona Cardinals shouldn’t cause a full-blown panic attack, but it deserves a critical eye.
On the surface, it looks like another bad game. Some critics may pass the buck onto the offensive line for not blocking well on this particular night, but there’s a poor pattern of execution in critical situations centered around the quarterback.
To some, Carr is viewed as the franchise quarterback in a premature gesture, but his decision-making, especially in the red zone, doesn’t warrant that prestigious title.
Carr’s placement of the football jumps off the film as the biggest red flag of all. The starting offense made four trips into the red zone, inside the Cardinals 20-yard line, and kicked three goals. The final trip resulted in a pick-six headed 81 yards in the opposite direction.
Oh, but it’s just one play in one bad night, right? Not exactly.
Carr hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass thus far in the preseason. Yes, he’s facing the starting defense on opposing teams, but he’s going to face those starting defenses in the regular season as well. The coaching staff would like to see successes in an effort to gauge what works and what doesn't.
The second-year quarterback left some yards on the field. Bleacher Report’s Cian Fahey tweeted a screenshot of one particular play of many that fits the criticism:
Was a bad decision to throw made before the snap(and a bad throw). Two receivers slanting to space: pic.twitter.com/5wXb0GovBt— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) August 31, 2015
Carr decided to throw to wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins short in the flat. He failed to notice that wide receiver Amari Cooper (No. 89 at the bottom of the screenshot) had cornerback Jerraud Powers beat on a slant. An accurate pass to Cooper could have led him into the end zone for a touchdown.
The rookie wide receiver played a good game up to that point, and there’s no reason not to trust his hands in this situation. A handful a plays later on the same drive, Carr threw an awful pick-six to cornerback Cariel Brooks.
NFL (@NFL) August 31, 2015
In a postgame press conference, Carr admitted he should have thrown the ball away instead of gift-wrapping six points for the other team.
Carr threw both preseason interceptions in the red zone—a mistake that often gets quarterbacks benched. He's far from a potential benching, but those errors cannot become consistent in his play.
Carr’s completion percentage (18-of-34) should raise some eyebrows after tonight. He’s deadly accurate on those short horizontal side-arm throws and dump-offs, but he didn’t show an accurate deep ball with consistency. We all remember the 40-yard bomb to Cooper against the Minnesota Vikings, but those throws happen very few and far between.
The Raiders signal-caller settled into a conservative mode reminiscent of his rookie season when he didn’t have the offensive skill players around him. That’s no longer an issue, and he must learn to optimize the wealth of talent at his disposal. Field goals are the consolation prize to the ultimate goal of scoring touchdowns.
It’s never a good sign when the kicker’s offensive production outweighs the quarterback’s output consistently.
Sebastian Janikowski nailed five consecutive field goals as the Raiders took a hollow lead over the Cardinals.
Janikowski continues to showcase consistency, but Oakland’s offense must find ways to convert those field goals into touchdowns to win games. A three-quarter lead quickly evaporated once the Cardinals began scoring touchdowns on a lethargic second-unit defense.
Carr is still the most talented signal-caller on the roster, but he’s the starter, not the franchise quarterback as of right now.
The third preseason game serves as the dress rehearsal for the regular season, as evidenced by the extended snaps for the starters. There’s no denying Carr disappointed in the spotlight—he continued to play into the third quarter to establish his rhythm. However, it’s not a code-red alert in August.
Head coach Jack Del Rio should allow Carr to play another half on Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks to boost the quarterback’s confidence heading into the regular season. The Raiders need to see their signal-caller throw the ball with confidence and efficiency.
No quarterback controversy exists in Oakland, but let’s not sweep Carr’s shortcomings under the rug like they don’t exist. He must work on three particular areas: cycling through his receiving options, deep-ball accuracy and red-zone efficiency.
Carr says all the right things and puts effort into his practices. There’s no doubt he’s headed into the film room early, then the practice field to correct his errors.
The final preseason game could right some of his wrongs or further expose some patterns that Carr must break.
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In-game play-by-play is provided by NFL.com.