Has Derek Carr Turned the Corner as Las Vegas Raiders' Franchise Quarterback?

Tyler Brooke@TylerDBrookeSenior Analyst IIOctober 12, 2020

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr plays against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The Las Vegas Raiders pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of Week 5 on Sunday, and it signaled that quarterback Derek Carr has officially turned the corner as the team's franchise quarterback. 

Simply put, Carr played his tail off in the 40-32 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. He completed 22 of his 31 passes for 347 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, posting a 126.7 passer rating. Not only did the win help the Raiders get over .500 for the year, but it also snapped a five-game losing streak against the defending Super Bowl champions.

In his seventh NFL season, Carr is finally fulfilling the promise that he had as a 2014 second-round pick.

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Carr has completed 73.1 percent of his pass attempts for 1,442 yards, 11 touchdowns and just one interception. That production has Carr on pace for career-best marks in completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns, along with a career low in interceptions.

One of the big differences this season for Carr is his effectiveness throwing the deep ball. While the 29-year-old has always had a good arm, the Raiders hadn't consistently provided Carr with weapons capable of stretching defenses vertically.

They have those weapons now. 

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The deep ball was working for Carr early in Sunday's win over Kansas City. In the second quarter, he found Nelson Agholor deep for a 59-yard touchdown and then connected with Henry Ruggs III for a 72-yard score two drives later.

Ruggs could play a huge part in Carr's career resurgence, with the quarterback looking arguably even more dangerous than he did during the team's 12-4 season in 2016. The first-round pick only caught two passes on Sunday, but those went for 118 yards. Of his six career catches, three of them have gone for at least 45 yards.

It was Ruggs' first game since the Week 2 win over the New Orleans Saints, and so far the Raiders have not lost a game the rookie wide receiver has played in. Obviously causation can't be inferred from correlation, but Ruggs' impact on the field as a deep-play threat helps open up the rest of the offense.

Another big reason for the elevated level of play from Carr has been the threat of running back Josh Jacobs. While Jacobs hasn't been extremely efficient this year with 377 yards on 106 carries, opposing defenses have to respect the Raiders running game after Jacobs had such a strong rookie year in 2019. 

Charles Krupa/Associated Press

A dynamic running back and an emerging young deep threat appear to be transforming the Las Vegas offense before our eyes. A year after ranking in the bottom 10 of the league in offense with just 19.6 points per game, the Raiders are in the top 10 with 30.2 points per contest.

Is this offensive pace sustainable for Carr and company? So far, there's no reason to think that they'll return to being an inefficient unit. Darren Waller is emerging as one of the best tight ends in the league with 34 receptions for 295 yards and two touchdowns, while the offensive line has done an excellent job of keeping Carr upright and giving him time to throw.

The Raiders head into their bye week with a lot of promising tape to review and an extra week to game-plan for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in what could very well turn into a shootout on Sunday Night Football.

It has taken the Raiders a long time to build a formidable offense around Carr, but now that the veteran quarterback has weapons around him, he is on pace to have easily the best season of his seven-year NFL career.