Derek Carr is a super positive guy. The Raiders quarterback doesn't slam teammates in public. He doesn't sell guys down the river or make excuses even when everybody knows he was playing with less than a full deck.
That happened throughout 2018 while working with two rookie tackles, injuries on the interior line and a rotating cast of receivers.
Carr never complained while getting sacked 51 times in 2018, and didn’t point fingers when playmakers kept getting hurt or traded.
After the 2018 season mercifully ended in Kansas City, Carr finally conceded the obvious. The Raiders need some help.
He still put a positive spin on things, saying the Raiders can get better in a hurry. Only, however, if the roster gets some upgrades.
“It’s not as far (away) as people think. I’ve been through some things and gotten better quick,” Carr said after the season finale. “Talent-wise, we need to add some pieces here and there. I’m just being honest. It is what it is. But, schematically, we’re close to a lot of good things happening. …We’re really close in that way. All that means is that we haven’t done it yet. We have a lot of work to do. We’ll get some time off just relaxing, and then we’ll get back to work.”
Head coach Jon Gruden and his new general manager/right-hand man Mike Mayock are already doing prep work to find upgrades in free agency and the NFL draft. The veteran free agent window opens in mid-March and the draft starts in late April.
The Raiders have plenty of needs, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. The Silver and Black need a talent infusion at the skill positions.
The starting quarterback spot seems set after Carr had a solid statistical season. He set career highs with 4,049 passing yards, a 68.9 completion percentage and, despite being labeled a check-down artist, 7.3 yards per pass attempt. The first two totals are the highest of any Jon Gruden quarterback. Carr’s yards per attempt is just a hair below Rich Gannon in 1999. Carr’s interception percentage is just a tick below Gannon and Brad Johnson in Tampa.
Carr improved throughout his first year working with Jon Gruden – his fourth play caller in five years – with steadier performance as the year progressed.
“I feel like my game and my knowledge of the game is trending (up),” Carr said. “I want to be better next year than I’ve ever been. With these coaches, I can be. To be able to set some personal records is awesome because it shows that our staff is just awesome.”
Carr’s under contract and should improve with more time under Gruden. He should get it as well, though we can’t eliminate the prospect Gruden gets a trade offer he can’t refuse before this year’s draft. The NFL draft class is weak and there are some quarterback-starved teams with rosters otherwise ready to win, which adds a sliver of unpredictability to that spot.
Again, odds are great that Carr comes back and that Gruden should be believed when he said he needs to beef up the positions around his quarterback at the team as a whole.
“We have to add some pieces,’ Gruden said. “We know that. Hopefully, we can do that here soon.”