The Raiders had to feel good after a stellar performance by their quarterback Derek Carr despite losing to the Colts Sunday.
No team relies on one single player for an entire game. Unfortunately for the Raiders, that is what they needed out of Derek Carr yesterday against the Indianapolis Colts: four quarters of absolute perfection. Carr started off slow, but once he found his rhythm he hit on 17 passes in a row, along with three passing touchdowns and the first rushing touchdown of his career.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Raiders punter Johnny Townsend had only punted once. It was a testament to Carr leading the offense on multiple touchdown drives, in which it’s hard to dispute that his play would have been his best sustainable period in well over 12 months.
Not only was Carr given time to throw Sunday, but he used his feet well to extend plays, at one time evading a free rusher and hitting Brandon LaFell for the touchdown. It was a play that Carr simply hadn’t made in his career before head coach Jon Gruden’s latest tenure.
Despite Carr’s progress, all it took was for a failed third-down conversion to turn the game. Townsend has been shanking roughly half of his punts all season. So after booming a 55-yard punt in the first quarter, it would only be fitting that he’d shank his second punt of the day for just 25 yards. Such a punt is backbreaking for a team who must flip the field at every opportunity in order to give their poor defense a chance to prevent the opposition from scoring.
The Raiders have held informal talks with a few teams about Carr, but at this stage it would be a major surprise to see their starting QB traded.
From there, it all went downhill fast. The defense generated no pressure on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck all day, and couldn’t stop anything in the run game. They needed all the help they could get from the special teams unit.
Running back Doug Martin lost a fumble on the drive that would have tied the game late in the fourth quarter, but it could be argued that it was academic at that point. The Raiders may have only been down by a touchdown, but that’s been the story in the fourth quarter all season – failing to close out games.
In 2016, Carr played similar to how he did Sunday. The difference then was he had a punter who flipped the field at every opportunity, along with the best edge defender in the game who consistently closed out games on the other side of the ball.
The Raiders don’t have those pieces. They’re not going to have those pieces for the rest of the season, especially after Gruden doubled down on Townsend in his post-game presser, saying he wasn’t ready to give up on the rookie punter.
Replacing a punter is not a difficult nor laborious task. In a draft class filled with great pass rushers at the top end, finding one of those is, at least, achievable. Sure, they won’t be as good as Khalil Mack, but if they hit on a few free agents, and their three rookies on the defensive line step up in 2019, maybe this team can generate a consistent pass rush. That leaves the quarterback, and while Carr has received his fair share of criticism, the naysayers couldn’t come out yesterday after a near flawless performance. In a season where everything has felt lost, rediscovering the grit and the X-factor in their franchise leader may be a silver (and black) lining to accelerate any rebuild.
Even if Gruden won’t use that word, to begin with.
A Quote to Remember
“I think many of us realize we won’t be here next year, we are just waiting to see it we will be here next week.”
An anonymous player speaking to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, discussing the approaching trade deadline.
A Tweet of Amusement
1. The Thursday Night Football matchup between the 49ers and the Raiders is going to be a snooze fest. Expect plenty of errors and terrible TV ratings. That being said, the Raiders should win this game. The 49ers aren’t good and Carr should manifest enough points to win against their Bay Area rivals who are undermanned on defense with injuries.
2. There will be a few bizarre trades before this week’s trade deadline. Trading Mack has shown that no player is off limits. Expect a few players around the league to be moved who certainly will have come from left field.
3. Jason Cabinda is a raw prospect but he is the prototypical off-ball linebacker in today’s NFL. He must get playing time and I expect his role to steadily increase.
7 Things I Think:
1. Every Raider is on the trade block, Carr included. The Raiders have held informal talks with a few teams about Carr, but at this stage it would be a major surprise to see their starting QB traded.
2. Then again, Carr hasn’t exactly received much public support from his teammates despite media speculation that he may be causing division within the locker room. It’s clear that no one within the locker room wants to talk on the record to the media, a sign that there may be something beneath the surface that hasn’t been made public.
3. If there is dysfunction surrounding Carr, could Gruden elect to cut the cord now, as opposed to pushing through it? According to multiple sources, Gruden’s approach to the trade market in his return stint with the Raiders has been impulsive and bombastic. In many regards, he goes as does the weather.
4. Trading Gareon Conley for anything less than a first-round pick would be an egregious mistake. He’s had his lumps but it’s clear he has cover skills. Given the severe lack of talent on the roster, he is someone worth keeping developing at least for the rest of the season.
5. At this point, they will take anything for Karl Joseph. If both Joseph and Conley do find themselves on new teams in the coming days, there will be zero first-round picks left from the Reggie McKenzie era pre-Gruden.
6. A few ‘smokeys’ to keep on high alert this deadline include Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson. Both can be cut next year without accruing any dead money. The Raiders would save 17.2 million on their salary cap for 2019 if they were to trade or cut both players. Osemele has been poor the last one and a half seasons, while Jackson is getting severely overpaid and has one of those ‘out of whack’ contracts McKenzie would refer to as errors of the former regime’s (being Al Davis) mismanagement of the salary cap.
7. If the Raiders really want to blow this up, they should trade Jared Cook. His contract ends at the end of the year and I doubt he would be inclined to hang around for a rebuild. Could a team like the Patriots, who in the past have coveted tight ends, give up a third or fourth-round pick for him? It might sound pie in the sky, but you would’ve said that same thing about the Raiders getting a first round pick for Amari Cooper. Then again, Bill Belichick isn’t Jerry Jones, so this may truly be wishful thinking.