All-Everything quarterback Derek Carr is the Oakland Raiders franchise player on offense and overall. Last year was a wash for the talented young QB for a lot of reasons. We break down every single pass Carr attempted the past two seasons to see what story it told.
Expectations surrounding Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr have always been high given his talent level and draft position. Those expectations were at an apex going into the 2017 NFL season following his injury-shortened MVP caliber 2016 campaign. Alas, the Super Bowl dreams of the team and fan base were not realized as Carr, the Raiders offense, and team, in general, would struggle most of the year.
Carr suffering a transverse fracture in his back during the 4th week of the season undoubtedly affected the team’s offensive production. That injury alone cannot explain the precipitous drop from the seventh-ranked scoring offense in 2016, down to the 23rd ranked offense last season. Clearly, the system employed by offensive coordinator Todd Downing shouldered some of the blame and the effect coaching has on a player’s performance cannot be understated. Unfortunately, coaching and game planning are not details that can be quantified even though they play such a critical role.
“Expect most of these numbers to go up this season and Derek Carr to regain that MVP consideration he had at this time last year.”
We can still examine Derek Carr’s last two seasons performances independently and then compare them to one another. To do so I graded every throw Carr made over the last two seasons and made some convenient graphics of the findings.
Every pass was examined for location, accuracy, and for use of pre-snap motion or play action. I also noted if the pass resulted in a first down as well as if the intended target was his initial read or if he had to go through a progression. In order to keep the accuracy grades as objective as possible, they were broken down in the following manner.
“Frame”- inside the framework of the receiver’s body, “Reach”- within a receivers wingspan, “Uncatchable”- outside the receivers wingspan. Passes that were intentionally thrown into the ground or out of bounds were recorded as “Throw away”. Drops were recorded, though the criteria were rather strict. To be counted as a “Drop” the pass had to be graded in the frame and contact the receivers hands without any defensive interference or contact. Any passes knocked down by defensive players was graded as uncatchable. With all that explained, here are the grades for Carr’s 2016 NFL season
Each section of this graphic corresponds to that area on the field. The lowest horizontal line represents the line of scrimmage and the upper horizontal line is 10-yards downfield. Derek Carr’s attempts, completions, and completion percentage are listed first in each zone. They are followed by the number of touchdowns and interceptions thrown in that area. Lastly, the accuracy grades of each pass attempt are listed.
On the bottom right of the graphic are the total number of pass attempts that had motion, play action, went for first downs, saw Carr under pressure, and throws to his first read. The percent is based on the total number of pass attempts which was 560 for 2016 and 515 for 2017. The final section on the lower right labeled “1st Read” is his completion percentage as well as his touchdown and interception totals when throwing to his first read.
Those first read numbers are rather staggering but make complete sense. When the primary target of the play call is available, the pass gets out of Carr’s hands quickly, and the defense has minimal time to react. The fact that 53.5% of Derek Carr’s touchdowns were thrown to his first target is really telling of how well former Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave was at calling plays in the “Red Zone”.
Interestingly, once again last season, Carr played at an elite level when his first read was available to him. Even as his accuracy dropped in five of the eight sections the field was broken into, this first read accuracy improved. That incredible 73.1% from 2016 jumped to 75.4% last season. His touchdown total did drop from 15 down to nine but he had 24 fewer opportunities. If there is any part of this exercise that can extrapolate Carr’s performance from the effect of the coaching staff, it is these numbers.
Those accuracy drops can be explained, to some extent, in the overall offensive scheme. When Downing wanted to run one on one routes, he would isolate the match on the left side. Given the increased degree of difficulty, the drop in accuracy is predictable. It is worth pointing out that while his intermediate accuracy suffered, Carr was much more accurate throwing deep. His throws to the deep left zone jumped from 48% to 52% while throws to the deep right increased to 54% from 43% in 2016. Of course, the turnovers and overall team performance overshadowed the improvements Carr did have.
In the 2016 season, Derek Carr threw for 3,937 yards with 28 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. He connected on 357 of his 560 pass attempts for a 63.8% completion rate while averaging 7 yards per attempt. Those numbers are very similar to his stats from last season. In 2017 he compiled 3,496 yards with 22 touchdowns but had 13 interceptions. He hit on 323 of the 515 passes he threw for a 62.7% completion rate while averaging 6.8 yards per attempt. Carr did not “regress” last season, he looked like the same player.
His interceptions did double from two seasons ago which will certainly be a focal point of the new coaching staff. Preventing turnovers has always been a priority to Raiders new head coach Jon Gruden. On film, it seemed Derek Carr would get frustrated with the offense’s lack of production and try to make up for it with a big play. He won’t find himself in those situations this season which should lead to a better decision.
There were a couple of other numbers that stood out, most notably is the percentage of plays that included pre-snap motion. They were more than cut in half dropping from 172 (31%) down to only 79 (15%) pass plays. It is interesting because motion can be used for a number of reasons though in the passing game it is often used to identify coverages or isolate favorable match-ups. This was obviously not a component of Downing’s system.
The other was the amount of pressure Carr faced. He was only pressured on 143 dropbacks in 2016. That came out as 26% of his passes. In 2017 that number jumped to 34%
While there are certainly some area’s that Derek Carr can improve, he will be going into the 2018 season with a coaching staff that can get the most out of him. Gruden is hands down the best offensive coach Carr has had in his career. Expect most of these numbers to go up this season and Carr to regain that MVP consideration he had at this time last year.