Derek Carr: Is This the Year He Exorcises The Demons of Arrowhead?

Christopher Engelage
Derek Carr arrowhead stadium chiefs vs raiders
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (95) sacks Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

There’s no questioning the lack of success Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has experienced at Arrowhead Stadium – the home of the Kansas City Chiefs. Football is a team game and you win and lose as a unit not as an individual. Yet Carr’s performances on the road against the Chiefs is marked with a lack of success. Could he start to change that tomorrow?

No professional athlete is ever perfect and all of the incredible strengths and nagging weaknesses and for Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, playing at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium has been his Superman-like kryptonite.

Despite the record, lack of wins, and individual struggles, Carr has a chance tomorrow to restart the narrative and restart the history of his play against his heated divisional rival on the road. He faces an uphill battle against the defending Super Bowl champs who look to be better on defense and continue to have the league’s most exciting and dynamic quarterback in Patrick Mahomes.

But can Carr finally win at Kansas City? Here’s a look at that question from all angles.

Derek Carr is Off to Very Good Start

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been playing extremely efficient four games into his third season in head coach Jon Gruden’s system. Right now, Carr is projected to throw for 4,380 yards, 32 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. While the zero interceptions are not likely to happen after 16 games, Carr could very well throw for a career-low in said category. At the same time, Carr is on pace to throw a career-high in yards and match his 2015 touchdown total. 

One of the most encouraging aspects of his game right now is the ability to stay consistent with a revolving door of who he’s throwing to. As the Silver and Black are set to face a potent Chiefs offense, which will require the Raiders to keep pace, Carr will likely have his speedy target in Henry Ruggs III back in the lineup as well as beefy right tackle Trent Brown.

Derek Carr raiders
Derek Carr is off to a fast start for the Raiders despite a recent two-game losing streak.

With more vertical weapons, the always dangerous Josh Jacobs, and the offensive line almost back to healthy, Carr could be brewing up an perfect storm marching into the Show Me State. 

Concerns with Carr

There’s no question the stat line of Carr looks terrific, but there are still areas of his game that leave people questioning his ability. When the pocket is clean, and quick decisions can be made, that’s when Carr is at his best. That’s not to assert that Carr needs to, or even has the capability to, morph into a mobile quarterback overnight. But it’s safe to say his mechanics in the pocket could use improvement. Since joining the NFL ranks in 2014, Carr leads the league in fumbles. This is in large part to his 11 fumbles in 2018. Carr only fumbled once in 2019 but is unfortunately on pace for double-digit fumbles in 2020 as he already has three. Ball security remains an issue for the veteran signal-caller.  

Carr’s Troubling History at Arrowhead

Yes, the fumbles are ugly, but perhaps the most glaring statistic in regards to Carr is his play in Kansas City. I’m certainly not trying to sit back and armchair quarterback from my laptop screen as circumstances, coaches, players, and a series of other factors come in to play each season. That said, the numbers don’t lie. Carr has struggled mightily to find success at Arrowhead. Over his last three appearances in KC, Carr’s top yardage output is a mere 222 passing yards while only throwing for two total touchdown passes. 

Derek Carr
Derek Carr’s experiences at Arrowhead Stadium have been downright nightmarish.

Furthermore, those two touchdown passes both came when the team was trailing by 25 points or more. Carr has thrown six interceptions – two in each game. All that adds up to an average rating of 50.6 and a QBR of 13.7. The Raiders defense undoubtedly needs to be more effective and get stops, but at the same time, the offense has to put up points regardless. In total over these past three games, the Raiders have a grand total of 27 points at Arrowhead.

Why You Should Be Optimistic

Even though the Raiders have lost two straight, Carr is still playing well enough to keep the team competitive. If Carr can continue to make smart decisions when throwing the ball, while simultaneously showing more pocket awareness, that will help the Raiders chances.

With the return of Ruggs III, it will open things up across the field. Darren Waller will get more one-on-one looks and Hunter Renfrow can continue to find the holes in the defense as he navigates the slot. As the presence of Ruggs helps fellow pass-catchers, having him on the field will pay dividends for the running game and Josh Jacobs.

In recent weeks, Jacobs has been relatively held in check. With Ruggs on the field and the offense more spread out, he should find running lanes on Sunday. All things considered, Carr is in a good spot to shake the demons of Arrowhead and do his part as the Raiders look to pull the upset of the reigning NFL champions.