Jon Gruden gave some glowing praise of his new quarterback, Derek Carr.
Gruden, who is entering his first season back in the NFL since 2008, is regarded as a quarterbacks expert. He has a complex system that takes a while to master, but it can produce great results once you do.
“I think he’s one of the best, in terms of processing information,” Gruden said of Carr, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Scott Bair. “I think he craves new things. He wants more… ‘What do we have today? What are we doing today? What’s new? What do we got?’ He has a photographic memory. It comes so easy to him. He’s got the offense mastered more than I do.”
The last line about Carr knowing the offense better than him is exaggeration from Gruden, but it doesn’t change the expectations Gruden is putting in place. Carr has shown signs of becoming a franchise quarterback until taking a step back last season. It seems like Carr is in line to get back to his franchise QB form in 2018. Having a new offensive weapon like Jordy Nelson should also help his development.
“The thing that you hear about that he can’t run anymore, that’s false,” Carr said. ““I can tell you, he’s one of the fastest skill guys that we have still. He can run. You see that by his route running. If he can win on underneath routes, that means DBs are scared about what he can do over the top. He’s still Jordy Nelson, that’s for sure.”
Nelson struggled in 2017 and clearly appeared to have lost a step, but his lack of production probably had more to do with Aaron Rodgers breaking his collarbone than anything else. Rodgers was clearly upset when the Green Bay Packers let Nelson go, and Carr understands why.
“He’s just a guy that it’s easy to throw to him because he’s open,” Carr said. “There are some guys that are good at running some routes, a guy will be there that’s strong at catching the ball or whatever. He just gets open. He’s very route savvy. He’s very smart.
“I can’t say enough good things. I can’t believe Green Bay let him go, but I’m glad he’s here.”
With Nelson likely playing the No. 2 role behind Amari Cooper in Oakland, he won’t have to beat an opposing team’s top defensive back most weeks. Rodgers has made it quite clear that he believes Nelson still has plenty left in the tank, and Carr obviously feels the same.
Every NFL team has that one offensive player who makes his team go. It can often be the quarterback, but some offenses are built around a talented running back or a dominant No. 1 receiver.
Which offensive player is most vital to each team’s success? Which player does everyone look to to get it done when it’s most needed? Here’s a look.
Arizona Cardinals — David Johnson, RB
It’s not really a coincidence that the Cardinals struggled so much last season after Johnson suffered a season-ending wrist injury after just 11 carries in the season opener. The 26-year-old scored 20 touchdowns the year before, so losing him meant the absence of their biggest playmaker. He should be ready to go this season, and Arizona will be desperate for him to return to the form that saw him lead the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage in 2016.
Atlanta Falcons — Julio Jones, WR
The Falcons will want to get Jones’s contract situation squared away as quickly as possible, because Matt Ryan needs him. His yardage numbers are incredible, and he’s collected at least 1,400 yards receiving in every season since 2014, even in spite of the occasional health issue. 1,500 yards is well within reach for Jones if he is healthy in 2018.
The NFL can be notoriously fickle. The risk of injury, the lack of guaranteed money, and the ever-changing game can alter the trajectory of a career very quickly. For some players, it leaves them in a position where they have to prove themselves again in order to re-establish themselves as top-tier stars.
Here are 15 players who are looking to do just that in 2018. They may have had off-field issues, a lot of injuries, are entering a contract year, or any combination thereof. Either way, all eyes will be on them this coming season, and it’s up to them to respond.
1) Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
There’s so much good about Beckham, but we haven’t seen enough of it in the last year or so. He hasn’t stayed healthy. He’s gotten involved in off-field distractions. He hasn’t produced to the standards he’s capable of even when healthy. Now entering a contract year, he needs to prove to the Giants and everyone else that he can let his football do the talking. So far, he’s reportedly off to a good start.
Carr, like the rest of us, noted that the big Lakers-Cavaliers trade on Thursday opens up a ton of cap space for Los Angeles this summer. The presumption is they’ll at least launch a pursuit of James, whose contract is expiring. Even as the Cavaliers go all-out to show James that they’re building things for the future, his own decision is very much in doubt.
When Derek Carr went down with a back injury in Week 4 this past season, it appeared as though he was going to miss several games. He ended up only sitting out the following week, but that doesn’t mean the injury completely went away in just a matter of days.
On the latest edition of the Raiders Insider Podcast, Carr was asked if the transverse process fractures he suffered in his lower back had anything to do with his down year. While he brushed aside talk about the injury all season, he finally decided to come clean.
“When you break three bones in your back, it doesn’t feel good,” Carr said, as transcribed by Scott Bair of NBCSports.com. “I’m thankful God healed me to the point I could walk around and be able to practice. Injuries will never be something I talk about, especially during the season, but since it’s after the season, the (back issue) was one of those things that was there.”
Carr said the back injury wasn’t the sole reason he seemed to take a big step back after his Pro Bowl season in 2016, but it definitely played a role.
“I had to deal with it,” Carr said. “I had to do certain things to manage it, but I just didn’t talk about it. I didn’t want it to be an excuse. It was a want more than anything else. I didn’t want it to be a reason. I couldn’t let that be a reason why I couldn’t do A, B or C.”
Doctors obviously told Carr that there was no risk of injuring his back further, so it was his choice to play through pain. For a large part of the season, Oakland’s offense looked completely out of sync. Jon Gruden is hoping to solve some of those issues, and Carr made some comments this week about the new head coach that should have Raiders fans excited.
“I want him to be tough on me,” Carr said. “For anyone who thinks I want him to be a different way has no clue about me or how I play football or how I prepare to play this game.
“(Jon) and I are going to get along great. I hope that he demands of me. I hope he’s hard on me. I don’t need to know he loves me. He has already told me that about 20 times. I appreciate that and we’ll be friends forever, but I know he’ll be demanding and tell me what I need to do. Let’s go fix problems that I have and let’s do what I need to do to win championships. Hopefully that will give people some insight and hopefully that’s the story that gets out, because that’s the truth.”
Carr was viewed as one of the up-and-coming quarterbacks in the league prior to this season. The 26-year-old had a promising rookie season and then improved in each of his next two seasons, even leading to the playoffs last season before suffering an injury. This season was different as he regressed for the first time, while the 6-10 Raiders became one of the biggest disappointments in the league.
Now with Gruden — an offensive and quarterbacks specialist — back in the fold, expectations will be high for the Raiders next season. Carr seems to be ready for the challenge, and even has a sense of humor about it.
Jon Gruden is the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders, and that means expectations for the team will be raised. And when we say expectations, we’re not just talking about what the fans and media think the team will do; we’re also talking about accountability within the team.
Rich Gannon, who became a Pro Bowl QB under Gruden, says that players will have to expect to work even harder under their new coach. He said that Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has a chance to become a Hall of Famer if he puts the work in.
“You have to put the work in,” Gannon continued. “You have to have a passion for it. Jon’s got an unbelievable passion and I think that’s where we really hit it off. I had the same passion and energy to kind of come in and roll the sleeves up and try and want to work. … I don’t care how hard Derek’s worked before, he’s gonna have to change his work habits a little bit to fit in.”
If anyone knows what it takes to succeed in the league and work as a quarterback under Gruden, it’s Gannon. He’s Gruden’s model pupil.
Jon Gruden confirmed at his introductory press conference with the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday that he will be calling offensive plays for the team, and Derek Carr knows that means he is going to have a lot of homework to do.
Shortly after Gruden made the confirmation, Bleacher Report put together a funny video of Carr “studying” Gruden’s new playbook. The quarterback had a great sense of humor about it.
Part of Gruden’s gig with ESPN was running his “QB Camp,” during which he worked with top college quarterbacks to prepare them for the NFL Draft. The whole “Spider 2 Y Banana” thing became a running joke as the coach’s favorite football play, and he has embraced the kick everyone gets out of it.
Going from Jack Del Rio to Jon Gruden may not exactly be a magic fix to all of the Oakland Raiders’ problems.
In an appearance this week on 95.7 The Game in the Bay Area, Greg Papa, the longtime radio voice of the Raiders, reported that quarterback Derek Carr lost the faith of the team’s coaching staff towards the end of the 2017 season.
“This coaching staff turned on Derek Carr,” said Papa, according to Jon Breech of CBS Sports. “After the Kansas City game [a 26-15 loss in Week 14], they called him out in front of a whole team meeting. It wasn’t just the offense or the quarterbacks, [or] a segment of the team. It was the whole team. And they ripped him in front of everybody, and Derek’s a prideful guy.”
After two consecutive Pro Bowl campaigns (including leading the Raiders to a remarkable 12-4 record last season), Carr came tumbling back to earth in 2017. He threw for 3,496 yards (his lowest since his rookie year) with 22 touchdowns to 13 interceptions as the Raiders finished just 6-10.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that Gruden and his new coaching staff (which could include this legendary Raider) give Carr a longer leash and create a more positive environment to help him succeed. But ultimately, the Raiders may continue to disappoint until their franchise QB starts performing.