It would appear that the Oakland Raiders are going to begin the regular season without their best defensive player, and that will put them at a major disadvantage any way you look at it. Derek Carr seems to realize that.
On Thursday night, Khalil Mack had a very candid response to a clip that was posted on Twitter that showed him rushing the quarterback.
That probably sums up how all Raiders players and fans feel, and they are going to miss Mack even more if he continues his holdout into Week 1. Mack is in the final year of his rookie contract and wants a new deal, and it sounds like he is willing to forfeit his roughly $800,000 per week game check if he doesn’t get one. While many have assumed the former Defensive Player of the Year would show up at the start of the season, the latest reports make that seem unlikely.
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.