If you've followed the goings-on at Las Vegas Raiders training camp this preseason, which for some reason I have done closer than I'd like to admit, you know that Derek Carr has reportedly looked exceptional thus far. Many pundits are predicting a career year, a Pro Bowl selection and a return to the MVP-level form he flashed back in 2016 before breaking his leg.
The latest promo comes from Raiders GM Mike Mayock, who told the media Carr has taken a larger leadership role on the team this year and confirmed the fact that he's impressed with how Carr has performed at training camp.
This is all positive publicity for Carr. It's also unsurprising. Carr has always looked good throwing against air or in a situation, like training camp, where he won't be hit. He's got a powerful, accurate arm. That much cannot be questioned. What can is whether Carr, for all his talents, can fix the late-game issues that have led to bad stats for him and losses for the Raiders.
Since being drafted by the Raiders in 2014 and taking over the starting job as a rookie, Carr has posted a 39-55 record as a starter. The Raiders have made the playoffs once during that time, but unfortunately that was the year Carr broke his leg in Week 16 and missed the postseason. Outside of that 12-3 mark (his record as a starter in 2014), the Raiders have gone 27-52 with him under center for an average of 5.4 wins per year.
While, of course, that's not all Carr's fault, he does have to shoulder some responsibility for his late-game performances. In the second half of games last year, Carr threw only seven touchdowns versus five interceptions. In the first half, his numbers were 14-to-3. He was good in the fourth quarter last year, throwing five TDs versus only one INT, but in the third quarter, when teams make initial halftime adjustments and try and establish superiority in games, he threw only two TDs and four INTs. That's not going to get it done.
With the Raiders moving to Las Vegas this year, expectations have changed. They were playing out the string in Oakland the last two years, building up to this moment both from a marketing and talent standpoint. It's why Jon Gruden was allowed to trade away Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper for assets he could use to build a winning team in 2020 rather than try and compete in 2018 and 2019. The Raiders didn't care about winning those years. They wanted to have a winning team when they got to Vegas.
It's seemingly worked so far, as the Raiders drafted star running back Josh Jacobs in the first round last year and added speedy wideout Henry Ruggs in the first round this year. They beefed up their stout offensive line and added depth at the skill positions through the draft as well, rounding out their roster with some good leadership adds in free agency.
Now, in his third year under head coach Jon Gruden, Carr seemingly has everything he needs to be an elite quarterback. The Raiders tailored their offense to a quick-throwing system last year, which suits Carr's strengths, and will likely run a similar set this year. Carr is coming off a solid season where he set career highs in completion percentage and yards and seemingly everyone agrees that he's been on fire this preseason.
But preseason hype simply adds more pressure to a quarterback who was reportedly on the trade block as recently as last offseason and puts more focus onto his inability to lead the Raiders to wins. That's what matters most as he enters his seventh season. If Carr can't win with the Raiders this year he likely won't be given another chance in silver and black in 2021, no matter how great he looks throwing in a no-pressure situation.