Perhaps it was an inevitability from the moment QB Derek Carr fell into their laps in the second round of the draft this past May. Despite drafting the highly touted prospect out of Fresno State, Oakland Raiders HC Dennis Allen steadfastly insisted – all summer long – that Matt Schaub, the fallen from grace passer they plucked away from the Houston Texans for a late round pick, would be the Raiders’ starting QB this season. But with the dog days of summer winding down, things have changed in Oakland. Perhaps given recent events, they had to.
Drafted to be the Raiders’ quarterback of the future, Carr has now supplanted Schaub as the team’s starter, signaling that for Oakland, the future is now.
Though Schaub has had a very up and down, mediocre performance this preseason, he shouldn’t bear the burden of the Raiders’ shortcomings alone. The receivers were inconsistent, had trouble running the correct routes, and had even more trouble holding on to the ball. Schaub’s lone interception this preseason came on a pass that WR James Jones should have caught, but bobbled away. He also suffered from a lack of cohesion on the offensive line. The unit, thrown together this offseason, included four new starters and had very little time to jell. Schaub was constantly under pressure, which led to a lot of three and outs, and a total of two touchdowns in 15 drives. This is not to say that Schaub is faultless – he certainly didn’t have a lot of zip on his passes, and at times made poor decisions. This is just to say that Oakland’s troubles this preseason encompassed more than just one person.
When Carr took the field against the Seattle Seahawks and the Legion of Boom this past Friday, nobody knew quite what to expect. He hadn’t exactly been lighting it up himself this preseason, suffering from some of the maladies that impacted Schaub.
But for the first time this preseason, the Raiders looked like a team capable of fulfilling LaMarr Woodley’s offseason prediction of being a playoff team. For the first time this preseason, the offensive line was solid, controlled the trenches, and took it to Seattle’s defense. They blew open running lanes and gave Carr more than enough time to throw. And the receivers came to life, seeming to shake off the case of the drops and inconsistencies that plagued them through the first three games of the preseason. The Raiders – as a team – looked terrific against the reigning champions.
And of course, Carr did his part as well, providing a huge spark that has been missing from the offense. He extended plays with his feet and made the smart reads, finishing his night early with an incredible stat line of 11/13, 143 yards, three TDs, and leading the Raiders to four touchdowns in four possessions – two against Seattle’s vaunted Legion of Boom.
It was a terrific performance by the team as a whole, and by the rookie in particular.
Following that performance, and Schaub’s supposed elbow issues, Oakland has announced that Carr will be starting in Week 1. The expectations many are heaping upon the rookie in the wake of such a performance are sky high – perhaps even unrealistically so. There are going to be bumps, bruises, and growing pains along the way. There are going to be moments of exhilaration and moments of absolute aggravation – Carr is a rookie, and that is to be expected. And that’s what Allen and the Raiders have signed up for by installing Carr as the starter. They believe the good will outweigh the bad when it comes to Carr – and perhaps it will.
We’ll find out if OC Greg Olson‘s assessment that nothing about the game is “too big” for Carr is correct in just a few days when the Raiders take on Geno Smith and the New York Jets. Because the Derek Carr era in Oakland, for better or for worse, is now officially underway.