Does Geico STILL Sell Carr Insurance?: Breaking Down Derek Carr Again

By Ha Kung Wong 

Twitter: @FBGarbageTime

To those who haven’t been paying attention current NFL events (because I totally understand there may be more important non-NFL things happening in your life right now, like complaining about the Game of Thrones season finale or wondering what the heck is going on with Taylor Swift in her new “Look What You Made Me Do” video, and does every pop star have to go into “I’ve gone completely out of my mind for no good reason” phase?), Matt Stafford was just made the highest paid NFL player of ALL TIME.

Yes, that’s the same Matthew Stafford that has led the Detroit Lions to just 3 winning records over his 8 year career.  To be fair, he’s only started all 16 games over his last 6 seasons, but still, the guy has a 51-58 record for games started over his career.  If only I could be totally mediocre at work and get a huge raise for getting my job done 50% of the time.

At any rate, I’m not here to talk about Stafford.  I actually want to talk about Derek Carr of the the Oakland Raiders, since he also landed a big payday this offseason.

And although it’s now overshadowed by Stafford’s deal, it’s still a healthy chunk of change, which gets healthier once the Raiders bolt for the city of “Lost Wages”.

With the current state of QBs in the NFL, where someone like Kirk Cousins is getting franchised multiple years in a row, I totally get why the Raiders ponied up to keep Carr from going elsewhere.   But the question is, was it worth it to lock up your QB with the supporting cast currently in Oakland?  I mean having a solid QB is important, but he certainly can’t do it all by himself.  Just ask Gisele.

Classic.  Anyway, I discussed Derek Carr in 2015 and thought he had significant potential, and we all now know that Derek Carr is a solid QB, but saw what happened at the end of the 2016 season when Carr went out due to injury (and for those who didn’t notice, they basically regressed to being the equivalent of a mildly competitive grade school team without him).  The question is, is Carr the answer for the Raiders moving forward and does he have the supporting cast to make his paycheck worth it?

Wide Receivers

The Raiders receiving core should once again be solid with the return of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, ranked 23rd and 35th respectively in 2016 at the WR position by Pro Football Focus and 13th and 18th respectively in 2016 according to DYAR by Football Outsiders.  In other words, these guys are a solid 1-2 combo in Oakland.  Cooper has started his career with back-to-back 1,000+ yard / 5+ TD seasons, playing in all 32 regular season games and making the Pro Bowl both seasons.  Crabtree has had a much longer career, but only his last two years were in Oakland.  And it’s clearly been working for him with back-to-back 900+ yard/8+ TD seasons, also playing all 32 regular season games.

In addition, Seth Roberts was extended to 2019, bringing even more continuity to the receiving core.

Although he’s a decent WR3, he’s failed to be very efficient with just 2-3 receptions per game and has averaged only around 400 yards and 5 TDs over his two years in Oakland.  Which could be the reason why the Raiders took a chance on Cordarrelle Patterson in the offseason.

While in college at Tennessee, Patterson looked like a dynamic gadget guy with 778 rush yards, 308 rush yards and 772 total kick and punt return yards with 10 total TDs, which led to him being drafted late in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2013.  Things never panned out for him there on offense, but he did manage to amass the 4th most kick return yards (4,075) of any active player in the NFL.  He’s a big, versatile player and will be useful in offensive sub-packages as well as on special teams.  And who knows, with Cooper and Crabtree keeping opposing corners busy and attracting safety coverage, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Patterson may find some additional room to roam and make plays.

The question is whether this will be good enough for Carr to succeed.  And to that question, at least with respect to the WRs, I think the answer is yes.  We’ve already seen how successful Carr can be with Cooper, Crabtree and Roberts, so adding Patterson should only expand the playbook.

Note that over the two years in which Cooper, Crabtree and Roberts have been there, Carr has taken a step forward in almost reaching 4000 yards and making the Pro Bowl twice.

He also had 33% more TDs during that time and has had his INT percentage move down to just over 1%.

Tight End

With the departure of TE Mychael Rivera to Jacksonville (not that he was any good anyway, plus he’s missed the entire preseason and was placed on IR this year due to a wrist injury), and TE Clive Walford being serviceable yet uninspiring as a pass catching TE, the Raiders were quickly in the market for a fix at the position.

And in came Jared Cook, the once hyped Rams TE turn Packers playoff hero.  In starting just 5 games for the Packers in 2016, Cook managed 377 yards and a TD on a career high 52 receptions, making him Pro Football Focus’ most improved TE of the year.

Certainly, the primary benefit is that Cook will help stretch the field (he averaged over 12 yards per reception over his 3 year career so far), which means more single coverage for Cooper and Crabtree.  But I’m not expecting a difference maker here, I’m expecting a strong role player that should help Carr avoid some pressure.  Not that Carr was bad under pressure, as he actually had the 4th lowest reduction in completion percentage against pressure in 2016.

So Do the Raiders Need Carr Insurance?

The answer is…yes and no.

If Carr stays healthy, the weapons in place should allow him to be a solid QB with upside.  In fact, I’m going to say it right now.  If Carr, Cooper and Crabtree stay healthy all year and play in all 16 games, not only do I see the Raiders in the Playoffs, but I also see Carr as a top 5 QB in the NFL.  I expect to see a lot more like the pump fake 48 yard TD pass to Cooper in the third preseason game.  And as a side note, check out the sponsor for this telecast. Fate perhaps?

However, if Carr repeats 2016 and is injured, EJ Manuel and Conner Cook aren’t likely to give the Raiders a chance to win.  Cook managed 342 yards, a TD and an INT, completing 50.7% of his passes in the preseason.  Not too different from presumed QB2 Manuel, who managed 216 yards and a TD and no INTs, completing 61.5% of his passes in the preseason.  Perhaps more importantly, Cook took 4 sacks for 41 lost yards, whereas Manuel only took 2 for 17 loss yards.  It’s a small sample size, but Manuel’s slightly better game management and mobility gives him the edge on Cook.  Regardless, we already saw what need from both backups in past seasons, and neither inspire much confidence.

Carr is certainly the lynch pin for this offense and was definitely work the big offseason paycheck.  Which is interesting since they have Marshawn Lynch, and he isn’t the lynch pin in this offense.  Which is too bad because that would have been way more clever.  Anyway, the point is that there’s perhaps no more important offensive player to his team than Derek Carr, as we saw the Raiders go from Super Bowl contenders to barely watchable football team in the space of one broken fibula in 2016.

Hold your breath, Raiders fans.  Your season depends on just one guy staying healthy.  Of course, that’s if he doesn’t leave to follow his dreams of a career in music.

Just FYI, I’d buy that album.  Just sayin’.

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