Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.

Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.

Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.

“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”

Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.

“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”

Downing: Carr will have increased influence on Raiders game plan

Downing: Carr will have increased influence on Raiders game plan

Derek Carr and Todd Downing are tight. A strong friendship was forged between the Raiders’ franchise quarterback and his position coach these past two seasons, one that should help the Raiders now that Downing will call plays.

The Raiders new offensive coordinator will use his young signal caller as a resource formulating a game plan. Carr has a bright offensive mind – he called his own plays in high school and in college at times – and Downing plans to use it to put his quarterback in positions to succeed.

Carr’s influence in preparation will expand over previous seasons under coordinator Bill Musgrave.

“Where I see him needing a little bit more command is just being able to share his thoughts of game plans,” Downing said Wednesday in a conference call. “Being a student of the game, as he already is, but vocalize what he likes and doesn’t like. I think my relationship with him is something that’s going to give him the opportunity to voice his opinions. I look forward to him really taking charge of expressing his thoughts on the offense.”

Carr has always had freedom to adjust at the line of scrimmage, but that could increase with Downing in charge. Derek Carr’s brother Davis Carr told 95.7 The Game as much a few weeks ago, a topic Downing addressed on Wednesday.

“There’s been a lot made about his command at the line of scrimmage,” Downing said. “There’s certainly going to be opportunities for Derek to do that. That’s not something I feel we’ll even have to get into until we’re much further into this offseason and into training camp.”

Downing had opportunities to interview with other teams this offseason, but head coach Jack Del Rio wanted to pair Downing and Carr together. The young duo have similar personalities and a strong working relationship based on a love of the game.

“My relationship with Derek starts there,” Downing said in Wednesday interview on 95.7-FM. “We both love coming to work each day and respect the heck out of each other. When you have that kind of relationship with any coach, you’re taking a step in the right direction. Derek’s the leader of our franchise. In my opinion, he’s the best young quarterback in football. We’re fortunate to have him. Why wouldn’t I be in a good mood every time I am around him?”

Carr made great progress working with Downing the past two years, and was an MVP candidate in 2016. Downing sees continued room for growth and refinement as next season approaches.

“I think Derek made big strides in 2016, just in terms of his command of the offense, being the field general, being able to get through progressions more efficiently,” Downing said. “His footwork took big strides. I certainly want him to remain focused on all of those attributes. You don’t want to feel like you’ve arrived in a certain area of your game and then have it go backwards when the next season starts. Certainly, I want him focused on all of those.”

Downing will make subtle changes to Raiders offense, looking for greater efficiency

Downing will make subtle changes to Raiders offense, looking for greater efficiency

New Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing  has been given the keys to a Corvette, not a clunker.

He understands that fact. That’s why he won’t start from scratch in his first season running the show.

He doesn't see a reason to change much from a Raiders attack that scored 26 points per game last season and was productive on the ground and through the air.

“I believe in efficiency. And if we’re efficient in a concept, I am not going to go changing it just for change’s sake," Downing said Wednesday afternoon in a conference call. "If we’re inefficient or we failed to live up to expectations in a certain concept, then I am going to figure out a way to tinker with it and make it work. If I can’t make it work, we simply won’t do it anymore.”

Downing is currently evaluating what worked in 2016, and what didn’t. He’ll search for ways to improve a talented unit without losing the continuity key to offensive progress with a personnel group expected to remain largely the same heading into the 2017 season.

Franchise quarterback Derek Carr and a hulking offensive line led last year’s efforts and will do so again next season. Carr will continue having freedom at the line of scrimmage and will have input in the game plan. Downing says there will be differences from last year’s offense, but they won’t be major.

“It will be very subtle,” Downing said. “We’re going to keep the same system terminology. There’s no reason to change any of that stuff. All we’re doing right now is finding the ways that we can all individually do our jobs better, prepare our positions better and how we can just quarter turn a couple things to make the offense as efficient as possible.”

Efficiency doesn’t always mean high yards per play. At times it’s about getting first downs and vital yards, areas where head coach Jack Del Rio was critical of his offense. He wanted to play “big boy ball” at times, using old school tactics in the run game to pick up important yards.

The running game was productive as a whole with 120 yards per game, but it could be consistently better and Downing said it might need some tweaks.

Del Rio thought his offensive staff needed some tweaks as well. That's why he let Bill Musgrave leave on an expired contract. He wanted to keep Downing in silver and black, especially as his young offensive mind drew interest from other clubs. Downing had a year left on his contract, which included a clause allowing him to interview for offensive coordinator jobs outside the organization. 

The Raiders didn't want Downing to leave, especially considering his strong relationship with Carr. Del Rio made a switch shortly after a playoff loss at Houston that caught some off guard. 

"I wouldn’t characterize it as a surprise because I’m ready for anything that comes my way in this profession, but I was looking forward to the opportunity to run an offense somewhere in the NFL in 2017," Downing said. "I just feel really fortunate that Coach Del Rio has the trust in me, moving forward, to have that opportunity be here.”

 

Downing’s transition from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator has been smooth thus far. The offensive staff remains intact save Musgrave – he’s now Denver’s quarterbacks coach – which has helped Downing hit the offseason evaluation hard.

“It’s an incredible blessing to have my first opportunity come this way,” Downing said. “I know everyone on the staff very well. I know how to communicate with them and what makes them tick, which gives me a great head start in that vein. We’re going through offseason cut-ups from last year, and we’ll able to have real and honest conversations about that without them feeling like I’m taking shots at their position. They know I was in the trenches with them.”

Scott Linehan isn’t in the trenches with Downing anymore, but his teachings certainly are. Dallas’ offensive coordinator was Downing’s mentor during stints in Minnesota and Detroit, and helped shape his philosophy in regard to game planning and play calling.

“He’s really my mentor in this profession,” Downing said. “He raised me, taught me how to coach quarterbacks. He taught me how to put together a game plan, so I certainly will use a lot of what he taught me.

“I think what’s unique about the situation here is I’m not installing an offense from the ground up. There is already a system in place and there is a lot about this system, to use a phrase before, that’s not broke. So, there will be things that we do a little differently than I did in my time with Scott, but he certainly is probably the biggest shaping influence in terms of how I will play out as an offensive coordinator.”