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NAPA – Raiders running back Darren McFadden ran a deep route down the left flank, torching single coverage with breakneck speed. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr saw the separation and threw a high-arching pass that met McFadden at the goal line. Touchdown.
Offense and crowd alike celebrated a successful venture. Well, almost everyone. Carr put his hands on his hips, focused on one pervading thought.
Could’ve been better.
“I felt like I should have put the ball another yard in front of him, but McFadden was so fast that he just beat and it didn’t matter much,” Carr said after Friday’s practice. “I got lucky there. I was blessed that he caught it. But it’s little things like that that I’m focused on. I can’t say what I did best, I always think about what I did wrong.”
That sums up Carr’s focus early in this camp. He’s honed in on fixing the little things. He seems to have a firm grasp on the playbook, which allows him to nitpick at will.
There are certainly things work on. The coaches had altered his footwork some, trying to widen his base and get his feet on the ground (and in a good throwing position) faster after his drop back. The subtle change is already paying dividends.
“The ball’s getting out quicker,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “…We felt that his drop step was way too high, so we widened it a bit so he’ll be ready to throw quicker. He has great upper-body mechanics, but now he’s much more balanced. I think this change will tie in well.”
While little things will make Carr a better quarterback, he was already pretty good. While he’s made some rookie mistakes, he has shown that throughout this camp.
A few plays before the McFadden touchdown, he threw a strike to receiver Andre Holmes that even he couldn’t find fault with.
He’s flashed an ability to scamper, turning broken plays into moderate gains. There are times when he’s trapped in the pocket without a safety net, and Carr has chosen to take a “sack” – quarterbacks don’t actually get hit in practice – over trying to force something that isn’t there.
The Raiders are trying to limit negative plays made by the quarterbacks, and a small loss is better than a major setback.
He’s been impressive playing behind starter Matt Schaub, and coaches have liked his consistency in practice and his willingness to work on fixing mistakes.
“Derek, he’s attacked it the right way,” head coach Dennis Allen said. “I think he’s on track for where we want him to be and he’s continued to improve on a daily basis. We’re pleased with where Derek Carr is.”
Carr isn’t. He’s constantly trying to improve his craft and prove he’ll be ready whenever he gets a chance to play.
“It doesn’t matter how I feel, how my body feels, where I’m at mentally, I give everything I have out here,” Carr said. “Obviously I don’t know it all, and I never will, but I’m going to try my best to try and figure it all out. That’s just the work ethic in me. But I’ve got a long ways to go.”
There is one area where Carr struggled mightily in this camp. His teammates forced him to sing “Amazing Grace” at a dinner last week, and it did not go well.
“I got booed off the stage,” Carr said with a smile. “I did my best, but my vocals were not on point that day. Not saying they aren’t all the time, but just that day, they weren’t on point.”
It couldn’t paint a clearer picture of Carr’s drive. From football to trivial talents, there’s always room for improvement.