Derek Carr’s pivotal preseason start against the Seattle Seahawks couldn’t have gone much better. He was near perfect on the stat sheet thanks to some brilliant throws, smart decisions, a little luck and a lot of help from his friends.
He had a pass tipped back to tight end Mychal Rivera in the end zone. He threw touchdowns on consecutive passes and was the recipient of a terrific protection up front en route to a 152.1 passer rating.
Not every game will go so smooth. Not-so-bold prediction: Sunday’s game against the New York Jets certainly won’t.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan torments young quarterbacks with creative blitz schemes, running up a 7-1 record against rookie quarterbacks in his first meeting with them.
The Raiders know things won’t always be easy, and are prepared to live with Carr as long as he’s learning. Considering Carr’s ability to absorb and apply information, the latter shouldn’t be a problem.
“We’ve got all the confidence in the world in him,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “Really, we know he’s a rookie quarterback, so there may be some growing pains with him. I just think that, if a guy shows that he’s got the maturity level, the intelligence and he’s comfortable in the system -- I think he gets more and more comfortable every day -- then the best way for him to get better is through experience.
“We feel like we’ve got some pieces around him, some guys up front that can protect him, so he’ll have a chance to get better every week.”
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The Raiders should have a stout rushing game and an offensive line that can protect him. They also have a resource in center Stefen Wisniewski, a veteran they purposely paired with Carr early on. Wisniewski was Carr’s roommate in training camp. They frequently talked protection schemes then and during the prep week heading toward the Seahawks, when veteran Matt Schaub sat with a sore elbow.
“(Wisniewski) has been great in helping me also, especially during games answering any questions I have,” Carr said. “We have a great veteran group here around this whole team and so I just try to pick everybody’s brain.”
Carr will have responsibilities making calls and adjustments at the line of scrimmage, Wisniewski retains the right to overrule him. That too, should help relieve some pressure. That’s primarily a failsafe, because Carr regularly makes correct checks and adjustments in practice and in meeting rooms.
“He’s just had the intelligence factor that kind of lifts him above some,” Olson said. “Everyone grows differently. Everyone matures in a system differently. But he’s shown acceleration since the day he got here. We’ve been able to accelerate his growth based on a number of factors, intelligence being one of them, but also the number of years that he played in college. His starting experience in college helped him a lot over some guys that are just coming into the league for the first time.”
Carr had 39 starts in 44 games over four years at Fresno State. He has an older brother David with NFL quarterbacking experience and, as documented, started dissecting NFL game tape at an early age.
Those things may help him become NFL-ready early on, but live, regular-season competition is something different all together. Carr has extreme confidence in his physical skill, his preparation methods and his work ethic, which could help carry him through some rough times.
“When the game comes, I don’t want to be surprised by anything,” Carr said. “I work hard to ensure that doesn’t happen. Obviously -- being a rookie -- it might happen once or twice. Hopefully it doesn’t. I just try my best during the week to win the game. … Because that’s all I care about, the Raiders winning.”