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Raiders starting quarterback Matt Schaub will skip Thursday’s preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks.
That was as predictable as it gets, with the veteran nursing a sore elbow and little to gain in an exhibition where starters barely play anyway.
That gives rookie Derek Carr is first professional start and, with Matt McGloin the only other passer on the roster, the second-round pick should be on the field a while.
That’s a good thing for player and team alike.
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“We want to see Derek [Carr] play,” head coach Dennis Allen said. “We want to give him an opportunity. Obviously missing the Green Bay game (with sore ribs), that was part of the developmental process, so we want to be able to see him get in there and play. I plan on seeing a lot of snaps out of Derek.”
Carr is well prepared for this endeavor.
He’s taken every first team snap this week with Schaub sidelined three straight practices resting his throwing arm. He’s been a quick study with the playbook and has applied things well on the practice field. He’s ready for the challenge of facing a Seahawks defense so deep that playing the first string (starters won’t play much, if at all) or the second unit (expect more of these guys) will be a challenge.
Carr is certainly excited about it.
“The more that I can be out there, the happier I’ll be,” he said. “That’s why we work so hard in the offseason. That’s why you spend so many hours here before anyone’s here. That’s why you do all those things, because you want to go out there and help the team win. I’ll be looking forward to it.”
Allen has said time and again that he plans to start Schaub in the regular-season opener at the New York Jets despite his elbow troubles and lackluster preseason performance, so it’s unlikely Thursday is an audition to start right away.
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A solid performance could, however, shorten Schaub’s leash in the regular season. Should things go awry, Carr will have shown an ability to function against quality and given confidence to those with nuclear launch codes.
He’s already done some of that on the practice field and in limited preseason action.
“The guy’s comfortable in the huddle,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “The game’s not too big for him. I still believe that he sees the field very well. I don’t think the game’s too fast for him, which a lot of times, that’s a big concern with a rookie quarterback. But he’s done some really nice things in some of the preseason games in terms of his pocket presence.”
Carr has a lot left to prove, probably more than he can accomplish in one exhibition game.
With a solid performance Thursday, fans could be calling for Carr to start right away. The Raiders would prefer not to do that, and will not unless they’re completely convinced he’s ready and Schaub is not. While every individual is unique, many young quarterbacks have gotten off kilter by starting before their time. Carr is clearly the Raiders’ quarterback of the future, and they plan on doing everything to help him develop to a point where he’s ready for a big stage.
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They don’t believe Schaub will force their hand. Rest should help the veteran’s elbow and the team expects him to be back on track next week.
To Allen’s credit, he’s always been willing to start the best player, regardless of contract size or pedigree. Right now, he believes that’s Schaub. If at any point third-stringer Matt McGloin becomes the best option, Allen would start him too.
If one thing is certain: No matter how long he’s in the bullpen, Carr will do everything possible to be ready when called upon.
“I have to be,” Carr said. “Again, I do everything selflessly. I do it for my teammates. I come out here and I work as hard as I can so I know when my number, if it has to be called, I’ll be ready to help us win.”