Raiders quarterback Derek Carr enters his third NFL year experiencing something brand new. This marks the first offseason he won’t be sweating a new scheme.
Carr learned Greg Olson’s offense as a rookie, proving proficient enough to start right away and navigate a 16-game season. Upheaval was common during a disastrous 2014 campaign, with head coach Dennis Allen out early and Olson let go at season’s end.
New head coach Jack Del Rio entrusted Bill Musgrave with offensive coordination, and Carr was charged with running a new system in 2015. He couldn’t practice it last offseason while sidelined with a nerve issue in his throwing arm, but came to run it well. The Raiders offense was explosive, and helped Carr record 3,987 yards, 32 touchdowns and a 91.1 passer rating.
Quality numbers came with Carr simply trying to follow instructions.
“That went all the way through the year,” Carr said. “I had to learn how he wanted things done. That was all I was trying to do. I just wanted to run his offense the exact way he wants it so he can go home and sleep good.”
There’s nothing wrong with that style, especially early on. Coach calls the plays, players execute.
That isn’t the case this year. Musgrave has created an open dialogue to help suit scheme to player strengths. Carr has an important voice in that effort, which has made for a productive offseason thus far.
Continuity allowed coach and player to reach this point.
There is no new scheme. Carr is the unquestioned starter. The getting-to-know-you process with people and playbook is largely over. Musgrave has worked to understand how Carr thinks, the logic behind his decisions.
During this offseason program, Musgrave and Carr are able to experiment, refine and polish what they do.
“I think it helps that he doesn’t have to learn a new language again,” Musgrave said. “Two years in the league, he had two different systems. Now, this year, he can feel like he has a good grasp of it and start putting his own spin on things and can put his own signature on the system. Things that he wants to see or tweak a quarter turn here or there, he can initiate that.”
The league’s most trusted quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees, are heavily involved in creating an scheme that works for them. A passer must feel comfortable operating an offense, and Carr certainly does. He welcomes the next stage in his relationship with the coaching staff as an offense with just one major addition grows as a unit.
“We’re working together,” Carr said. “(Musgrave) comes in the QB room all the time, asking us questions on what we think and those kinds of things. When it’s back and forth like that, he empowers you. He knows how to make you feel good. Coach Musgrave is awesome. I love playing for him.”
Carr had to rest his throwing arm during last year’s OTAs, and wasn’t able to use valuable sessions to learn a scheme and his new skill players. As Carr refines his relationship with Musgrave and position coach Todd Downing this spring, he’s doing the same with returning receivers – Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts and Andre Holmes are all back – and his offensive line.
“I see how important this time is, especially in the same offense, same system, to be able to go out there and get these practices in before the minicamp shows up, before training camp shows up, because we can work and tweak little things,” Carr said. “If I think it will make something better, I want to work on it. We’ve been able to do that a couple of times and see the benefits of having OTAs and that happen.”