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PHOENIX -- Receiver seems like an obvious area of Raiders need, one head coach Jack Del Rio said the team expects to address in the NFL Draft.
That isn’t the only way to help Derek Carr develop as a quarterback. Del Rio has said the Raiders need to add strength around him, and take pressure off the young signal caller.
That isn’t just with weapons in the passing game. It’s through strength in the trenches and in the running game. It’s with good defense to keep scores low and take pressure off a 23-year old still developing as a quarterback.
“I’m excited about not making it so much about Derek,” Del Rio said on Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I thought that it was all about Derek last year. We want to be able to run the ball and play good defense, the things that are necessary to be a good football team. As we do some of those things around him, then he really has a chance to thrive.”
Del Rio brings up some excellent points. Last year was all about Carr. It had to be, because so many other facets were not productive.
The Raiders had the NFL’s worst rushing attack last season, averaging just 77.5 yards per game. The Raiders were dead last in scoring defense, giving up 28.2 points per game. They fell behind early, which put onus on Carr to lead ill-fated comeback tries. And, we can’t forget about those receivers, who didn’t consistently create separation or yards after the catch. It somewhat excuses Carr's low 5.46 yards per pass attempt.
While it’s not universal, young quarterbacks typically thrive on loaded teams. Seattle’s Russell Wilson is a great example of a smart talented player who benefited from an excellent defense and a powerful rushing attack. The same could be said of Colin Kaepernick in Santa Clara when things were going well, or Ben Roethlisberger during his early days in Pittsburgh.
The Raiders believe they improved through free agency, adding veteran talents in key spots to help Carr. They’ll try to do so again in the draft, where, yes, a receiver might be coming down the pike as one piece of a larger support system.
Steady production from the running game and better play on defense will help Carr in 2015, but quarterback play is key to success in Oakland and across the league.
“You’ve got to have a trigger man,” Del Rio said. “Having good production from that position is the engine that makes it all go. My belief if that you have to be strong around the quarterback as well. You can’t ask that guy do it all. You can’t put an engine into a bad car, where the tires fall off and the brakes don’t work.
“What I look at with our quarterback situation, with Derek Carr, is that we have a bright player with a bright future. We have to find ways to support him. That’s not just about getting a receiver. Everybody’s clamoring for a receiver. You need so much more. … It’s a team game.”