The Raiders have their franchise quarterback in place. There’s confidence that within the organizational hierarchy, a security rarely felt in the East Bay. Derek Carr gives them that after a standout second season illustrating solid improvement and great room for growth after a solid rookie year.
The Raiders searched in vain for a quarterback, with only Carson Palmer offering brief respite during a dark period spawned by Rich Gannon’s retirement. It ended after watching Carr play.
“We felt confident, based on what I’d seen. Having a year with him really takes the question away,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I’m really happy to have Derek as our guy. He’s a leader. He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s accurate. He’s got really good arm talent. And the best thing about him is he’s a worker. He’s a grinder. It comes natural for him to want to soak up the game plan and spend extra time on protections. Leadership comes natural. The work ethic comes natural.
“I think he’s got a really bright future. And like anybody, we don’t expect him to do it by himself. We understand that part of having a great run as a quarterback is to have good people around you.”
Del Rio’s point is well received. Good quarterbacks have drowned captaining shoddy ships. While the best make those around them better, they can’t survive with scraps.
Del Rio and general manager Reggie McKenzie are committed to upgrading his supporting cast. Last year, Carr got help in the passing game with receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and tight end Clive Walford. Cerebral center Rodney Hudson came to help organize protection and breakdown defenses. Kelechi Osemele is now here. Another running back is on the way.
Building around a quarterback isn’t all about skill players and bodyguards.
“Linemen help. Receivers help,” Del Rio said. “We got him some pieces last year with weapons to throw to, with Crabtree and Cooper and Walford. And Rodney Hudson came over from Kansas City. And this year we get Kelechi, so we fortified the front in front of him and added some weapons for him to throw to. The next part for us as an organization, as a football team, is to play great defense.”
Del Rio is committed to fixing a defense that ranked No. 22 in yards and points allowed. He added cornerback Sean Smith and edge rusher Bruce Irvin, and could address every level of defense in next month’s NFL draft.
Limiting points will take pressure off Carr, who felt it plenty last season with the defense struggling early and the run game faltering late. The Raiders will continue to build strength around a quarterback they are confident will guide the franchise for years to come.