Raiders quarterback Derek Carr received high praise during Super Bowl week, with NFL analysts buzzing around the Bay Area and its local teams.
Outsiders saw growth from the team’s young quarterback, the centerpiece of a young offensive foundation. Despite a Pro Bowl appearance and some impressive numbers, former star quarterback and NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner wasn’t ready to make bold predictions. He doesn’t like labeling young players so early in a career. Carr has shown encouraging signs, and must continue to do so.
“This is another young kid with great potential,” Warner said last week. “We’ve seen solid growth from year one to year two, which creates excitement about what the future can be. That said, I’m not going to throw him into a category or say he’s going to be exactly this. You just hope he continues to grow year in and year out. With the track he’s on now, that bodes well for a good NFL career.”
Individual growth can only take Carr so far. Young passers need help, and the Raiders gave him some with rookie receiver Amari Cooper, free-agent signings in center Rodney Hudson and receiver Michael Crabtree and running back Latavius Murray’s promotion to the starting lineup.
“The more great players around a quarterback, the better that quarterback will do,” Warner said. “It’s not rocket science. Amari isn’t the only good player around Derek Carr. I think we saw that this year. Carr made a big jump because he had the support required to do so.”
Fellow NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk -- a longtime teammate of Warner on the Rams -- has studied Carr since his days at Fresno State, and likes the progress already made during his first two seasons. A noticeable jump occurred in Carr’s second year, a Pro Bowl season where he threw for 3,987 yards with 32 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 91.1 passer rating. All stats spiked save for the picks, but there were missed opportunities when the offense sputtered down the stretch. Faulk still sees room for improvement heading towards his third season.
“Derek has to look at this past season and figure out how to improve upon situational aspects of football,” Faulk said. “He was phenomenal, but there were opportunities that would escape him at times. That’s just from being young. At times he would try to make a play when he should just get rid of the ball.
“He has physical tools. It’s about playing the game from the shoulders up. I knew Derek could spin the ball, but watching him mature and grow last year was impressive.”
Continuity should help Carr’s progress. He’s going to have the same coaches in coordinator Bill Musgrave and position coach Todd Downing. The Raiders have Cooper and Crabtree under contract for another year.
“Amari is going to be one of the best receivers in the game, and they re-signed Michael Crabtree, which is huge for Cooper and the offense as a whole,” Faulk said. “Amari was great before the injuries slowed him down. The Raiders have some young talent to hang their hat on, not to mention the first franchise quarterback drafted in forever.”