The Raiders are bringing decades of history to the Entertainment Capital of the World and a revamped roster. Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock have laid a foundation for an explosive offense and vastly improved defense in 2020 on paper, but it all starts with the success of the team's franchise quarterback, Derek Carr.
Entering his third season in Gruden's system, Carr looks poised to be unleashed with a new arsenal of weapons, and the team has added depth behind him to secure the position. With training camp set to begin this month, let's dive into the 2020 Position Battles.
It's no secret Derek Carr has been subject to some negativity in the media this offseason, with a lot of it undeserved. But let's start with the facts: Despite being surrounded by rookies and a wide receiving corps that ended up looking far different than expected, the former MVP candidate and six-year veteran put up career numbers last year, including highs in passing yards, completion percentage, quarterback rating, and yards gained per pass attempt.
Carr improved the team's win margin by three last season, kept his interceptions in single digits (one of 10 starters to do so in 2019) and eclipsed 4,000 yards for the second consecutive year. The Raiders want to win, as does Carr, and he's the best person for the job; however, Gruden and Mayock knew they needed to improve the backup position.
Gruden experimented with Nathan Peterman, Mike Glennon, and Deshone Kizer last year, and at no point did it feel like any one of them had an upper hand. Each had moments to shine, but none truly capitalized on the opportunity.
Prior to Mayock becoming the GM of the Raiders, the former NFL Network Analyst knew every draft prospect backward and front, and the former 2015 No. 2 overall pick, Marcus Mariota, was a guy he thought had all the potential to be great at the NFL level. Mayock and Gruden made acquiring him in free agency this year a priority and the two sides were able to come to an agreement, making the Heisman Trophy winner Carr's immediate backup.
Mariota's time with the Titans featured a couple of playoff runs, but some coaching changes and the emergence of Ryan Tannehill forced the signal-caller out of town. During an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Mariota shared how the belief and encouragement displayed by the Raiders coaching staff played an influential role in his decision to join the team.
"For me, my priorities in free agency were to, one find a stable head coach and stability within the organization," Mariota said. "Secondly, for me, was just to find a team that I felt comfortable with and that, I felt, could help me reach my potential and become the best player that I could be."
The addition of Mariota was intended to raise the level of competition at a critical position, and the former Oregon Duck knows that while Carr is the incumbent starter, that doesn't mean he won't be able to help the Raiders win some crucial games if he needs to.
Carr has all the tangibles and weapons to return to elite form in 2020, and I expect him to eclipse 4,000 yards for the third consecutive year, toss 30 touchdowns and lead the Silver and Black to a winning record — while again entering the MVP conversation.