Quarterback Derek Carr
Derek Carr certainly made an impression on Jon Gruden in the months leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.
The then-Fresno State Bulldog was one of the college signal-callers selected to participate in Gruden's QB Camp, and while his knowledge of the game and obvious athleticism stuck with Gruden during their time together, Carr also made sure to leave a more lasting memory with the former Raiders head coach and current Monday Night Football analyst.
"You know what, I can remember him [Carr] throwing the ball like it was yesterday," said Gruden Wednesday on a conference call with national media heading into the Raiders Week 11 Monday Night Football matchup against the Houston Texans. "We had two cameras set up 19 or 20 yards down the field on each hash mark, and we threw some seam passes into the bullseye where the Go Pro camera was, and most of the guys hit the screen, a couple of guys would hit the target; Derek Carr hit the bullseye both times and broke my cameras."
While Carr broke a few of Gruden's cameras in the months before he was drafted, he's done his fair share of breaking other things – mainly passing records – since he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the second round (No. 36 overall) of the 2014 Draft.
In his two-plus seasons as the starting quarterback for the Raiders, Carr has thrown for nearly 10,000 passing yards, 70 touchdowns, and earned a berth to the 2015 Pro Bowl in the process too.
However, while many pundits focus on Carr's statistical accomplishments, and rightfully so, Gruden made sure to speak up about what No. 4 brings to the table outside of his physical assets.
"He's such an upbeat, great kid," Gruden said. "He's got so much passion, and energy, and leadership. He's fun to be around. He laughs. He works it. He's a superstar, and he deserves a lot credit. I'm glad he's getting some national television play."
That being said, that doesn't mean that Carr isn't quite the athlete, because he certainly is.
"Number one, he's a much-better athlete than people think," Gruden explained. "They can run the zone read. They can run a lot of different kinds of plays to really make it hard for you as a defense to do a lot of things. They have all kinds of different formations. He's a smart guy. One personnel, they'll be in four wides and a tight end, and no backs, and then they'll come at you with an extra offensive linemen. They can shift. He can audible. He's a sharp guy. He's very athletic, and to put it honestly, he's got a cannon."
Gruden also went on to praise the Raiders quarterback's quick release and arm strength, as well as his increased understanding of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's scheme, particularly at the line of scrimmage.
"Number one, he can go up there and fix a problem," Gruden said. "If there's a blitz coming on the left, he doesn't miss it; he changes the protection. He hand signals the route. He keeps the Raiders in optimum play selection, and things don't have to perfect. I mean, if the pocket isn't clean, he can just slide two feet to his right and throw an awkward-delivery release 18 yards down the field on the dime. He's got very good pocket skills."
The Raiders will fly down to Mexico City Sunday afternoon for their Monday night matchup against the Houston Texans, and heading into the Week 11 matchup, Gruden sees the game shaping up like many others do, as a clash between the stout Texans defense and the high-flying offense captained by Carr.
"I think Romeo Crennel, number one, the defensive coordinator of the Texans, he does a great job every week coming up with something to break down your protection, something you haven't seen before so you can't prepare for it," Gruden said. "He does a great job, traditionally, in the red zone, so I think Romeo Crennel, his experience as a coordinator, with a talented defense, going up against the Raiders on Monday night with an extra day to prepare is exciting to me, and I can't wait to see how the Raiders – they run this one play – I call it "do lo;" they have two double teams, and they run it about 10-12 times a game. I think they ran it 20 times against Denver, and I just can't wait to see them run that double team scheme against this Texans front."
Gruden will have one of the best seats in the house at Estadio Azteca Monday night when he calls the matchup between the Raiders and Texans with Sean McConough on ESPN.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. PT.