Derek Carr will make his second career start at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego Sunday.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr found himself in two very different games against the San Diego Chargers last year. After a trip to London, the bye week and the installation of an interim head coach, Carr ended up on the short end of a shootout with Chargers QB Philip Rivers, 31-28 in Oakland. He completed 18 of 34 for 282 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT. Just over a month later, Carr and the Raiders lost a 13-6 defensive battle at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Heading into this Sunday's matchup in San Diego, Carr and the Raiders are once again facing the Chargers after the bye week, and they are taking on the NFL's 7th best pass defense. The Chargers are allowing 221.8 yards per game, while the Raiders are averaging 248.8 yards per game, good for 15th in the league.
According to Carr, there are some things he can glean from last year's matchups with San Diego, but he has to be mindful of who the Chargers are now.
"There's definitely things, because obviously the same coordinator, same coaching staff, almost the same players. So there are things you can take, but you can't take it all, because things change," Carr said. "The way they want to do things changes and all of that. There are things that you may want to go look at that maybe you thought about after the game or things like that, but for the most part, you've just got to take them as they are now. Check in on some of those things, but see what they've been and who they're trying to be all those things."
Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio said it is going to be very important for the offense to stay out of long yardage situations against the Chargers defense.
"It's a good defense. They are very good on third down getting off the field," Coach Del Rio said. "I feel like that's definitely an area we've got to make sure we're staying ahead of the chains and not getting ourselves in third-and-forevers."
San Diego's pass defense is led by the secondary which features second-year cornerback Jason Verrett and safety Eric Weddle. The Chargers have racked up 11 sacks and 4 interceptions so far this season, while holding opponents to just 33.8 percent on third downs. Second-year LB Jeremiah Attaochu leads San Diego with four sacks, and four different players have logged interceptions.
An exclusive look at the AFC West rivalry that is the Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers through the decades.
The question is whether or not veteran safety Eric Weddle, who missed today's practice with a groin injury, plays Sunday or not. Regardless, Carr has tremendous respect for the Chargers leading tackler.
"In the back end, they have some good dudes. Weddle, who's very smart, savvy. He knows how to show me one look and bring in another," Carr said. "Just watching the film, studying him, studying his tendencies and all those kinds of things is something that's key this week."
Inside linebacker Manti Te'o also missed today's practice with an ankle injury. He is a key member of Mike Nolan's 3-4 defensive scheme. Carr said there are some key wrinkles with 3-4 defenses vs. 4-3 alignments, but understanding the personnel and their roles is more important.
"Obviously there are some differences, but usually it's just really based on the personnel. Who's more of a drop guy, who's more of a pass rush guy, you have to know those things," Carr said. "These coordinators in this league are so smart that they'll mix that up too. Same thing with the 4-3, you'll see defensive ends dropping in and covering tight ends. These coordinators are way too smart to let one scheme or the other be better than the other."
Chargers head coach Mike McCoy will also be facing Carr for the third time and he said is impressed with his development from Year 1 to Year 2.
"A very talented young player that is only getting better with time. I think he can do it all," McCoy said. "You love the way he – very similar to Philip [Rivers] – the way he doesn't hide a lot on the football field. He goes out there, he competes his tail off. He loves to play the game. You love the energy he plays with, the way he plays it. He can make every throw, make plays with his feet, avoid pressure when it gets there, and a very talented player."
When you have talented quarterback and receiving corps going against an athletic, opportunistic defense, something has to give. The Chargers defense got the better of Carr twice last year. We shall see Sunday if the young gunslinger learned anything and if it pays off in the "W" column.