Quarterback Derek Carr
Like the wine cultivated in the vineyards surrounding the Oakland Raiders Napa Valley Training Complex, Derek Carr is getting better with age.
Now in his fourth NFL season – and still just 26 years old – Carr has improved statistically across the board in each of his first three seasons, vaulting himself from the quarterback of an 0-10 football team, to a legitimate MVP candidate in 2016.
In the few, short years since he wrapped up his college career at Fresno State, Carr has quickly established himself as one of the premier, young quarterbacks in the NFL; the long-term extension he signed with the organization in June is proof of just that.
However, just a few days out from the Raiders preseason opener – a game that if Carr plays will serve as his first game action since breaking his fibula on December 24 – the Raiders signal-caller has no interest in resting on his laurels.
"It's a constant work in progress," said Carr following Wednesday's practice. "There will never be a time that I stand up here, and say, 'hey, man I'm perfect.' Now, I'm going to try my best, and he's [Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing] going to grade me really hard to make sure I don't get there, but with my decisions, my accuracy, my completions, I just always want to make sure that number is going up, and make sure that it gets to a point where we're completing 90 percent of our passes throughout a whole training camp."
Key to that improvement has been Carr's relationship with Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing.
The pair has been together in Silver and Black since 2015, when Downing was hired as the team's Quarterbacks Coach, and Carr was a young quarterback heading into his second NFL season. Each has spoken time and time again about the close nature of their relationship off the field, but on the field, one of the tools Downing uses to help the Raiders starting quarterback is a system for charting the balls he throws during practice.
"We have a system of how we chart things since I've been with Coach Downing," Carr said. "Every camp, every OTA [Organized Team Activity], all those things and I've progressed. The percentage that I've progressed from last year to this year, it's awesome. I want to always stay on that trend.
And as complicated as NFL offenses are in 2017, with their subtle variations, and countless plays and formations, Downing's system is a rather simple one, grading every pass on a scale from zero to two.
"A two is a perfect ball," Carr explained. "A zero means bad throwing, incomplete and it was incomplete because of the throw. A one is yeah it's catchable, but we could have better."
Every throw Carr makes is tracked, and while he understandably gets pretty high marks on a daily basis, pretty good is not good enough for No. 4.
He's chasing perfection.
"He [Downing] drills a lot of the same things," Carr said. "Just making those so muscle memory that every single throw is 10 out of 10. We're at the point now where, yeah it can be nine out of 10 pretty much every day. Eight out of 10 on a bad day. Getting it to a point where we have days that are 10 out of 10 and once we do that, getting it consistently all the time like that. That's something that just takes time. It's going to take years to get to that point. As long as we're heading in that direction, it's a good thing."
Carr and the rest of the Raiders will be back on the practice field Thursday before flying to Arizona Friday in advance of their preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals Saturday night.
-After missing Tuesday's practice, defensive end Fadol Brown, safety Obi Meliwonfu, tackle David Sharpe, defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, and tackle Jylan Ware were back on the practice field Wednesday. Granted, Melifonwu didn't do a whole lot throughout the session, but it was still good to see him back at work with his teammates.
-On the other end of the spectrum, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and defensive end Khalil Mack once again missed the two-and-a-half-hour practice, and were instead relegated to watching from the sideline.
-Running back DeAndré Washington has had a strong training camp running the ball, but Wednesday he showed that he is also a valuable asset in pass protection. During a one-on-one blocking session, the stocky running back stonewalled a linebacker, much to the delight of running backs coach Bernie Parmalee.
-Wide receiver Jaydon Mickens once again provided a spark in the return game Wednesday, returning a kickoff deep into opposing territory during one of the Raiders allotted special teams periods. Mickens has had a nice camp, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he performs Saturday against the Cardinals.
-Cornerback Breon Borders is another player who's had a good few weeks, and he kept up that positive momentum Wednesday, securing a pass deflected by safety Karl Joseph, during a seven-on-seven drill.
-Tight end Clive Walford made a little noise Wednesday too, hauling in a pretty pass from Carr during an 1
-Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.'s group enjoyed a strong day Wednesday, particularly in the latter stages of practice, where they forced a pair of incompletions in the red zone to force a Sebastian Janikowski field goal attempt.
-Cornerback TJ Carrie made sure to finish the day's work with a flourish, intercepting a pass, before streaking down the sideline in the Raiders final session of the afternoon.
Song Of The Day:
"I Don't Get Tired" – Kevin Gates
An appropriate reminder during the dog days of August.
"He's doing a great job. Not only in running the football. Obviously, he had a good touchdown for us in the red zone period, but he's doing great things in pass protection for a guy of his stature. Usually you think a smaller guy, I don't know, but he's real stocky. He's strong. So when he gets his hands on guys, he does a pretty good job. I think that he's had a phenomenal camp."
-Derek Carr talking about DeAndré Washington's training camp.
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