For young NFL players, quarterbacks in particular, a big jump is expected from year one to year two.
Not only do they have an invaluable year of professional experience under their belts, they also have the added benefit of going through a complete offseason program with their respective teams, and that extra time and familiarity is expected to manifest itself in a better statistical year – for the good ones at least.
Derek Carr was one of those players, who after an impressive rookie season, improved his statistical output across the board in 2015, with jumps in total yardage, completion percentage, and passing touchdowns, and he earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in the process.
Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, who now serves as an analyst for ESPN, also saw another big leap in Carr's second season under center – one that doesn't necessarily show up on the stat sheet.
"I saw him making more decisions at the line of scrimmage, which is huge," Dilfer told Raiders.com. "The NFL is a lot about schemes and tactics, and the quarterback has to be able to, at the line of scrimmage, get you out of bad plays and into good ones."
Another area where Dilfer saw improvement in the second-year quarterback – one that can be quantified - was his improvement throwing the ball deep.
In his rookie season Carr ranked 23rd in the NFL, throwing just three touchdowns of 25-or-more yards.
In 2015 that number jumped dramatically to 13, which was the highest in the NFL; and that improvement isn't something that was lost on Dilfer when he broke down Carr's tape.
"I thought his deep ball improvement was exceptional," Dilfer explained. "I would never have called him a great deep ball thrower; he had a big arm, but I would never put him in that category, [but] I thought this year he threw the deep ball as well as anybody."
Kurt Warner, a Super Bowl champion in his own right, who now works for NFL Network, also saw a noticeable improvement from Carr in 2015.
"I thought technique-wise, he was more consistent with his technique which really helped," Warner said. "I think you see all the physical ability. He's unique in what he can do with a football and what he can do with his right arm. You saw that come out more. You saw more confidence in what he can do, and more confidence in the guys around him."
Photo highlights of Derek Carr's promising 2015 sophomore season.
One of those guys that Carr developed a confidence in was rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper, and both Dilfer and Warner agreed that having a top-tier wide receiver like Cooper to grow with will pay huge dividends for Carr and the Raiders' offense down the road.
"I think it's huge," Dilfer said when talking about the addition of Cooper. "Just that combination, the ability to have the big three or the big two, you just grow together. The trust, seeing the field the same way, thinking each other's thoughts, it just comes naturally because you're growing up and learning all the same lessons together."
After two seasons, Carr is far from a finished product, both analysts said as much, but with 32 games now under his belt, the pair believe that the former Fresno State Bulldog is off to a quality start to his professional career.
"You're excited about what the future can be, but again, I don't need to throw him in any category," Warner said. "I hope he continues to grow year in and year out and gets better every year, because with the track that he's on now, that bodes well for a really, really good NFL career if he can continue to grow."