Pressure on Derek Carr after Raiders load up offense in draft

By Jesse Reed
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders stocked up on offensive weapons during the 2020 NFL Draft, and now quarterback Derek Carr needs to deliver in a big way.

Can Carr drive the Bus?

The Raiders have been looking at replacements for Derek Carr the past two offseasons. This year they brought in former No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota to back him up — and take his job if he falters.

It sure seems like Jon Gruden is not satisfied with what he’s gotten out of Carr in the first two seasons he’s been at the helm.

Here’s what Carr has done since Gruden took over:

  • 2018: 68.9% completion rate, passing for 4,049 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions
  • 2019: 70.4% completion rate, passing for 4,054 yards with 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions

It’s easy to look at those numbers and think Carr has done a good job. But the truth is, he’s left a lot of meat on the bone, so to speak. Worse, Carr has been brutally bad in some key situations for the Raiders at the end of games.

Some have suggested that Carr could thrive if only he were supplied with elite talent at the skill positions. That’s what the Raiders thought they had provided last year when they traded for Antonio Brown and signed Tyrell Williams in free agency. Unfortunately, the Brown experiment ended badly and Williams — a No. 2 receiver at best — struggled to stay healthy.

The remedy?

Needing to supercharge their offense, the Raiders did just that. They made some outstanding selections in the draft that should give them all the firepower they need to compete with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here’s a quick look at the offensive playmakers the Raiders acquired in the draft:

  • Round 1 (12th overall): Henry Ruggs III, wide receiver, Alabama
  • Round 3 (80th overall): Lynn Bowden Jr., running back, Kentucky
  • Round 3 (81st overall): Bryan Edwards, wide receiver, South Carolina

The Ruggs pick surprised absolutely nobody who had been following the draft rumors ahead of the annual event. A player who combines game-breaking speed with soft hands and competitive fire, he fits what the Raiders want to do on offense to a T.

The fact that Las Vegas took Bowden Jr. and Edwards on back-to-back selections was a more surprising move. It showed just how much the Raiders wanted to shore up an area of weakness. Edwards is an incredibly tough receiver who should contribute big time as a rookie. And while Bowden is technically a running back in reality he’s a Swiss Army-type player who should be explosive in this offense.

The bottom line

There are no more excuses for Carr not to absolutely thrive in 2020. He will be entering his third year playing for Gruden, who has a history of helping quarterbacks play their best. He also now has one of the most formidable offensive lineups in the league at his disposal.

While it will certainly take time for this unit to come together (especially this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic), there is no reason Carr shouldn’t have a career year. If not, then the Raiders will turn to Mariota and/or go quarterback hunting next year.

It’s put-up-or-shut-up time for Carr as a member of the Raiders. Period.