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Graney: Derek Carr must play better for Raiders to succeed

Updated September 24, 2022 - 10:26 am

The Raiders are 0-2 to open the season, having played the Chargers tough before inexplicably blowing a 20-0 halftime lead and falling to the Cardinals in overtime.

Yeah. That really happened.

It also means quarterback Derek Carr is 0-2 to begin his ninth year as a starter.

He needs to play better.

Carr has been outperformed in both losses, first by Justin Herbert in Los Angeles and then by Kyler Murray of Arizona. That’s when Murray went all superhuman in the final 30 minutes and the Raiders appeared futile trying to stop him.

It’s early. The sample size is minute. Carr is 47 of 76 passing for 547 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. That’s good (bad?) enough for a passer rating of 84.7.

He ranks as the NFL’s 31st-best quarterback, according to Pro Football Focus.

Play well enough

“We (as an offense) are very close, but close doesn’t count in winning football games,” Carr said. “We turn on the film and see growth from the first to second week. We’re close, but that doesn’t matter. I’m not perfect by any stretch. I’m trying my best to execute exactly how (coach Josh McDaniels) sees it.”

It’s never all about Carr. The offensive line remains (seemingly forever) a work in progress. Penalties — it happened against the Cardinals — stall things and can play havoc with down and distance.

Carr won’t win games by himself. Not that sort of quarterback. But he has to play well enough weekly to give the Raiders a chance.

It’s also not just about becoming more and more comfortable within McDaniels’ new scheme. That should come in time. Carr’s accuracy and decision-making have lacked in certain spots these first two weeks.

According to The Associated Press, Carr attempted just three passes beyond 20 yards against the Cardinals. He’s 1 of 7 passing on such throws this season.

He can be more aggressive, but lots of factors go into any deep pass, beginning with how well Carr is protected. So until those up front become far more consistent, launching balls downfield might be a limited exercise.

“I thought (Carr) took some good chances (against Arizona) and the week before,” McDaniels said. “He’s like everyone else — the more he does with this group of guys, the more comfortable you get doing a lot of things.

“Derek is no different. Works hard. Super well prepared. He’ll learn from all things, good and bad. He has a great outlook and approach. I expect him to improve as we go.”

He needs to get the better of Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a reeling 0-2 opponent Sunday.

The Titans have far more unanswered questions than the Raiders and maybe even more across the offensive line. It’s more than a winnable game. The Raiders are favored on the road.

Might even be a must-win game for Carr and his teammates.

There is a huge sense of urgency in the air.

It’s on everyone

“There are so many things that go into playing quarterback,” wide receiver Davante Adams said. “It’s tough — and this is just the way we are as a team, we’re going to be hard on each other — if he’s not comfortable back there.

“At the end of the day, we all have to work together to help. That’s the toughest position on the field to play. So, I’m damn sure going to the best of my abilities to try to help him make his job as easy as possible. The same with guys up front. Like I said, everyone doing their job to make sure he stays clean and has a clear mind to be able to sit back and deliver.”

There’s a pointed message in there for everyone.

It has been a collective effort to reach 0-2.

But the quarterback needs to play better.

Starting now.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.