Derek Carr’s mindset for his second NFL season opener is quite a bit different than what it was a year ago as a rookie.
After being picked as the starter just days before last year’s opener, Carr is now firmly entrenched in the starting role and as one of the faces of the Raiders franchise heading into a new season.
The confidence and knowledge gained from that year of experience have Carr hopeful that he and the Raiders can take a big step forward this season after winning just three games a year ago. Oakland opens the season today at home against Cincinnati in a game Carr has worked toward since April.
“You have a whole offseason to prepare,” he said. “You know what to work on, you know what’s going to happen. You’ve already played in the games, already seen it. There are a lot of benefits that were not here last year that we have this year. I’m definitely excited and ready to compete.”
Carr was picked by the players as one of the four captains on the Raiders, alongside veterans Charles Woodson, Justin Tuck and Marcel Reece. Carr said the honor “means the world to me,” especially because it shows he has the trust of his teammates.
Carr said he is a much better leader in year two because his emotions are more even-keeled and he better understands how to deal with individual players.
“I think it comes natural to him,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “We’re not asking anyone to be someone they’re not. We want our guys to express themselves and be who they are and buy into the idea of being unselfish and being together on the same page fighting for a common goal.”
Carr was the 18th quarterback to start for Oakland since the beginning of 2003, but became the first to go all 16 games since Rich Gannon did it in 2002 — when the Raiders made the Super Bowl.
Carr had good and bad moments for the Raiders (3-13). He became the seventh rookie quarterback to throw for at least 3,000 yards and 20 touchdown passes in a season and looked comfortable in the pocket.
But he also only averaged 9.4 yards per completion — the 10th-lowest mark over the past 80 seasons — and his 5.5 yards per attempt were the second-lowest in Raiders history.
Carr said he is much improved mentally from where he was as a rookie.
“Obviously year two, you’re still young, there’s still going to be things you need to learn and grow in,” he said. “But that jump from year one to year two is huge. I’ve seen it. The game just slows down.”
Carr’s teammates have seen it as well, whether it’s the way he changes a play at the line of scrimmage, motivates the team in the huddle or interacts with his receivers on the field.
“I feel like he has matured a lot,” receiver Rod Streater said. “Last year he came in as a rookie and was still amazing. But he’s a much better leader and better quarterback this year and has brought us all together.”Derek CarrJack Del RioNFLOakland Raiders