ALAMEDA (AP) — Derek Carr surveyed the red zone defense, called an audible and ran a quarterback draw into the end zone.
It’s still only OTAs, but having a year in coordinator Bill Musgrave’s offense under his belt and having most of his starting offensive players back this season is paying big dividends for Carr and the Oakland Raiders.
“Everyone celebrated and it was awesome,” Carr said Tuesday. “It was cool, but at the same time we wouldn’t have been able to do that last year because we didn’t know the checks, we didn’t know versus certain looks we’re going to do certain things. Just little things like that where we’re already a step ahead.”
Since being drafted in the second round in 2014 and becoming the immediate starter in Oakland, Carr has had three head coaches and two offensive coordinators in two seasons. Now, he has the benefit of a second year with Musgrave, who joined Jack Del Rio’s staff last year.
Making this offseason even easier is the fact that Oakland also returns its top four receivers from last season led by Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, running back Latavius Murray, four starting offensive linemen and the top three tight ends from a year ago.
“We feel really good about what we’re able to do as a staff in the offseason and really looking at what our guys are best at, maybe some of the things we liked but weren’t very good at,” Del Rio said. “You should take a step, take advantage of familiarity, with the staff returning and the majority of the players returning.”
The Raiders did take a big step forward last season from Carr’s rookie campaign. The team more than doubled its win total from three to seven, the offense scored 6.6 more points per game and Carr showed signs of being the franchise quarterback that has been missing in Oakland since Rich Gannon left by throwing for 3,987 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Oakland hopes for even more this season with Carr and Musgrave having the year of experience together.
“I had to learn how he wanted things done,” Carr said. “That’s all I’m trying to do. I just want to run his offense the exact way he wants it so he can go home and sleep good. I want to do it the way he wants it done. Now it’s like he sees that I’m trying to do that and we’re working together and stuff like that. He comes into the QB room all the time and asks us questions about what we think and those kinds of things. When it’s back and forth like that, he empowers you.”
It also helps that Carr is on the field this spring after missing most of the on-field offseason program a year ago with a finger injury. The time on the field has allowed him to improve timing with his receivers and tinker with some technique to see what works best.
Despite the improvement last season, the Raiders took a major step back in the second half of the year on offense. The team saw its points per game fall from 26.6 to 18.3 and yards per game slip from 374.6 to 292.4.
So when the season ended, the coaching staff took a deep dive into the season to learn what worked best, what didn’t and how to tailor the offense to the strengths of the players.
“There was a combination of factors,” Musgrave said. “We didn’t play as well, we didn’t coach as well. I think we learned more about ourselves when we didn’t have those exciting days that we did back in September and October. We’re looking to really take those lessons learned and be better.”