Derek Carr has gotten the attention of the league. Many experts believe that he has broken into the sacred category of “elite” quarterbacks based on performance during the first quarter of the season. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the No. 2 quarterback so far this year, but there are still some that believe that he hasn’t quite achieved the status of elite.
The argument isn’t a fruitful one because everyone has their own standard for what an elite quarterback looks like and let’s not forget this season like Carr is still young. He is only beginning his third season in the NFL, and he has made some huge strides every year. With that said, let’s dive into some of his strengths, weaknesses, and what he has improved on so far this year. And you could decide where he ranks among the NFL’s rock slingers.
Carr talks a lot about how he benefitted from having an older brother that played in the NFL in David Carr. He said he was watching NFL film and learning how to decipher NFL coverages at the age of twelve. That’s an advantage that very few quarterbacks have, and it shows up on film. Defenses often try to disguise coverages against Carr, but he is easily able to read the coverage and make correct decisions. Carr is a relentless worker and film junkie, so it is very rare that defenses out smart him.
Carr has the ability to put the ball anywhere he wants to with power and touch. Not only does he have a strong arm, he knows how to control trajectory. Meaning he knows how much air he needs put under the ball or take off of it. This ability was displayed when on his game-winning pass to Michael Crabtree against the Ravens.
This throw had to be put in the perfect location, but it also has to come fast enough to beat the safety on the hash. The degree of difficulty is ridiculously high and on top of that, he did it when the game was on the line.
Goes through progressions too quickly
Carr’s ability to read defenses also works against him at times as he tends to rush through his progressions and go straight to his check down instead of letting routes develop. It seems like he is uncomfortable staring down receivers, and it is a bit of cardinal quarterback sin, but there are times when it is necessary to be patient and wait for big plays opportunities.
Because of his arm talent, there are times when Carr throws the ball with improper mechanics causing misfires. There will be times when he won’t step into his target and throw off his back foot, and there are times when he’ll completely miss because of a lack of mechanics
Carr made a lot of plays within structure. Meaning he could read defenses and go through his progressions, but when plays broke down, and he had to maneuver or escape the pocket, the results, often times, were not good. He seemed to panic and wasn’t aware of the rush, and he didn’t know how to escape it. When he did escape, he couldn’t find his receivers. Aaron Rodgers makes his living on escaping the pocket and buying time for his receivers to get open, but Carr just wasn’t good at it. Again, this season is still young, but so far he seemed to have made a massive improvement in this area.
So where does Carr rank in the NFL? It really depends on what qualities you value in a passer. Although he probably hasn’t broken into the upper echelon (Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady), he has proven that is on the cusp of getting there. If he continues to improve, he’ll be in that class sooner than later.