Grading Derek Carr's First NFL Start

Did the Raiders make the right move in starting the rookie over Matt Schaub?

After accumulating 326 yards and three touchdowns in three preseason games, the Raiders chose their second-round pick of the 2014 draft, Derek Carr, as their starting quarterback entering this season. But how did Carr look in his NFL regular season debut?

On the surface, Derek Carr had an ordinary day. His two touchdown tosses were better than 18 other quarterbacks in Week 1, and he didn’t turn the ball over. That's a plus. His completion percentage wasn’t too shabby either, as his 62.5% was better than 11 other quarterbacks. Nice.

Carr’s two touchdown passes were the biggest positive in his game on Sunday. The first came when the Raiders had a short field thanks to a Charles Woodson interception. Carr then completed his first NFL touchdown on a 12-yard pass to Rod Streater six plays later. His second touchdown pass was to James Jones, a 30-yard bomb that Jones was used to catching from Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.

Derek Carr also accounted for 84% of the team’s total yards of offense. However, the offense as a whole only generated 158 yards. Carr had 133 net passing yards (after factoring in yards lost on sacks), which was fairly pedestrian even if it was his first NFL start.

Making matters worse was the time of possession, as the Raiders only held the ball for 25 minutes. Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew contributed little, as both combined for only 25 rushing yards on 15 attempts – and 12 of those yards came on a single run by MJD in the fourth quarter.

To Carr’s credit, he only needed six plays to march the Raiders down the field on the second touchdown drive, going 4 for 5 on passing plays during the drive. But which Derek Carr is the real deal?

Before we give a final verdict on Carr’s performance, our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric will let us dig even further into his performance against the Jets. Our NEP data shows how many points a player contributed to his team’s overall performance. In evaluating quarterbacks, we look at every drop back the quarterback took, not just pass attempts.

Carr accumulated a -3.87 Passing NEP. Despite two touchdown passes, Carr cost the Raiders nearly four points over the course of the game - he played roughly four expected points below expectations. Carr’s Passing NEP was 23rd of 32 quarterbacks that had at least 20 drop backs this past week, slightly below the average Passing NEP of 3.17 for Week 1.

While Carr didn’t throw an interception in his first game, not completing 12 passes won’t earn him a gold star. His inconsistency shows in our Passing NEP per pass, too, which was a paltry -0.11 points per play. Carr may have accumulated most of the Raiders' yards, but every time he dropped back, he was still hurting the team. His numbers weren’t the worst of all the Week 1 quarterbacks, but ranking 24th in efficiency against a team that ranked 17th against the pass according to our metrics last season isn't fantastic.

One more metric we use at numberFire is a player’s Success Rate, which measures the percentage of drop backs that contribute positive NEP. Carr had 34 drop backs, but only 32.35% of them contributed positively towards the Raiders’ limited success against the Jets. In other words, his already-low Passing NEP was mostly boosted by some bigger plays (like the Jones touchdown), while the majority of his passes were actually hurting the Raiders.

Carr’s low Success Rate was the worst of Week 1 among quarterbacks - Tom Brady, Eli Manning and Nick Foles all had better Success Rates despite worse Passing NEP numbers than Carr.

With all of this being said, we have to remember that Derek Carr is a rookie quarterback in an offense that was already struggling before he came along. Holding him to the standard of Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck isn't fair. But our metrics don’t lie, either. Derek Carr wasn't good on Sunday.

Carr has plenty of room to grow, but for Raiders fans, it might not be pretty over the next few weeks.