If the Raiders’ Derek Carr is overwhelmed as the only rookie starting quarterback in the NFL, he’s great at masking his anxiety.
He speaks with perspective, admitting he can’t possibly know everything, but he is doing all he can to master the game.
Carr keeps notes on every defensive coordinator he has faced – a small sample size with only three preseason games and one regular-season game.
After each game, Carr examines his pregame notes and compares them to what he saw during the contest, adding to his file on what the defense did against him.
Carr’s second start of the season, his first at home, comes against the Houston Texans on Sunday at O.co Coliseum. Carr knows the franchise well, even if Houston’s veteran defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel isn’t in his notes yet.
The Texans selected Carr’s older brother, David, first overall in the 2002 NFL draft as an expansion team.
But today’s game isn’t about a happy reunion, and it won’t matter that Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson attended Derek Carr’s games when Carr was in junior high school.
“These guys are trying to rip my head off,” Carr said. “I’m not thinking about being a kid watching those (Houston) games. They’re coming after me.”
Carr spent time in Houston while David endured sacks and repeated hits. David Carr was the most-sacked quarterback in three of his five seasons with the team, including 76 times as a rookie.
Derek Carr, who lived in the Houston area through his junior year at Clements High School in Sugarland, finished high school at Bakersfield Christian before attending Fresno State.
Derek Carr loved his time in Texas, even though it was tough to watch his brother get hit so often.
“All I knew was I grew up a Cowboys and Raiders fan, and I never saw those quarterbacks get hit that much,” Derek said. “That was my thought process as a kid, and being older and going back and watching his games, I understand what was going on now.”
Learning from what his brother endured helped Carr beat out veteran Matt Schaub, who replaced David Carr in Houston.
Carr said that after last week’s loss against the Jets in New York, he’s already better equipped to deal with the Texans.
“I guess now, after playing a game, I know how to prepare,” Derek said. (Offensive coordinator Greg) Olson always talks about having a plan. Have a plan, know how you’re going to prepare, play the game and then reflect back on that plan.”
Derek did that after the Jets game and said there were positives to take away from the loss. But the Texans are a different team, with perhaps the best defensive player in the NFL in end J.J. Watt.
Coaches and teammates were impressed with Carr’s performance against the Jets. His statistics weren’t gaudy (20 of 32, 151 yards, two touchdowns), but he committed no turnovers.
“His greatest attribute is he’s mature for his age; he’s highly intelligent,” said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “So it allows us to do a few more things with a rookie player that you might not normally do. He’s got a tremendous skill set, and he’s going to do nothing but continue to get better the more opportunities he gets.”
The Raiders believe maturity will help as the season progresses. And the coaches aren’t worried about Carr not learning from his inevitable mistakes.
“He’s also a guy that only needs to see it one or two times, and he gets it,” Olson said. “That’s why I think he’s going to be special. He doesn’t have the experience right now that starting quarterbacks have, but when he does see something, very rarely does he come back and make the same mistake twice. He spends a lot of time at it. He’s really jumped into it. You cannot replace experience. The more experience he gets, the better he’ll be.”
And his notebook will be filled with even more information.