By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
OAKLAND — Finally the preseason is over and now the wins and loses will count for each team on their quest to be one of the final two teams to play in Super Bowl XLVIX in February out in Glendale, AZ for the Lombardi Trophy.
The Oakland Raiders hope to be one of those two teams, but will need to break an 11-year playoff drought first in order to make that happen which begins Sunday in New York against the Jets in Week 1.
Oakland finished the preseason 2-2, and had glimpses of a quarterback controversy with backups Matt McGloin and Derek Carr playing well at times in place of projected starter, Matt Schaub. Carr will the first rookie quarterback in team history to make his first start in Week 1.
Well there is no quarterback controversy as FOX Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer reported Monday that Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen named Carr the starter ahead of Schaub for Sunday’s tilt in the Big Apple.
“Not an indictment on Matt Schaub, Derek Carr is mature beyond his years,” coach Dennis Allen said after Monday’s practice. “We feel very comfortable with him helping us win football games. … Derek is the starting quarterback.”
Schaub, who was battling parts of training camp with elbow tendinitis in his throwing elbow, didn’t play like a starting quarterback in his three starts, throwing for 218 yards, no touchdowns and one interception on 24-of-47 passes. The former Houston Texans quarterback is trying to resurrect his career in Oakland, after a disastrous 2013 season for the 2-14 Texans.
“Matt is disappointed but he has handled it like a pro,” Allen said. “Derek has grown [by] leaps and bounds…He is ready to accept the challenge.”
In three preseason games (missed one due to a rib/concussion injury), Carr finished 30-of-45 for 326 yards passing, four touchdowns and one interception, with a 108.2 QB rating. In his start against Seattle in the preseason finale at home, Carr looked like a seasoned veteran, taking command of the Raider’s first-team offense on two touchdown drives against the vaunted Sehawks first-team defense.
With the help of what should be a promising running attack with the tandem of Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden, Carr should not feel pressured into trying to win the game on his own. Both MJD and McFadden played sparingly during preseason, and look healthy to shoulder the load on the ground.
Defensively, Oakland made several key free agent acquisitions, most notably with an influx of veteran leadership with the signings of defensive end Justin Tuck, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, and cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Terrell Brown. Oakland is counting on those guys to help improve an Oakland defense that finished 22nd in total defense in the league last season.
The Jets, who finished the preseason 2-2, are led by second-year quarterback Geno Smith.
Smith, who started all 16 games last season as a rookie, threw 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions (fourth-most in the league), but did finish with 3,046 yards passing.
New York is banking on the five-year $36.25 million contract they gave former Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker to help the former West Virginia Mountaineer improve on those numbers, and end a three-year playoff absence for New York.
Second-year defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is the force behind a vastly improved Jets 3-4 defense that ranked 11th in total defense in 2013.
Richardson is the key to the Jets defense, enabling defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to get after the quarterback.
Wilkerson finished with a career-high 10.5 sacks last year and could make Carr’s first career regular season start a tough one as Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan loves to blitz and give multiple defensive looks to opposing quarterbacks.
If Carr continues to grow and show the confidence that he’s exhibited during the preseason and play mistake-free football, Oakland has a great chance of leaving New York with a win.