Carr, Raiders reel­ing as they get set to face In­di­anapo­lis

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Front Page - BY JOSH DUBOW

Derek Carr and the Oak­land Raiders were fly­ing high the last time they faced the In­di­anapo­lis Colts.

Carr threw three touch­down passes to lead Oak­land to its 12th win of the sea­son on Christ­mas Eve in 2016, but got knocked out late in that game with a bro­ken an­kle. That has sent the Raiders into a down­ward spi­ral they still haven’t es­caped.

The Raiders (1-5) are reel­ing as they head into Sun­day’s game against the Colts (2-5), hav­ing traded away No. 1 re­ceiver Amari Cooper to Dal­las ear­lier in the week af­ter pre­vi­ously deal­ing away star pass rusher Khalil Mack be­fore the sea­son.

The trio of Carr, Cooper and Mack were the foun­da­tion pieces in Oak­land, but now only Carr re­mains and the team is once again re­build­ing.

“For me, be­ing in my fifth year, it’s hard if I’m be­ing hon­est,” Carr said. “Just go­ing out there, I feel like we’ve had to do this a cou­ple of times in my early five years. That part is hard. At the same time, it doesn’t change my mind­set.”

The Raiders have gone just 7-17 since that vic­tory over the Colts and changed coaches, with Jon Gru­den com­ing in this sea­son to re­place the fired Jack Del Rio.

Carr’s level of play has also dropped, with him throw­ing 29 touch­downs and 21 in­ter­cep­tions in his 21 games since then, com­pared to 38 TD pas-

ses and 13 in­ter­cep­tions in the pre­vi­ous 21 games.

“I def­i­nitely feel like a bet­ter player,” Carr said. “I’m smarter. I know more. Tal­ent-wise, I think af­ter last year just re­cov­er­ing from in­jury, I’m back to my strength and my speed how I want it to be. Ab­so­lutely I be­lieve that I have noth­ing but the best out in front of me. I re­ally do be­lieve that.”

Colts coach Frank Reich, who was an as­sis­tant in the AFC West with the Charg­ers for Carr’s first two sea­sons in the NFL, had plenty of praise for Carr even if his pro­duc­tion has dropped of late.

“He has re­ally good arm tal­ent,” Reich said. “He sees the field re­ally well. He can make all the throws. He can drive the ball all over the field. He can throw the touch pass. I just think he shows good in­stincts. I think he has good feel in the pocket. This is a guy who I think can put a lot of points on the board lead­ing an of­fense.”

Here are some other things to watch for Sun­day’s game:

Lin­ing up: Colts gen­eral man­ager Chris Bal­lard made the of­fen­sive line a fo­cal point dur­ing the off­sea­son. It shows. For the first time this sea­son, the Colts used the same start­ing five in con­sec­u­tive games and they de­liv­ered by paving the way for Mar­lon Mack to rush for a ca­reer high 126 yards. It’s only the fifth 100-yard game dur­ing An­drew Luck’s seven NFL sea­sons. Also, Luck has been sacked only once in his last 125 pass at­tempts af­ter get­ting sacked 166 times in his first 77 ca­reer games.

“We must stay vig­i­lant in all ar­eas and we’ve got a great chal­lenge against an ag­gres­sive Oak­land de­fense, a de­fense that’s tough to fig­ure out,” Luck said.

Where’s the Beast? Raiders run­ning back Mar­shawn Lynch went on in­jured re­serve this week with a groin in­jury, leav­ing a big void in Oak­land’s of­fense. Lynch leads the Raiders with 372 yards rush­ing. Now the bulk of the load will go to Doug Martin, whose 3.0 yards per carry the past three sea­sons is the low­est in the NFL among play­ers with at least 150 at­tempts. Third-down back Jalen Richard could also take on a big­ger role as a run­ner, and DeAn­dre Wash­ing­ton fig­ures to get his first ac­tion of the sea­son af­ter be­ing ham­pered by a knee in­jury in train­ing camp.

“You can’t bring an­other Mar­shawn Lynch into the game, but we have a solid group of backs who can get the job done,” Richard said.

JOHN HEFTI AP

Be­fore Jon Gru­den re­turned to the Raiders side­line, quar­ter­back Derek Carr, star pass rusher Khalil Mack and re­ceiver Amari Cooper were con­sid­ered the team’s foun­da­tion. Now, only Carr re­mains. His bro­ken an­kle in a 2016 game sent the Raiders into a down­ward spi­ral.

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