HENDERSON, Nev. — Derek Carr hasn’t played a snap in either of the Raiders’ preseason games. He’s far more useful to the team wearing a headset on the sideline, listening to new coach Josh McDaniels call the offense.
“I think the most important thing I do during the preseason is communicating with Josh,” Carr said recently. “I’d ask him, ‘You know when you said this, what did you mean by that?’ We’re growing that way, too. Asking Josh, ‘What are you thinking on this?’ Because I want to make sure I’m trying to execute it exactly how he wants it done.”
The Patriots’ way isn’t necessarily coming to Las Vegas, but the Patriots offense certainly is. Carr and his teammates have been working feverishly to unlearn the West Coast offense that they ran the last four years under Jon Gruden and learn the system McDaniels ran for a combined 14 seasons as the offensive coordinator in Foxborough.
“Their attitude has been tremendous,” McDaniels said after Wednesday’s practice. “I told them, ‘It doesn’t matter if one guy really knows everything. The other 10 have got to know it, too. You can only go as fast as the last man. And then that’s what makes you pretty good, if 11 guys know what to do.’ ”
McDaniels said the last two years in Foxborough prepared him for this teaching assignment. He worked with vastly different quarterbacks in Cam Newton and Mac Jones, and had to teach the Patriots offense to each quickly and efficiently.
The Raiders aren’t going to look exactly like the Patriots. The Patriots never had a wide receiver as talented as Davante Adams, or a tight end as athletic as Darren Waller. Conversely, it remains to be seen whether Hunter Renfrow can have the same impact in the slot as Wes Welker or Julian Edelman, or if Waller can contribute in the run game the way Rob Gronkowski did.
But the Patriots offense looked different under Newton than it did with Tom Brady, too. Still, the principles and terminology are the same — heavy on fullbacks, two tight ends, slot receivers, and pre- and post-snap adjustments.
The Raiders are thankful to get extra practice time this training camp. Because they were chosen for the Hall of Fame Game, they get an extra week of practice and a fourth preseason game.
“You can make all these drills and stuff in practice, but nothing is like actually going out there and playing the game,” center Andre James said. “So those preseason reps are really critical for me to be able to go out there and make those calls and feel the situations.”
For Carr, the last seven months have been one prolonged cram session. He has learned a new offense before — McDaniels is Carr’s fifth offensive coach in nine seasons — but McDaniels’s terminology and system are unique.
“It’s just a complete dive in,” Carr said. “As I’m going through it and working through it, I can say, ‘Hey, I ran this in the past, we ran this against Tampa Bay.’ And he says, ‘Yes, that’s just like that.’ So I ask, ‘Are you good if my eyes do this?’ I’m trying to execute it exactly how he wants it done.”
McDaniels said Carr has been the perfect pupil in that sense.
“He wants to do it exactly the way you want it done. Doesn’t want to miss a thing,” McDaniels said. “Which, I love that. That’s what you want in a quarterback.”
Carr has gotten help from two other quarterbacks. One is, indirectly, Brady. Carr gets a PhD-level education when he watches old film of the Patriots offense with Brady running the show.
“What a gift that is for me to be able to watch and see his eyes, and see the shoulder movements, the little details,” Carr said. “There’s a lot of guys that can draw [plays] on the board. But it’s the little details, little shoulder movements that you get comfortable with when you’ve been in a system a long time. Learning that, and trying to take that step, and doing those things. It’s just a complete dive into that.”
Carr’s other teacher is new backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham, acquired in a trade with the Patriots in May. Stidham spent the last three seasons with McDaniels in New England, and suddenly has morphed from wide-eyed kid to trusted veteran and teacher.
“Because he’s been in this offense, it’s helped me go faster,” Carr said. “Maybe Coach is talking to a young guy or something and I’ll be like, ‘Hey, on this? And [Stidham will] say, ‘Yeah, on that.’ And that helps.”
Stidham isn’t the only former Patriot helping McDaniels install his offense. The offensive coordinator (Mick Lombardi), offensive line coach (Carmen Bricillo), quarterbacks coach (Bo Hardegree), and senior offensive assistant (Jerry Schuplinski) all came from Foxborough. So did four players: running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Jakob Johnson, receiver Isaiah Zuber, and Stidham.
Those ex-Patriots have been helpful in teaching a new scheme. And Carr has been a quick study. But McDaniels knows it might take a little while for everything to be perfect.
“Derek learns at a very fast pace, but not every player is like that,” McDaniels said. “We’re only going to be able to do, early in the year, what we know how to do. We’re in the process of figuring that out. We’re not there yet. We’ve just kind of taken it slow and tried to grow every day.”
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.