Two years ago, Derek Carr played the second game of his NFL career against the Texans, and for Brian Cushing, one play stood out.
“I remember he took off on us for about 60-yards,” he said after practice Thursday afternoon.
It was actually a 41-yard run early in the second quarter with the Texans leading 14-0, a drive that ended with the first of Carr’s two interceptions on the day. He threw for 263 yards, completing 27-of-42 passes with a touchdown pass in the Texans 30-14 win.
“It was only the second game of his career,” Cushing said. “He’s grown tremendously since then as a player and has matured big time. He can obviously do it all now.”
Texans defensive end Antonio Smith was Carr’s teammate back then, and he said Carr stood out as a rookie.
“(Carr) had the heart of a lion, determination, belief in his teammates and his brothers, and I was impressed with him even as a rookie.”
That Raiders team lost its first 10 games in 2014 on the way to a 3-13 season, but Smith said the rookie was never affected by the losing.
“That season was a rough one, taking all the losses that we took, but he just kept on building.”
Two years later, the Raiders enter Monday’s game 7-2, tied for first place in AFC West led by the NFL’s fifth best offense. Carr has thrown 17 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He’s completing close to two-thirds of his passes, and sports a quarterback rating just a shade below 100.
“He gets better and better every year,” Smith said. “His will to win is strong. He’s probably the strongest critic on himself even though he brushes it off and still plays and goes to the next week. I’m amazed at what he’s done this week, and at what he’s going to continue to do in his career.”
The Texans haven’t seen Carr since that game 26 months ago in Oakland, but defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel knows he’s game-planning for a completely different player.
“He was just a young guy the last time we played him,” he said. “Now, he shows signs of reading defenses, changing plays at the line of scrimmage. He can make all the throws. He can control the pocket, his movement in the pocket so that he can make a throw. He’s a different cat.”
Monday night, south of the border, Crennel, Cushing, Smith, and the rest of the Texans will get to see just how much better Carr has gotten.