In what areas would Derek Carr provide the biggest boost for the New York Jets?
If Derek Carr ends up joining the New York Jets, we know he would be the franchise’s best quarterback in a very long time. That goes without saying.
But in which specific facets of the quarterback position would Carr help New York the most?
These are the best traits Carr would bring to the Jets.
Sacks are primarily the responsibility of the quarterback. The offensive line’s job is to minimize how frequently the quarterback faces pressure. When the quarterback does face pressure, it’s usually up to him to determine whether or not the play finishes in a sack. Very few sacks are completely unavoidable.
Quarterbacks who get sacked a lot are probably taking too many sacks in situations where they could have gotten rid of the ball. Quarterbacks who get sacked at a low frequency are probably doing a good job of getting the football out when the pressure is closing in.
There does not have to be a direct correlation between the quality of a quarterback’s offensive line and his sack rate. It’s very common for quarterbacks with a good offensive line to take a lot of sacks and quarterbacks with a bad offensive line to take a low rate of sacks. The sack rate typically lies on the quarterback’s shoulders.
Carr has been consistently good at minimizing sacks. For his career, he owns a sack rate of 5.1%, which ranks ninth-best out of 32 qualified quarterbacks (min. 1,800 pass attempts) over the past nine seasons.
The 2022 season was a great example of Carr’s sack-minimizing ability. Carr played behind a porous offensive line that allowed him to be pressured on 36.0% of his dropbacks, which ranked seventh-highest out of 32 qualified quarterbacks. Despite this, Carr absorbed a sack rate of 5.1% (equal to his career average), which ranked seventh-lowest out of 32 qualified quarterbacks.
Carr achieved this disparity by allowing a very low percentage of pressures to be converted into sacks. Only 13.8% of Carr’s pressured dropbacks resulted in sacks, which ranked third-lowest among qualifiers behind Patrick Mahomes (10.8%) and Jared Goff (12.3%).
Mahomes and Goff being in the top two spots is a great way to exemplify the different ways that sacks can be minimized. Mahomes does it largely with his athletic skills. Goff has none of Mahomes’ athleticism, but he protects himself by making quick decisions and getting the ball out fast. Carr brings a good balance of both worlds, as he boasts underrated mobility and can also get the ball out fast.
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Low interception rates
Carr is no Aaron Rodgers when it comes to avoiding interceptions, but he has typically been one of the better quarterbacks in the league at minimizing interceptions.
For his career, Carr has thrown 99 interceptions on 4,958 pass attempts. That is an interception rate of 2.0%, which ranks 10th-lowest out of 32 qualified quarterbacks since 2014.
Carr’s interception rate would be an unprecedented sight for Jets fans. Among the 18 quarterbacks in franchise history who threw at least 500 passes for the team, the lowest interception rate belongs to Neil O’Donnell at 2.2%. Josh McCown is a distant second at 2.6%.
With a minimum of 200 pass attempts, the Jets have not had a quarterback post an interception rate below 2.0% in a single season since Chad Pennington’s 1.5% in 2002. They’ve only had five such seasons in franchise history – Carr has done it four times himself.
Carr’s combined ability to avoid sacks and interceptions is rare. Among the aforementioned 32 qualified quarterbacks since 2014 (min. 1,800 pass attempts), Carr is one of only five who rank top 10 in both lowest sack rate and lowest interception rate, joining Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, and Justin Herbert.
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Clutch on fourth down
Carr has been great on fourth downs throughout his career. He owns a career passer rating of 112.9 on fourth down, which ranks third-best out of 36 qualified quarterbacks since 2014 (min. 30 fourth-down pass attempts).
The Jets were arguably not aggressive enough on fourth downs in 2022. In fact, they only went for it on fourth down while leading once in the entire season.
Robert Saleh’s lack of aggressiveness on fourth down can be easily attributed to his lack of faith in the team’s quarterbacks. If Saleh had Carr under center, perhaps he would feel confident enough in his quarterback to go for it on fourth down significantly more often.
Accuracy on out routes
Carr is known for his impressive arm strength. There is no route in the route tree that displays Carr’s arm strength better than the “out route”, which is generally considered a route where the receiver stems vertically and makes a 90-degree break toward the sideline. These throws require plenty of velocity to get the ball past the defender and into the receiver’s hands before he reaches the sideline.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Carr has a completion percentage of 74.7% when targeting out routes since 2019. That ranks third-best out of 38 qualified quarterbacks over that span.
The Jets have long lacked a quarterback who has the arm strength and accuracy to complete out routes. This past season was a perfect demonstration of this weakness. Zach Wilson ranked 35th among 38 qualifiers with a completion percentage of 62.0% on out routes. Joe Flacco ranked 31st with a rate of 64.5%.
Carr would boost the Jets’ intermediate passing game with his ability to complete out routes on a consistent basis.
Accuracy on throws into the flat
Even the easiest of passes have been an adventure for Jets quarterbacks over the years. Nobody struggled in this area more than Zach Wilson, who had major trouble with missing layups.
Carr is usually very consistent at making the easy throws. In particular, he is excellent at throwing the flat route, which is generally considered a route where the receiver (often a RB or TE) quickly flattens out and runs toward the sideline while only being within a few yards of the line of scrimmage.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Carr has ranked top 10 in completion percentage on flat routes in each of the past four seasons, posting an average mark of 85.9%. For perspective, the 2022 league average was 80.9% and Zach Wilson ranked 30th out of 33 qualifiers at 76.0%. The 2022 season was Carr’s best in this category as he placed fifth-best at 87.0%.
This would be a huge advantage for Carr as he steps into Nathaniel Hackett’s offense. When Hackett was running the show for the Packers and Broncos, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson combined to target flat routes at a higher rate relative to the league average than any other route type. It seems to be a focal point in Hackett’s offense, which means Carr’s elite consistency in that area would be maximized.
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