ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins tweaked their coverage schemes, hoping to coax more big plays -- interceptions -- out of corner Josh Norman in particular. He knows that will be difficult Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, thanks to quarterback Derek Carr.
Since the start of last season, Carr has thrown six interceptions in 620 pass attempts. This season, he's thrown none in 60 attempts.
It makes for a challenging day for those seeking interceptions.
"He's about timing," Norman said. "...He's precise at what he does. It's cool to see. He doesn't have any turnovers, and he doesn't make mistakes. So it's more for us as defensive backs to make plays on the ball because he's so methodical and timing-based on how he does things. He's a good quarterback. He really is. We've got our work cut out for us."
Here's why -- and it's explained in some interesting numbers courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:
Since entering the NFL in 2014, Carr ranks sixth in touchdown-to-interception ratio, throwing 2.77 scoring passes per interception. His 31 picks over that time are 13th lowest among passers who played 25 or more games.
His average air yards per pass attempt of 7.43 ranks 27th in that time among quarterbacks with at least 25 games.
Throwing shorter helps keep interceptions down and, indeed, Carr ranks eighth over the past three-plus seasons by throwing an interception on 1.7 percent of his throws. Though his protection has been good, his quick throws do prevent many sacks -- he's been sacked on only 3.8 percent of his dropbacks, the lowest since 2014 among active quarterbacks.
Carr has thrown particularly short this season, largely because it's been highly effective. In fact, he's unloading the ball in 1.91 seconds.
Part of it stems from scheme: They will run a lot of pick or rub routes. But some of it stems from Carr's accuracy and timing. He doesn't need to always throw downfield to move the offense. On one route against the Jets, for example, receiver Michael Crabtree was breaking behind a linebacker in zone coverage about seven yards off the ball. He wasn't yet open, but Carr was already getting ready to throw the ball. So when Crabtree hit the open spot, the ball was already in place, and it led him into eight more yards.
On three touchdown passes Sunday, Carr showed pinpoint accuracy -- all three were to Crabtree. On a fade, the cornerback played it well, but the ball was a few inches above where he could reach it. On a quick out in the end zone, as Crabtree turned, the ball arrived away from danger. And on a pass down the right sideline, Carr again delivered a throw that hit him in stride. The short passing game has helped the Raiders flourish.
The Raiders have big receivers; it helps that the Redskins have cornerbacks who have good size and can play physical. The Redskins will have to find a way to slow the quick, timing-based passing attack.
"It's tough," Norman said. "It's tough when you get that timing offense. You never know as a DB what's coming here or there. Hopefully the rush gets there in time, and you get clear levels on the receivers and the angles, and we can break on them and make a play."