It is time for the Las Vegas Raiders to get it together. The division is not getting any easier to win. The talent is there, and so is the potential. Nobody is ousting Kansas City anytime soon. So, that means they have to contend with the Chargers for second place and a wild card spot. Let’s break it all down.
With a Rollicking Song He Sweeps Along
The offense should be sweeping along too. I won’t focus too much on the Derek Carr debate. But, I will just say this. If Carr is the guy, stop jerking him around. He is always involved in trade or cut rumors. Shut it down and help him win. If he isn’t the quarterback moving forward, you better get a good QB in the draft and send Carr to a contender. He has some great weapons around him. Darren Waller is absolutely amazing. Henry Ruggs has got to bounce back. His speed is electric and will help win games if used correctly.
Additionally, Hunter Renfrow must stay in the slot as a starter. The depth chart shows John Brown in the slot with Bryan Edwards as the #2. Edwards has upside, but didn’t get a lot of action his rookie year. He averaged 17.3 yards per catch with only one touchdown with 11 catches. His speed along with Ruggs would be hard to defend. The Las Vegas Raiders did not draft a pass catcher, thus showing a lot of faith in this group. It would be nice to see Keelan Doss get back in the mix.
Historically, the run game is where the Raiders have all of their swagger. They are the only team to this day to still use the seven man sled. Josh Jacobs should still be the top option out of the backfield. Kenyan Drake coming over ideally is just a backup/pressure reliever. Drake has similar skill set but has shown he is not ready to be a fulltime featured back, especially since Chase Edmonds became the main guy in Arizona. This new look offensive line actually looks pretty good. Young tackles in Kolton Miller and Alex Leatherwood are huge when it comes to protecting Carr. Leatherwood was a first round pick from Alabama. At guard, it’s good but could use some improvement.
Richie Incognito is getting really old and Denzelle Good does add some additional experience. Incognito hasn’t always been right in the head lately, so something to watch there. The OG spot should be a top priority in the draft. Andre James is the young center looking to prove himself. The Raiders drafted center Jimmy Morrissey in round seven from Pitt. Likely a nod to Mike Mayock’s Pennsylvania roots. Finally, I’ve got to give some love to fullback Alex Ingold for what he’s been able to do as a blocker and pass catcher.
Pillaging Just For Fun
The Raiders spent all but two draft picks were spent on defense and hope they can keep pillaging. Right now, the defense is projected to be a 4-3. First, the defensive line. Clelin Ferrell, it’s time to put up or shut up. He needs to give more. The addition of Yannick Ngakoue should be very helpful, and teams focusing on him may forget about Ferrell. Inside, it’s Quinton Jefferson and Johnathan Hankins. The elder statesmen if you will. It is a little surprising not to see Maxx Crosby as a starter, but that could change. However, regardless if he comes off the bench or starts, he is a force. Watch out for Solomon Thomas and Carl Nassib too. They will look to compete has subpackage and rotational players. The same can be said about third round pick Malcolm Koonce from Buffalo.
Next up, the linebackers. There were none drafted, so what you see is what you get Raiders fans. Right now it’s Corey Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Nicholas Morrow. You could make the case that this group has underperformed. Moving Ngakoue, Crosby, or Nassib to the outside linebacker position is possible if Morrow and Littleton can’t get going. Littleton had no sacks in 2020. Tanner Muse is another option at linebacker. But, his background as a defensive back may be better suited for an inside linebacker role. If Kwiatkoski isn’t getting the job done, maybe this will be worth to at least experiment. Right now, the idea of having a LB trio of Ngakoue, Muse, and Crosby/ Nassib sounds like it would work better than what they have now. Switching to a 3-4 could also be a possibility if the team believes in Kwiatkoski.
And Laugh When He’s Conquered and Won
Finally, the secondary. You’ve won if the defense has a lot of turnovers. The Raiders spent a lot of draft picks here. Rounds two, three, four, and five were all DBs. The Raiders signed Casey Hayward in free agency and paired him with Trayvon Mullen. Bringing in Hayward was probably a mistake since Damon Arnette is still a young player. Jonathan Abrahams and rookie Trevon Moehrig. Meanwhile, Devine Diablo, Tyree Gillespie, and Nate Hobbs will have find roles as safeties and corners respectively. It’s also worthy to note that Karl Joseph is back with the team.
If you’re wondering about some of these headings, these are lines from the poem “The Autumn WInd” by the late great Steve Sabol. The poem was first used in 1974 for the team yearbook and NFL Films, and is entrenched in the history of the Raiders. You can check it out here. But to bring it back to the team, being in the mix in the division is very doable. It just remains to be seen if the Las Vegas Raiders can find some consistency.
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