Five Keys To The Las Vegas Raiders Returning To The Playoffs
Two back-to-back collapses late in the season prevented the Las Vegas Raiders from making the playoffs. What’s alarming is the Raiders continue to be plagued by the same key problems. However, it appears those issues have been resolved this offseason.
Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, has a massive playbook. Thus far, an overall ranking of 22nd and 23rd, in the past two seasons doesn’t look so great. Offensively, the team has not done much inside the opponents 20 yard line.
This 2021 offseason, the Raiders committed to going younger on the offensive line. The Raiders needed to get out of their stances faster in the trenches. Andre James took over for longtime center Rodney Hudson. Denzelle Good is in line to start at right guard, previously manned by Gabe Jackson. Alex Leatherwood, the teams top 2021 draft pick is the starting right tackle. The late Bill Walsh once said, “it’s always better to get rid of a guy a year early than a year late.”
The Raiders didn’t stop there, pairing running back Kenyan Drake’s 2020 10 rushing touchdowns with Josh Jacobs’ 12. Drake and Jacobs have the potential to be one of the top five running back committees in the NFL in 2021.
Tight end Foster Moreau is completely healed from his left knee injury in 2019 and is poised to reclaim his number two spot on the tight end depth chart. Both Moreau and Darren Waller need to be major factors in the redzone. Wide Receivers Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards have added a fair amount of muscle, Ruggs hasn’t lost any speed and has been working on his routes. Edwards looks beastly and will be a key target as the X receiver. Drake adds another quality receiver out of the backfield on checkdown routes.
Enter Gus Bradley, creator of the legendary “Legion of Boom.” A super bowl winning defensive coordinator, who the majority of his defenses have been ranked top 15. Something that hasn’t been seen in Raider Nation since 2000. Bradley brings discipline and puts guys in position to succeed. His scheme is simple yet incredibly effective, something the third-year players and newer have yet to experience. Having Bradley coach up key young players like Clein Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, Trayvon Mullen, Damon Arnette and Johnathan Abram will give them a proper opportunity to have a breakout season.
This season there will be no Paul Guenther, nor defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil. Instead
the Raiders have Bradley and defensive backs coach Ron Milus. Milus’ has an impressive resume, in the last fours years, his secondary unit has allowed a net passing yards of 212.3 per game. He has developed his guys into All-Pro’s or pro bowlers like Derwin James, Desmond King, Eric Weddle and Casey Hayward.
I expect Milus to get Mullen, Arnette and Abram on track and have a major turn around primarily with tackling and coverage. With key additions Hayward and rookie Trevon Moehrig joining this secondary, look for the Raiders to bring in more ints this year. Milus, will get the most
out of these guys on Sundays.
Yeah, we’re bringing up Drake again. He is what many consider the Raiders best signing this offseason. Drake came 45 yards short of 1000 with the Arizona Cardinals, and once again, 10 rushing touchdowns. At 6-1 and 211 pounds, Drake is the running back to help balance out the
Raiders rushing attack. Let’s be honest, he’s more of a 1-B, than a number two. Another Alabama running back, Drake is faster and more explosive than Jacobs. Taller, but not quite as dense, he is a lot shiftier and will be a different kind of problem to tackle in the open field. Drake is a mismatch for defenders coming out of the backfield. Quarterback Derek Carr is already dreaming about how he will throw swing passes to the left side of the field, on 3rd and 6 to Drake.
Brentson Buckner, came in and coached up the 2019 Raiders defensive line. On the
right path of generating pressure and sacks, the Raiders had 32 sacks. Oddly, in
2020 the Raiders cut ties with Buckner. For really no apparent reason and brought in Rod Marinelli. Consequently, under both Guenther’s scheme and Marinelli’s coaching it was like beating a dead horse. When Guenther was fired and Marinelli took over, the defensive line would show signs of life. Marinelli is back with the defensive line for 2021 and Bradley will make sure that the line gets stronger.
Bradley and Marinelli figure to improve the sack total which was 21 in 2020, to 30 or more in 2021. Another major signing by the Raiders in free agency, was edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue. Averaging 8 sacks a season, Ngakoue is a major upgrade and a big help to Maxx Crosby.
Crosby had 10 sacks and four forced fumbles in his rookie year. Playing nearly 99% percent of the total defensive snaps put a wear on his body. Causing him to have a sophomore slump in 2020 with seven sacks.
Clelin Ferrell had a more impactful 2020 than his rookie season. Maybe this year with better coaching and his increased muscle mass he will turn the corner and become the player he was drafted to be, but Ngakoue is an immediate impact on the defense coming off the edge.
Malcolm Koonce, drafted out of the University of Buffalo isn’t Khalil Mack, but rather a true speed rusher with violent hands. Way better than that number 99 guy who would spin his way into pressure, but produce no sacks. Koonce, will need to spend a few years in the weight room before hitting his prime, but in the meantime he will be another bright spot to this pass
rush. One creating havoc for offensive tackles and causing quarterbacks nightmares this season.