One of the most interesting teams in the AFC West, the Raiders are a threat and a non contender all in the same breath.
The Oakland Rai- I mean Las Vegas Raiders won their first game in Arrowhead in eight years last season. The aftermath of the Arrowhead win brought a victory lap, a lot of praise, and an epic downfall. The Raiders went from one of the most talked-about teams on sports media to one of the laughing stocks after they fumbled their way out of the playoffs. They were able to play the Chiefs well twice and everyone wanted to act like they were the equals to the Chiefs in the AFC West, but they were not even close to the same level as the Chiefs were.
And they still aren’t. But this isn’t an article about how bad the Raiders folded down the stretch or how it was cute for them to think they were on the same level as Kansas City. This article is about what the Raiders are good at and bad at. The Raiders are a pretty well-constructed team, but the problems they have are fairly massive and they will show up in games this upcoming season.
Here are the Raiders’ strengths, they are one of the most explosive offenses in the league when they want to be. They have one of, if not the best running back in the NFL in Josh Jacobs, a solid offensive line, a great tight end, and a wide receiving corps that is solid. They like to run the ball a lot with Jacobs and head coach Jon Gruden makes sure they keep pounding in the run game. They run counters, outside zone, inside zone, and dives throughout the game and they really like to pound the rock, it’s probably one of the things they are best at. They even added Kenyan Drake to be in the mix in the run game so they don’t wear out Josh Jacobs.
That’s not to say they don’t like to sling it, it is the Raiders after all.
The late Al Davis always went for a deep passing game and Jon Gruden was able to give them a great scheme to get the ball to the weapons like Henry Ruggs III and the newly acquired John Brown, who like to just sprint past all defenders. If the defense wants to take away the deep ball they will throw it underneath to their All-Pro tight end Darren Waller. Also, I must say, Derek Carr has been a solid quarterback for the Raiders, he’s their all-time leading passer in yards, touchdowns, and attempts. Carr is the butt of a lot of jokes by Chiefs fans but he can sling it when he has the weapons to get it done.
The Raiders can be absolutely spectacular on the offensive side of the ball, high flying and explosive, but they are not great on the defense side of the ball.
They ranked toward the bottom of the NFL in most defensive categories and struggled to stop even mid-level offenses like the Dolphins last season. It’s not like they don’t have good personnel either. On the defensive line, they have Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, Carl Nassib, and Solomon Thomas who all can pressure, but haven’t generated a lot of sacks since they traded Khalil Mack.
The secondary is just not that great, they do have good pieces in Jonathan Abram and brought back Karl Joseph, but it’s not a great sign when the best secondary players are safeties. They don’t have any real great players at corner and they went out and drafted TCU’s Trevon Moehring, who can play nickel and safety when they probably should have gotten a corner in the first couple of rounds.
The Raiders don’t get in shootouts by choice, it’s the only way they can try to win games most of the time. The Raiders did bring in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to try to right this horrible ship though. Bradley recently helped fix the Chargers defense into a respectable unit and let’s see if he can help a bunch of talented players play some solid defense in one of the most high-scoring divisions in the National Football League. If they can try to hold their opponents to a respectable clip, the Raiders might be in the running for the last playoff spot.
The Raiders will be entertaining, to say the least, they will be in the middle of the shootouts in the wild wild AFC West, but they will be more in the running with the Broncos than they would be in contention with the Chargers or Chiefs. They really just don’t have the defensive capabilities to stand up to the top offensive talent that is in the AFC West.