Will the Las Vegas Raiders build on defense or offense? Part 1

The Las Vegas Raiders have been a losing franchise, looking up at the division, for 18 of the last 19 years. Nonetheless, there are a couple avenues they can take to develop a team capable of competing against the rest of AFC West.

The Kansas City Chiefs have the hottest offense in the league and just won the Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes, coached by Andy Reid, is becoming the face of the league and Kansas isn’t going anywhere for a long time. The Chargers have had a dominant offense for much of the last two decades; however, they are in a state of transition, moving on from Philip Rivers, their signal caller for the last 15 years. Moreover, Melvin Gordon is a free agent, along with Austin Eckler, his backup.

The Broncos appear to have finally found their franchise quarterback, Drew Lock. In his five starts, Denver finished strong and showed a promising 4-1 record. With the rookie signal-caller at the helm, they defeated the Raiders, Los Angeles, the Lions and the Texans. In only his second start, Lock went 20 of 29 for 309 yards with three touchdowns and one interception against the Texans.

Related: The Raiders can learn a couple things from Super Bowl teams

The case for developing the offense

Last season, Raiders captain Rodney Hudson, Richie Incognito, Trent Brown (three out of five starting offensive line) and tight end Darren Waller were nominated to the Pro Bowl. Meanwhile, running back Josh Jacobs was a 2019 Pepsi Offensive Rookie of the Year finalist, and undrafted fullback Alec Ingold was named a Pro Bowl alternate as a rookie.

That’s roughly six players on offense who had a great season, and a great foundation without many holes to build on. It would make the most amount of sense to follow the Chiefs blueprint and build an offensive juggernaut.

Scoring 24 points a game isn’t enough to win consistently in the NFL. In order for Las Vegas to start beating opponents, they need to put up more points, and the passing game is their area of greatest need for improvement. While quarterback Derek Carr threw for a career best 4,054 yards, 2,123 of those were after the catch, meaning that most of the time, the quarterback threw 5-10-yard passes in 2019. Either he needs to throw deep more often or his receivers need to produce more yards after the catch. Regardless, the offense’s production has to increase.

The holes at wide out

Subtracting the non-wideout yards after catch (YAC), Wallers had 570 yards, DeAndre Washington 246, Jalen Richard 236, Jacobs 183, Foster Moreau 97, Derek Carrier 58 and Ingold finished with 38. On the other hand, the passing game left the team’s wide receivers gain a robust 694 yards after the catch last year.

Hunter Renfow came on strong towards the end of the season, finishing with 49 receptions on 71 targets for 605 yards and four touchdowns. Renfrow produced the most YAC yards, 301. Furthermore, his five broken tackles were the most among receivers and his 5.6% drop ratio was the second lowest in 2019. Surprisingly, Zay Jones, whom las Vegas traded for midseason, never dropped a single pass in his seven starts, which was odd because he and Carr never got going despite the fact the former Bills receiver has good hands and the tape shows he was open with plenty of separation many times. At the end, he was only targeted 27 times and he caught 20 of them without a drop.

Tyrell Williams was everything that the Raiders had hoped for and more in the first four games, scoring in every one of them. Then, he suffered from plantar fasciitis in both feet, which derailed his season and caused him to miss the following four games. Even though he returned to the lineup, his production was not the same it was at the beginning of the season.

Drafting and keeping a receiver has proven difficult for the Raiders recently. Amari Cooper enjoyed success in his time with them, but he ended up being traded before completing his rookie deal. A healthy Williams, Jones and Renfrow, along with a home run hitter out of the draft are part of the most efficient recipe for this rebuild.

Backup running back

In 2019, Washington ran the ball 108 times for 387 yards, 3 touchdowns and a 3.6 yards per carry average (ypc). Richard ran 39 times for 145 yards and averaged 3.7 ypc. Jacobs, in comparison, ran for 1,150 yards seven touchdowns with 4.8 ypc in 13 games. The rookie amassed 26 broken tackles on the season while Washington and Richard combined for five. Jacobs racked up 683 yards after contact while Washington had 201 and Richard had 55.

We have seen the Washington and Richard show dating back to 2016. Washington, in 55 games, has run 282 times for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns for an average of 4.0 ypc while Richard, in 64 games, has run 233 times for 1,170 yards three touchdowns and an average of 5.0 ypc. In reality, these two are not getting it done. When both backs have had their opportunities to produce they really haven’t.

Quite frankly, Las Vegas’s rushing attack consisted of Jacobs and nothing else. Moving forward, the Raiders are going to need a more productive committee as running the football was the lifeblood in 2019. Without Jacobs, the Silver and Black’s only win came against a bad Chargers team. This is an area of supreme concern or at least it should be. Balance makes the Raiders offense go, and without it, the offense was stagnant in second halves last year.

The Raiders have run with two scat backs for long enough; power running is the bread and butter of Jon Gruden’s offense and every committee needs a bell cow back, a change of pace/scat back, and a power back. One of the two needs to go, in fact as scoring deficient as they have been, they both should be easily replaceable.

In conclusion

Strictly from a roster standpoint, the strength of this Raiders team is its offense and its youth. As with all young teams, players require time to find themselves in the league along with gelling to the system. Las Vegas will be no different. The obvious holes are playmakers with speed on the outside and an NFL-bodied running back as a backup.

In order for the Raiders to get over the hump, they are going to need to address these issues and turn over every stone in order to do so.

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