With the 2020 NFL Draft completed and in the rearview, the Las Vegas Raiders can now go ahead and focus on the task at hand.
The 2019 season was a dream come true for the Kansas City Chiefs. They won a Lombardi Trophy for the first time since 1969 and since taking over as their head coach in 2013, Andy Reid has lead them to 10+ wins every year but 2014. Life is great for the Chiefs, but now they are the hunted.
The Raiders of Sin City
General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden are acutely aware of the state of the AFC West. Kansas City is the gold standard of the division and it doesn’t sit well with either one of them. Instead of ignoring them and pandering to cliches, they are taking the NFL’s current model of success and Raidering it up.
Derek Carr is the field general and this seasons, he will have nearly everything he could ever need and possibly want. He is going to be surrounded with big, fast, guys who can burn up the field in an awful hurry. Maybe just maybe, a year behind a good pass protecting offensive line will have helped heal Carr’s body. Hopefully, he heads into the season feeling the best he’s ever felt. Perhaps a change of scenery and a raucous welcome to a new home will re-ignite the fire in his eyes.
The defense is a young ferocious bunch. Each man is coming equipped with a Mt. Everest sized boulder on their shoulders and a desire to take over. All position groups have much better depth and all the newcomers will have plenty of veteran guidance. The starters are on the cusp of turning into perennial Pro Bowlers after some of them have already gotten the accolade. The defense has put forth it’s biggest investments into the middle of the field. Nick Kwiatkoski isn’t a household name yet, but he’s highly respected on the football field. Cory Littleton has Super Bowl experience and was the highest rated linebacker in coverage in 2019.
The offense has slowly been rebuilt in the ideology of John Madden with a huge offensive line, a punishing battering ram of a fullback. Also, the Raiders have a brahma bull for a bell cow running back in Josh Jacobs and soft-handed lighting-fast receivers, a throwback Silver and Black style quarterback. Even though Marcus Mariota is not slated to see the field, a former heisman trophy winner is looking for a new spot to reassert his dominance. He was brought in to be the backup, but his contract provides incentive to push for starts.
Switch the style up and watch the wins pile up
A philosophical shift, or perhaps a philosophical offensive evolution will catapult the Raiders into the big time. With a mountain range for an offensive line, a stable of capable gun-runners, and a corps with all kinds of receiving styles, it’s possible the Raiders can finally open it up. Carr made his hay as a spread quarterback down at Fresno State. In his senior season he completed 464 of 659 passes for 5,083 yards 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Carr is the most accurate passer in Raiders history and their all-time leader in passing yards. He’s also a good athlete. Mariota, who is an even better athlete, won the Heisman Trophy for head coach Chip Kelly’s 2014 Oregon Ducks. What both signal-callers can offer is an ability to gain yards on the ground and points when they’re there to be gotten. An RPO (run pass option) shotgun spread style offense is right up the alley of both quarterbacks. The Raiders offense is blessed with a plethora of incoming young talent raised in spread college attacks.
In the Raiders rich history and tradition, what seems to work best for them is breaking the mold. It’s time for the Raiders to do something they very rarely do and turn this thing all the way up. Give Carr complete check with me at the line of scrimmage and let him run a no-huddle spread and let him call it on the fly.
What can’t be stated more loudly and more clearly is this. This team is theoretically idiot proof and capable of squeezing the air out of the ball with a powerful ground attack. Moreover, Las Vegas can also spread it out and go bombs away with Carr and Mariota more or less having eerily similar skill sets. Between the two of them, there isn’t any reason why the offense should stagnate. Gruden, the offensive innovator, has a lot more athletic talent to work with. Along with a lot more edgy guys, guys like him, Raiders.
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Top Photo: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press