The Las Vegas Raiders had some weapons on offense last year but is it possible that they will have a whole new look after drafting Henry Ruggs III?
The Raiders offensive line was one of the few strengths last year and head coach Jon Gruden fully expects this to be the case again in 2020. Another revelation was the tight end position; a lot of young talent emerged in the form of Darren Waller and Foster Moreau. Moreover, they added future Hall of Famer Jason Witten to the mix this offseason. And finally but certainly not least, there was the resurgence of the running game behind Josh Jacobs and Alec Ingold. No doubt there were several pieces in place as general manager Mike Mayock began making preparations for the 2020 NFL Draft.
That being said, Mayock acquired several pieces that will radically change the Raiders offense moving forward. In particular, the addition of Ruggs will hopefully revolutionalize an offense that seemed stagnant last season. The biggest improvement that head coach Jon Gruden will need to heed is scoring. But how can Las Vegas accomplish this? They started by looking at what their deficiencies were, as Ted Nguyen of The Athletic pointed out:
“Last season,ave many viable deep threats on offense and resorted to a ground-and-pound attack that leaned on a power running game. While the rest of the league was using more spread formations, the Raiders went in the opposite direction. According to SportsSource Analytics, the Raiders were in “11” personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) on 52.7 percent of plays in 2019 — the fifth-lowest percentage in the NFL.”
Winds of Change
In other words, what I gather from Nguyen’s assessment is that the Raiders needed to catch up with current offensive concepts and quickly. No easy task when you have the defending Super Bowl champions in your division and two other teams who are improving quickly. Mayock did his part when he picked up Ruggs as well as Bryan Edwards and Lynn Bowden Jr, which gives Gruden another offensive dimension he can implement. The running game will still be a strength obviously, but now when defenses figure it out, the head coach can adapt as he himself said recently.
One of the best ways to make use of Ruggs’ speed will be to have him stretch the field, and Gruden should get creative when doing so. Mayock pointed out how Gruden might able to do this:
“(Ruggs) can run the deep routes. He also gets the manufactured touches, the bubble screens, the jet sweeps,” Mayock said. “I think if you force defenses to roll coverage, it opens up our run game. You respect our deep routes, it opens up Darren Waller.”
More Than Just Speed
The knock on Ruggs has been that he’s all speed, and not much of a complete wide receiver. People said the same about Tyreek Hill once and that worked out just fine for the Chiefs. Even Nguyen pointed out this fallacy, “…Ruggs’ route running and ability to make contested catches are underrated. He isn’t just a speedster without skill.” The fact is the current pandemic will force all NFL teams to adjust how they conduct camps and offseason programs, which might affect Ruggs’ development. If this holds true, the solution is to keep it simple and have him open up the field. Or as Nguyen said, “Punish teams for loading up the box, it’ll do wonders for this offense,” burn them with Ruggs’ speed. Either way, this offense will have a major shift as defenses will have to account for Ruggs at all times.
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*Top Photo: Butch Dill/Associated Press