Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is familiar with turnarounds in his career, 2020 could behold his third.
The Raiders head into the 2020 NFL season with a new stadium and expectations to improve in year three under Gruden. He’s had the same quarterback, Derek Carr, in his system since returning to the coaching sidelines. The familiarity goes a long way as it helps to establish cohesion and stability, two things the Silver and Black didn’t have for a long time. Adding two wins to the Raiders’ victory column might actually be feasible for the team given said stability. Tack on the impressive talent that’s been infused via the NFL Draft these past two years and it can happen.
No More Excuses?
Having said that, both Carr and Gruden are running out of excuses. Unfortunately, one big obstacle remains and that’s the fact they play in the same division as the Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs. That notwithstanding, Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently predicted that two more wins for the Raiders in 2020 is possible.
“After the Chiefs, it gets pretty interesting trying to figure out the second-best team in the division. While the national perception is that the Raiders are headed for a last-place finish, it would not be a shock if they took a big step forward and make a legitimate run at the playoffs.”
It’s funny that Bonsignore would point out the national media’s “perception” that the Silver and Black are headed to a last-place finish. It’s funny because this is highly unlikely for several reasons. First, the Raiders have a plethora of young, fast, and hungry talent on both sides of the ball. Led by a dominant offensive line, the team has a returning unit consisting of Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow, and Darren Waller that exceeded 2019 expectations. Second, you now add Henry Ruggs III, who will stretch the field and give other players more opportunities. Also, Lynn Bowden Jr. will add an intriguing dynamic to the Raiders offense, assuming Gruden can take advantage of the “Joker’s” many talents.
Working in the Raider’s favor…
“Working in the Raiders’ favor: Derek Carr going into his third straight season in Gruden’s offense. In contrast, the Los Angeles Chargers have a new quarterback in Tyrod Taylor — who seems to be just a bridge to rookie Justin Herbert — and the Denver Broncos are making the full-time switch to second-year quarterback Drew Lock, who made just five starts last year.”
The final reason why it’s unlikely the Raiders will finish dead last is Carr and the aforementioned stability. Bonsignore pointed out that the other two AFC West teams have fluid quarterback situations. Drew Lock of the Denver Broncos is essentially a rookie with only five career starts last season. And for the Los Angeles Chargers, you have Tyrod Taylor, who seems to only be a stop-gap to Justin Herbert. Whether you like Carr or not, he might end up being the biggest reason the Raiders go 9-7.
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*Top Photo: Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports