Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports pontificated a 5-11 finish for the Las Vegas Raiders. Cowherd’s show is based largely on hot takes, but this one is more logical than Raider Nation would like to admit.
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) August 12, 2020
Calling a spade a spade
Colin Cowherd called the 2019 Raiders 7-9 record, “fools gold.” The media personality cited the fact six of their seven wins were against teams that replaced or will replace their quarterback. Furthermore, none of the squads they beat had a winning record. The defense was awful, and when it came to playing good teams, the Silver and Black weren’t very competitive.
The Raiders’ 2019 point differential was -106, only the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals were worse. Pro Football Focus ranked the Raiders roster as the 25th best roster in the league. The bright spot Cowherd mentions, is they have drafted well over the last two years.
The Raiders offense needs to take the field for an accurate assessment
At this point in his career, Derek Carr is more game manager than the gunslinger he used to be. In six years at the helm, he has averaged 242.5 yards per game and 10.3 interceptions per season. Faulting a quarterback for not throwing interceptions is ludicrous.
However, it illustrates just how unwilling to take a chance he has been. Carr hasn’t beaten a playoff team since Week 7 of 2017 against the Kansas City Chiefs, a stinging yet worthy critique. On the other hand, he will have to rely on mostly rookies and second-year players at skill positions in 2020. For him, that will be asking a lot.
The Raiders offensive nucleus from 2019 remains intact. Darren Waller was the next big thing last year, but now he has to repeat and exceed last year’s performance. Josh Jacobs and Hunter Renfrow were major cogs to last seasons offense. Nevertheless, to keep these players’ performance in context it’s important to point out they feasted on bad teams last season.
Also, rookies Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards are getting lofty praise but have yet to practice in pads. Lynn Bowden Jr. looks to add some different dynamics to the run and passing game.
The team went through a defensive turnover
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther mentioned in Thursday’s press conference that there wasn’t a remaining defensive starter from the 2018 Raiders, his first season with Gruden. Guenther elevated his young defense in 2019 from dead last in scoring to 24th. It wasn’t easy, nor without criticism. Meanwhile, Rod Marinelli has been brought in to coach up the defensive line.
Corey Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski are both newcomers to the team and will play prominent roles. Kwiatkoski will don the green dot and be Guenther’s extension on the field. This will be no small task for the former Bears linebacker. Covering backs and tight ends has been an ongoing issue for the Raiders, but that is Littleton’s area of expertise.
Johnathan Abram was last year’s first-round pick at safety. The Mississippi State product played in exactly one game before missing the season with a torn rotator cuff. Clelin Ferrell has added lean muscle, became more explosive, and has a much better understanding of the defense. Prince Amukamara is a more than capable placeholder for Damon Arnette. Damarious Randall is on his third team in six years and might be as bad a tackler as Deion Sanders.
The Raiders have the tools to play better than Cowherd anticipates
Cowherd made a lot of solid points, but where he lost me was at the 2-5, or 1-6 start. The Raiders open the season on the road in Carolina. In 2019, the Panthers were dead last in the NFC South at 5-11, and have a rookie head coach in Mike Rhule, a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, and a defense that is in the process of being gutted and rebuilt. If the Raiders don’t win this game, it is going to be a long season.
The travel schedule was cited as an issue for the Raiders but the first road game, the Raiders shouldn’t be favored against the Buffalo Bills. Back to back to back games against the Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is going to show us just where exactly this team is.
Theoretically, the team should be 3-3 coming into the bye. They are a better team than the Panthers, and Patriots as currently constructed. One thing to take into consideration is that without a preseason and no real offseason, teams are going to be sloppy. Speed will kill and the Raiders currently have a lot of it. Don’t be surprised to see a shocker pulled off against one of the three playoff teams in the New Orleans Saints, Bills, or Chiefs.
When it comes to backup quarterback Marcus Mariota, if we see him starting coming out of the bye, things will have gone horribly wrong. Carr is taking a lot of heat and he’s going to have to play his way out of it. Nobody has time for any more excuses. Sports hosts are pointing the finger at the quarterback and saying the Raiders will only go as far as he can take them.
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Top Photo: D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press