The 2020 NFL season kicks off for the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. They are a young team with an old coach, something that can work in their favor in the long run.
The Las Vegas Raiders are dumping the conventional
Luckily, COVID-19 has enshrouded the NFL in a situation detrimental to doing the same old thing. Not being able to do things traditionally forced Raiders head coach Jon Gruden to adopt a college-style approach. Conventional wisdom says starting many young players is a recipe for disaster. However, the Raiders did it last season and won six of their first 10 games. Gruden has recognized he needs to be better and call better plays.
Gruden has made poor play calls in crucial situations and has not put his players in position to succeed. Players have marveled at the expanse of his playbook. Yet, we frequently hear the same plays are being run over and over again. The Raiders would benefit if he stopped being such a conservative coach and opened things up.
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Forming up on the fly
Quarterback Derek Carr, who is in Gruden’s system for his third consecutive year, will lead the Raiders offense in 2020. He is in position to silence his critics, motivated and armed with a top-ten offensive line that sent three of five starters to the Pro Bowl. Moreover, he will have a couple of talented rookie wide receivers, and proven players at his disposal in 2020.
Darren Waller had a superb season for a tight end in 2019 and figures to be the top receiving target for the Raiders in 2020. Jacobs is a beast who spent nearly an entire season playing through injury. Both of them should be the subjects of defensive game planning. On the other hand, starting two rookies, Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards, at wide receiver isn’t ideal for the passing game. However, the focus of the offense won’t be either wideout.
There are some traits you can’t just teach in the NFL
There are three elements that remain uncoachable at the NFL level: Speed, size, and heart. Without a preseason, young skill players have very little tape on them if any at all. Rookie playmakers should thrive in an environment in which their abilities come as a complete surprise. Last season, Jacobs and defensive end Maxx Crosby exploded onto the NFL scene, launching candidacies into Rookie of the Year considerations in the process. Also, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow flashed down the stretch when Carr needed a target most.
The Raiders trust Ruggs and Edwards. Everyone who’s seen them in practice has raved about them, prompting their coaches and general manager to pump the obligatory brakes. Cornerback Damon Arnette supplanted free agent signee Prince Amukamara for a starting role. The Ohio State standout plays a physical game against wide receivers, hopefully breaking his thumb in practice won’t hinder his play.
When looking at the 2020 schedule, a common misconception is that every team is last year’s team. Four of the Raiders’ first five opponents on the season made the playoffs in 2019. In order for the Raiders to gain any level of respect, they are going to have to earn it in 2020. In a unique offseason, there is an air of unpredictability due to rust. Youthful exuberance can outrun experience early, something the Raiders can use to their advantage in 2020. They can start faster than they did in 2019, all they need to do is stay focused, true to what it is their identity, and take it one game at a time.
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