Through the first five games of the 2020 season, the Las Vegas Raiders have been through nothing short of a roller coaster of emotions. They are currently standing at 3-2 and coming off arguably Derek Carr’s best win of his career. It was even more surprising because that victory came against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. For that reason, we wanted to share a short recap with you. We will be looking at what has been good, bad, and ugly through six weeks for the Silver and Black.
The Good: The Las Vegas Raiders Offensive Explosion
The Raiders offense ranked 24th in 2019. Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock knew 19.6 points per game wasn’t enough to win football games in a consistent manner. For that reason, they made it a point to improve the team’s offense in the offseason. First-round pick Henry Ruggs III and much more aggressive quarterback play are currently helping the Silver and Black average 30.2 per game, good for sixth in the league.
One big difference has been their ability to be multi-dimensional, which was a huge issue for the Raiders in 2019. Last season, if the running game wasn’t dominant, the offense would ultimately fold under their inability to pivot and stretch the field and move defenders out of the box. Props to Gruden and Mayock for effectively revamping and opening up the offense. Carr and Gruden have put on absolute clinics to secure the team’s three victories in 2020.
The Bad: Run Defense
Unlike the Raider’s offense, the run defense has gone from a bright spot on the Raider’s defense to its worst aspect in 2020. The Raiders fell from a solid 98.1 yards per game in 2019 to an abysmal 126.8 yards game in 2020. That amount places them in the bottom ten among run defenses.
While there are a couple of reasons why this regression took place, the hardest pill to swallow is that teams who have committed to running the ball and dominating the line of scrimmage against the Raider’s defense have had immense success in not only the statistical side but in the win/lose column as well. The Raiders gave up a staggering 313 rushing yards against the New England and Buffalo Bills combined. You can see how these game plans lead to losses for the Raiders.
On a positive note, the return of Nick Kwiatkoski after missing a few games with a pectoral injury has given the Raiders a boost. Moreover, their young defensive line is far from a finished product. There is definitely potential and time for this run defense to turn itself around and return to its 2019 form.
The Ugly: DL Free Agent Acquisitions
Back in March, the Raiders put a clear emphasis on acquiring defensive line talent. The team’s brass brought in defensive end Carl Nassib and gave him a three-year $25 million contract. They also signed inked defensive tackle Maliek Collins to a one-year $6 million contract. In theory, they were to flourish under new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, whom Collins played under in Dallas.
These acquisitions received praise from many in the offseason. They were ultimately brought in to provide leadership and help the young core of recently drafted defensive linemen develop as well as prove their worth as veterans to a young, up and coming team. Fast forward to October, both moves have been questionable, to say the least.
Clocking in at a combined cap hit of roughly $15 million between both of these players, their production leaves much to be desired. Through the first five games, Nassib and Collins have combined for a total of 13 tackles and 0.5 sacks. With Nassib heading to Injured Reserve with a broken toe, the spotlight will be locked in on Collins to produce and prove the early season doubters wrong. All in all, these two have been disappointing and will require some good showings to find themselves back in good graces with the coaching staff and the fan base.
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