The Raiders will have their hands full against the Browns…
After the second-half beating they took against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Las Vegas Raiders have shifted their focus to an inconsistent, but explosive Cleveland Browns team, whose offense has looked phenomenal in their five wins, but abysmal in their two losses. One constant, however, is that their defense has been pretty awful all season, allowing just over 31 points per game.
Cleveland is coming off a shootout between quarterback Baker Mayfield and this year’s first overall draft pick Joe Burrow. Winning a game by three points against a bottom cellar team like the Cincinnati Bengals is not much to be proud of. Nevertheless, they surely prefer that to the 38-7 trouncing the Pittsburgh Steelers gave them the week before.
The Raiders passing game is clicking heading into Week 8
Raiders fans likely felt pretty dejected after last week’s loss, but it’s not all doom and gloom. The Silver and Black’s offense is working in high gear. Tight end Darren Waller is leading the team in receptions with 40. Meanwhile, wide receiver Nelson Agholor is leading the team with 292 receiving yards and four scores this season.
‘Nelly’ arguably had his most productive game for the year in Week 7. He ended the day with five catches and over 100 yards and looks like a new man in Las Vegas. Quarterback Derek Carr’s play did not quite reach the heights it did against the Chiefs. However, ‘4’ was still throwing pretty well. He seems to be actively shaking the stigma of completing just check-downs as he had 10 attempts that traveled 10 or more yards against the ‘Bucs’, including a 44-yard touchdown.
Carr even said in a recent sit-down with the press that the deep ball is becoming part of the team’s identity. A small side note, but as many teams have struggled in the kicking game, Carlson has been pretty consistent apart from a missed extra point a couple of weeks ago and one missed field goal in the losing effort against New England.
The secondary must do a better job of defending the pass
It would be very easy to just say the Raiders defense is struggling and move on. What if we take a closer look and see exactly what the problems are? The most devastating part is the defensive backs might not be in the right position to be making plays for most of the game. There’s no shame in getting beaten by superior players, it is another thing entirely to never have your people in a position to make something happen.
Nevin Lawson allowed a touchdown against Scott Miller and struggled most of the game. Miller almost had another touchdown had Lawson not defensed it with the tip of a finger. All in all, the Raiders cornerback gave up seven catches for 101 yards. Even sophomore Trayvon Mullen, who has been solid for the most part this year, surrendered eight completions.
The Raiders’ pass rush against the ‘Bucs’ was pitiful. The defense had no sacks and registered a measly one pressure and one quarterback hit. Tampa Bay does have a great offensive line, but that stat line should be a wake-up call for any team. The Silver and Black must do a better job of getting after opposing quarterbacks.
The team’s brass is waiting on LB Cory Littleton to produce
The bleeding does not stop with coverage and pass rush, there are other issues. Linebacker Cory Littleton, the Raiders’ big free-agent acquisition this offseason, has been worse than just quiet. He has been non-existent. He has allowed the most passing yards on the team this season even though he was touted as an elite defender in coverage. To make matters worse, he has missed 25 percent of his tackles this year.
As much as Littleton has faltered, the defense’s lack of results doesn’t rest solely on his shoulders. The coaching staff isn’t putting him in a position to succeed. This isn’t a revolutionary take by any stretch, but the numbers tell us that Guenther has turned defenses down but can’t manage to get the rebuilding part right. He did so with a decent defense in Cincinnati and he’s doing it again with the Raiders.
There was a lot of talk this week about the Raiders changing their defensive scheme this week, but what does that really mean? Package overhaul? More blitzing? More creative defensive line schemes? Or is it that we have become accustomed to this and it’s really just more coach-speak to satiate the media and fans? Whatever the answer is, the coaching staff needs to turn things around.
There appears to be more than just a personnel issue in Las Vegas and accountability starts at the top of the organization. Head coach Jon Gruden has been fairly transparent of late and has recently conceded that the blame lands on him – but quite frankly, that responsibility is an easy thing to absorb when you have roughly $10 million in security. The Raiders don’t need a way out, they need toughness, accountability, and when things are broken – fix them. Why expect your players to do that if you cannot? Raider Nation needs more from you ‘Chucky’, and soon.
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Top Photo: Wade Vandervort/Las Vegas Sun