A lot of things are clicking for the Las Vegas Raiders right now, and a deep talented roster and momentum are making that possible.
The Silver and Black collapsed last year after a hot start, something that Raider Nation would prefer not to remember. However, as we reflect on the team’s current success, it’s important to look at the parallels. The team has a much deeper roster than in year’s past, especially at key positions. There’s still work to do, but thanks to efficient roster building and momentum, there shouldn’t be a collapse in 2020.
What’s Clicking For The Raiders In 2020?
There are several factors that make this squad different than last year’s version. Part of the credit goes to quarterback Derek Carr, who might end up having the best season of his career. So far, the man has only thrown two interceptions and his 0.7 interception rate ranks second in the league, that’s next level efficiency. Moreover, the Raiders rank eighth in points scored and sixth in turnovers lost with nine.
Another asset for the Raiders has been their running game. Josh Jacobs was having a superb rookie season, but the team’s ground attack took a hit once he went down with an injury. This year, the Raiders took steps to prevent that and picked up free-agent Devontae Booker, who has been an underrated signing. He ran for two touchdowns against his old team this past Sunday. The fact that the Silver and Black now have a legitimate one-two punch to back up Carr is huge moving forward. In fact, look at the last two weeks, Carr put up efficient numbers but didn’t light up the scoreboard. Having the running back duo lift and carry the team to victory with limited quarterback play is a huge improvement from 2019.
An Improving Defense and A Star Tight End
Looking at the Raiders’ performance in Week 10, you might think they don’t have a good receiving corps but one bad game doesn’t define a unit. At the end of the day, the receiving game goes through tight end Darren Waller. He leads all receivers in targets and receptions and is second in touchdowns with four. Last year, the Raiders lacked a true reliable veteran receiver, and the situation became even worse after Tyrell Williams went down.
This season, Nelson Agholor has resurrected his career in Silver and Black and leads the team in touchdowns with five. Besides ‘Nelly’ the addition of rookie Henry Ruggs III makes their offense different than 2019’s version. The first-round pick has made this offense a more aggressive unit. Carr is now willing to take shots downfield and forcing opposing defenses to account for the Alabama standout at all times.
Do The Raiders Finally Have a Defense?
The Raiders defense still needs help as a whole but it’s possible were watching them turn the corner now. This past Sunday, Paul Guenther’s unit forced five turnovers. Even if it was against quarterback Drew Lock, it’s something worth recognizing. In the end, the defense is displaying signs of progress, something we didn’t see last year when the unit consistently let down head coach Jon Gruden. Be that as it may, it suddenly looks like this unit has depth with so many pieces falling into place.
One of those pieces is safety Jeff Heath, who picked off two passes, and another key contributor is linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski. For what seems like an eternity, the Raiders have lacked a middle linebacker but they have one now. After getting over injuries, ‘Sky’ is on fire as we witnessed against the Broncos. He had eight total tackles, an interception, and two passes defensed against Denver’s sophomore quarterback.
We are aware we might be giving Guenther too much credit considering the last two quarterbacks the Raiders have faced. If anything, this Sunday’s matchup will show if this unit is for real or not. Either way, the 2020 defense is already proving to be better than its predecessor. If they continue improving, a collapse shouldn’t repeat itself this year.
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*Top Photo: Associated Press/Alex Gallardo