After back-to-back heartbreaking losses and being eliminated from playoff contention, The Las Vegas Raiders are in the same exact situation as last year.
This Las Vegas team will play the season finale in Denver hoping to at least finish .500. In a year that saw so much promise fade by another late-season collapse. The Raiders are favored in this match but that still does not give a sense of comfort. The offense has dipped compared to the first half and has a glaring issue with red-zone production. For them to avoid 7-9 again, these three Raiders need to step up on offense in Week 17.
1. Jon Gruden needs to get creative with his playcalling
When it comes to the offensive struggles, a good majority of that has to fall on Gruden for his decision making. Fans were already skeptical of how much Gruden uses Jason Witten over Foster Moreau. Their suspicions turned out to be right with Witten getting five targets and Moreau only on the field for two snaps.
Their red zone efficiency is also under question. They made five red-zone trips and only scored a touchdown in one of them. Much of that is due to a lack of creativity with play-calling. Witten being the primary target over Waller and Agholor is baffling. His decision to take the field goal in the final minute was questionable but is very debatable on both sides. If he wants to ensure the fans’ trust, he will have to be more aggressive to give this team a better chance in the future.
2. Henry Ruggs hasn’t played the way the Raiders expected
It isn’t completely right to say that he needs to step up. Injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic have hindered Henry Ruggs III but he still has not produced as one would expect from the 12th overall pick. Gruden also has not included him in his game plan enough. He has averaged only 3.3 targets a game, which are usually just deep routes. It would be nice to see more targets for him, especially for more simple routes such as slants and screens.
What makes this more impactful is the case on whether or not Nelson Agholor stays for next year. If Ruggs can end on a good note in Denver, the team can be relieved for what he can bring next year. Either way, fans shouldn’t panic too much as Ruggs is a rookie and still has great potential.
3. Josh Jacobs must finish the season strong
It is fair to say that Josh Jacobs has seen a bit of a slump in his sophomore year. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry in 2019 but only 3.8 this year. His touchdown total has increased but his workload should bring more. I wouldn’t put it all on him as the offensive line has missed Incognito and Brown for most of the year which has had an effect.
Nonetheless, Jacobs hasn’t been as productive and a big game against Denver can bandage that up nice. In their week 10 matchup, Jacobs averaged 5.3 yards a game and scored twice. If he can see anything similar to that this week, then there won’t be so much of a worry for next year.
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Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal