Head coach Jon Gruden is entering his fourth season as the Las Vegas Raiders head coach. The team ended its inaugural campaign in Sin City without a playoff appearance. It was the fourth consecutive year of missing the postseason after qualifying for a wild-card berth in 2016. While Gruden has had the Raiders on the cusp of the playoffs each of the last two seasons, not much has come out of his efforts.
Gruden would now appear to have the personnel in place to fit his West Coast offensive system. However, the offense has not been the issue, as Las Vegas averaged just over 27 points per game last season. Quarterback Derek Carr is coming off arguably, his best season under Gruden’s tutelage.
The running back room looks great with Josh Jacobs as the workhorse and Kenyan Drake as the backup. Moreover, Darren Waller has emerged as one of the top tight ends in the NFL. The wide receiver corp is young with Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, and others. On the other hand, the defensive side of the rock has continued to be the Raiders Achilles’ heel since Gruden’s return.
The Raiders tried to make the most out of the free agency period
Enter; free agency. The Raiders were able to lure defensive end and pass rusher extraordinaire Yannick Ngakoue from the Baltimore Ravens. Pairing him with Max Crosby on the other side of the line gives Las Vegas a more than formidable pass rush. Also, re-signing linebacker Nicholas Morrow was key and Cory Littleton is looking to return to form of his days as a Los Angeles Ram. The secondary, well, was challenged to put it mindly. This is and has remained a huge sore spot for the Raiders’ defense.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was let go late in the season after the New York Jets run game gashed the Raiders time and time again. In steps Gus Bradley, whose Cover 3 scheme and its success will be incumbent upon acquiring the appropriate personnel. Look for the Raiders to fill key holes on “the D”, particularly in the third round as Vegas has the 79th and 80th picks.
General Manager Mike Mayock has given Carr his resounding support. Marcus Mariota is returning for another year after taking a pay cut and spending most of 2020 on the injured list. If the Raiders can continue to build as they have in each of Gruden’s returned years, there is a good chance of seeing #RaiderNation back in the playoffs for the 2021 season.
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Top Photo: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun