After an underwhelming 2020 campaign, the Las Vegas Raiders look to land in the postseason come 2021.
Entering his fourth year, head coach Jon Gruden has again made multiple changes to the roster in the offseason. A possible wild-card contender, Las Vegas will need a lot of help if they are to reach the postseason. However, with many areas in need of improvement or more development, one could find many reasons the Raiders won’t make the playoffs. An unproven offensive line, playing without discipline, and lack of creative play-calling could result in the Raiders not reaching their goals in 2021. Falling short of the 2021 postseason could see Gruden making a premature exit from Las Vegas.
An offensive line with a lot to prove
After huge moves to the o-line this off-season, Gruden has left Derek Carr with unproven protection. Needs at tackle, guard, and center were either addressed in free agency or the draft. Re-signing Richie Incognito kept a familiar face in Vegas. Kolton Miller has developed well, but the younger talent on the opposite side of the line is concerning. Rookie Alex Leatherwood has large shoes to fill at right tackle. Furthermore, names like Denzelle Good and Andre James will have their own battles at guard and center respectively. The potential and depth for the Raiders’ offensive line leave a lot to be hopeful about. Conversely, the lack of experience across the line could find the Raiders losing games against heavy rushes. Time can only tell what the young unit can accomplish in 2021.
Playing undisciplined football
Talent isn’t the only necessity in creating a winning culture. Playing fundamentally sound football requires discipline, another deficiency in 2020. Ten contests alone saw Las Vegas penalized at least five times. 98 total penalties resulting in almost 900 free yards were surely a culprit for losses during the season. 55 of those infractions came on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders’ defensive group is young and immature, however, discipline starts with leadership. If the Raiders are to make the postseason, mindless errors must be eliminated. If the flags are a pattern again this season, it will be one of the multiple reasons the Raiders won’t make the playoffs.
Lack of imaginative play-calling
Before his recent tenure with the Raiders, Gruden was known for utilizing players in the best way to present their skill sets. Since his return, it could be argued that his strategies are dated. The Raiders struggled in the red zone early in 2020 and said woes didn’t improve. While the offense scored 27 points per game, it was done mostly in a conservative manner. Between Carr’s short, safe passing and Gruden’s uninspired play-calling, the Raiders must find balance in 2021. Players with multiple skills like Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, and Henry Ruggs must be properly utilized as the NFL inches closer to positionless football. Schemes aside, Gruden will have to innovate new play into his strategy if he’s to survive in this league.
The Raiders have solid pieces in important places. Both young and veteran talent look to improve upon a dismal 8-8 record in 2021. However, with a skeptical offensive line, immature on-field play, and monotonous play-calling, the mountain looks steep for the Raiders. Execution in correcting these problems is essential to Vegas making its first playoff appearance since 2016. Failure yet again would only have fans of the Silver and Black asking for changes throughout the franchise.
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*Top Photo: Associated Press/Jeff Chiu