As anyone who watched Jon Gruden’s offense last season knows, the Las Vegas Raiders struggled in the red zone. These struggles were often the difference between winning and losing. In today’s NFL, scoring high amounts of points is as important as ever. Here’s how the Raiders can improve in the most important area of the field in 2021.
Raiders did too much thinking
For the Raiders and Derek Carr in 2021, they often became victims of overthinking. Carr, a smart and turnover adverse quarterback, at times seemed hesitant when passing in the red zone.
In this play, the Raiders run wheel routes on the outside with Darren Waller and Henry Ruggs III. They do this while also attacking the middle of the field with Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards. The Miami Dolphins do a tremendous job defending this play and getting a man on all Raiders receivers. However, Carr still has to be more trusting of his receivers in 1v1 situations, especially in the red zone. To make matters worse, he takes a sack. It’s pretty easy to envision Gruden laying into Carr for this one as it simply cannot happen.
However, Gruden is not completely blameless as his red-zone play designs at times, have left much to be desired. The most egregious of these play designs from last season took place against the Los Angeles Chargers in Allegiant Stadium.
It’s truly hard to imagine a worse play than this. In a divisional game, in overtime, and on third and goal, this was the best that Gruden could come up with. To break it down fully, this play fails in many aspects. The first of which is the target of Alec Ingold in such a big spot. While he’s a fine fullback, the Raiders possess much more dynamic options to target. One of these targets is Darren Waller who is on the opposite side of the field, almost completely out of the play. This poor utilization of top talents represents another necessary change.
The easiest way for the Raiders to improve in the red zone is a simple one: give the ball to the good players. At points last season, it seemed as if tight end Jason Witten had his own section of the playbook. Witten, an eventual Hall of Famer, had clearly lost a step not just in 2020, but several years before that. This did not stop Gruden from giving him chances time and time again in the red zone. These targets should almost always go to Waller.
Although it is quite obvious when watching him play, Josh Jacobs is fantastic in the red zone. With his incredible vision, competitiveness, and leaping ability he becomes almost unstoppable within ten yards of the end zone. Getting him the ball in these scenarios will almost always pay dividends.
Touchdown No. 2 for Josh Jacobs 💪
Can't be stopped.
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) November 3, 2019
Keep it simple and expect results
For Carr, the best recipe for success has often been simplicity. Give him talented players and simple plays and he typically executes at a high level. This is paramount in the red zone.
This play, while easy, is a good microcosm of how the red zone offense succeeds. It includes play action to give the threat of Jacobs, an easy read for Carr and a target for the offenses’ best player. In the short areas of the field, the simpler option is often the best option, it’s up to Gruden to identify that.
In 2021, expect the Raiders to be much better in short areas. The team knows that the only thing slowing the offense down was the inconsistent red-zone production and will likely pull out all the stops to get it right. Look for heavy doses of Waller and Jacobs and, hopefully, Hunter Renfrow. Getting this right will be one of the biggest storylines of the Raiders season and could be the difference in them securing a playoff spot.
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*Top Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images