The Las Vegas Raiders have many positives working in their favor going into this season. Nevertheless, which will be the biggest reason they finally return to the playoffs?
The Silver and Black made several noteworthy improvements this offseason in an attempt to get better. Not just better, but better relatively quickly. Several investments were done to help alleviate the secondary and defensive lines, both massive weaknesses last year. Also, Jon Gruden decided that signing a legitimate number two running back was necessary. Mostly to help establish a power-run identity with a rebuilt offensive line. While these are all excellent moves, the biggest reason that the Raiders return to the playoffs will be Gus Bradley’s hiring.
Why is Bradley’s hiring so key in 2021 for the Raiders?
By now, the defense for the Raiders has been covered ad nauseam, but it’s all true. The team fielded a historically inept unit last season, one that culminated with Paul Guenther’s exit. By the same token, while Derek Carr continues to be criticized this offseason, the 2020 Raiders put together a solid offense. By year’s end, Carr had a quarterback rating of 101.4, 4,103 passing yards, and just nine interceptions against him. However, it wasn’t enough when your defense surrendered 30 or more points in ten games.
With Bradley at the helm, it’s unlikely the Raiders will surrender that many points in as many games. The thing is, the Silver and Black simply need to field an average defense and they’ll be in the running for a playoff spot. The most noticeable difference for the Raiders will come via their pass defense. This aspect of the defense gave up 28 touchdowns and 4,212 yards by way of the pass. Opposing quarterbacks were able to easily slice and dice a poorly coached unit in 2020.
Historically, Bradley’s pass defense has been his biggest contribution, who could forget Seattle’s ‘Legion of Boom.’ Another issue with the Raiders’ defense last year was that they led the NFL in missed tackles with 143. Raider Nation can expect to see a decline in this number with both Bradley and Ron Milus sharpening the secondary this offseason. Yes, this is Carr’s team, make no mistake, but the Raiders will only go as far as the defense takes them.
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*Top Photo: AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron