The Las Vegas Raiders are coming into tomorrow’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers looking to prove that Monday’s win over the Baltimore Ravens was not fool’s gold. But these players, in particular, should have a bit of added motivation.
Henry Ruggs looking to prove the offseason hype was real
We all heard about former first-round pick Henry Ruggs III gaining muscle in the offseason to deal with press coverage. Everyone saw the no-nonsense pressers that showed a more focused player in his second year. We kept our eye on the rave reviews in camp for the Alabama product and fellow 2020 draft selection Bryan Edwards. Unfortunately, game one brought us much of what we saw during last season.
Ruggs, rarely targeted by quarterback Derek Carr, spent more than a few third downs off the field altogether. And let’s be honest, when we imagine Carr delivering a deep ball game-winner, we all hope it would be landing in the hands of the wideout the Raiders selected before names like CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, and Jerry Jeudy.
Head coach Jon Gruden claimed he drafted Ruggs because he wanted his own Tyreek Hill. Let’s hope Sunday springboards us towards that kind of versatility.
Andre James looks to prove the spotlight is not too big
Andre James doesn’t deserve the criticism he’s received as of late. It’s not as if he sold the Raiders a bill of goods, deceiving them into cutting ties with one of the best centers in football. Rodney Hudson wanted out, and the Raiders obliged. However, no one will seize the opportunity to be great for James. He has to do that on his own.
If there were ever a true litmus test for a center still in his first handful of career starts, look no further. Early matchups lining up in front of guys like Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, and Cameron Heyward would be more than acceptable. If the Raiders want to make the playoffs, they’ll need James to play like an adequate starter, at the very least.
Watch those snap counts, Andre.
Kenyan Drake needs to prove Jon Gruden was right
Signing Kenyan Drake when you have a true lead running back isn’t a crazy idea. Spending a large chunk of money on a backup running back when you have other visible holes is a different story. Starting tailback Josh Jacobs has never been the poster child for perfect health in his short career, so we assumed Drake could see his lion’s share of the duties at some point down the line. I doubt, however, we expected â€œdown the line” to happen in Week 2.
With Jacobs out for this game with toe and ankle issues, it’s Drake’s time to shine. Even with the poor showing on the ground against the Ravens, Las Vegas needs to attempt to have some semblance of a ground game to keep the potent Steelers pass rush from pinning its ears back and teeing off on Carr. We all know what Drake can bring to the table as a pass catcher, and he’s been a lead back in the past in Arizona, but he will have his work cut out for him come Sunday morning.
*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images