To be as straightforward as possible, the Las Vegas Raiders are in shambles. After a promising 5-2 start to the 2021 season, the Silver and Black are again living the nightmare they endured the previous two seasons.
Dropping games to lowly opponents, having their weak links exploited by better teams, and a seemingly endless number of injuries is a script we have all seen before, and it continues to play out no matter how far removed from it the players, coaches, and members of the media claim to be.
However, within these dark times of Raiders football, there seem to be slivers of light that peak through the abyss. They are beacons of hope that can carry some sort of potential into upcoming seasons. Let’s take some time to examine these silver linings. They give Raider Nation a glimpse into parts of this team to be not only excited about, but to hold onto as ways this team can escape this seemingly never-ending cycle of hardship.
Up & Coming Secondary
Rookies Trevon Moehrig and Nate Hobbs have put the league on notice with their play through 12 games. They are not only proving they are worthy starting caliber players, but they seem to be pillars of this Raiders’ defense.
Hobbs, who recently recorded his first career interception, has had himself quite the rookie campaign. He’s played nearly all the defensive snaps. Even more impressive, he’s done this at his natural nickel spot or while filling in outside for injured starters. Hobbs should be expected to continue his reign of terror throughout the final stretch of the season and enter 2022 as a force to be reckoned with.
He’s definitely had his fair share of ups and downs. Even so, Moehrig has outshined former first-round pick Johnathan Abram at the safety position due to his ball-hawking prowess. He’s shown the ability to step into Gus Bradley’s system as a Day 1 center fielder. Moehrig is proving to be the missing piece in this defense that the Raiders have been missing for years on end. Like Hobbs, Moehrig will finish the 2022 campaign as a successful draft pick. That in itself should be a reason for hope as we wind down the season.
Pass-Rush Prayers Answered
Up until this season, the Raiders had poured an obscene amount of resources into their pass rush. And up until this season, they had been mightily unsuccessful. The signing of Yannick Ngakoue has produced tenfold what the Raiders could have predicted. In addition, Maxx Crosby has burst onto the national stage as an elite pass-rusher. The Raiders now have one of the top pass-rushing duos in the entire NFL.
Credit Raiders’ brass for taking a risk on Ngakoue. He was previously passed around between a number of teams, and trusting in defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to develop Crosby into the force he is today.
Offensive Line Showing Promise
While this may surprise very few people, this unit has struggled mightily throughout the season. However, there are parts of the offensive line that should give fans hope. For years to come, no matter which direction this team goes in addressing this offensive line, they will have a true cornerstone in Kolton Miller.
While that may be a given, Andre James has bounced back from a rough start. He’s been one of the young and bright spots in this unit that I believe Tom Cable can build around. First-round rookie Alex Leatherwood has continued his struggles since moving to guard. Nevertheless, Leatherwood has shown flashes of brilliance that are often clouded by bone-headed penalties. This offseason, look for the Raiders to build around these three core pieces to return to their dominance in the trenches we once knew.
*Top Photo: Michael Clemens/Las Vegas Raiders