Two days of OTAs (June 13 and 14) are the last remaining bits of football preceding the void of any and all football activity. The six-week vacation period prior to the grind of an NFL season lasts from mid-June to late July. It is the hardest time of the year to have to sit and wait for Las Vegas Raiders fans.
What have we learned thus far about the Raiders?
Monday and Tuesday mark the final two organized team activities scheduled for the Raiders’ 2022 offseason. The overall composition of the offensive roster put together by Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock was quality. They put together a budding young offensive line that is both tough and coachable. It was made up of a stable of capable running backs, featuring Josh Jacobs and complementary talents, along with a top-five tight end and a slot receiver.
Since general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniel have arrived, the new regime has given some shots in the arm to what was already a formidable roster. In Davante Adams, they have added one of the best route-running receivers in the game. Arguably the best receiver in the NFL and most certainly the coveted “number one” receiver. The receiving corps depth got combed through, and underproducing talents have gone their separate ways. Keelan Cole and Demarcus Robinson are names and talents who have been brought in to compete and take some heat off the “stars” of this passing attack.
There has been a multitude of pass catchers, running backs, and tight ends brought in for the sake of competition. No one job is safe at any position on this roster. If players don’t earn their position, the reward is either the bench or being cut. Scholarships and last hurrahs have gone away. A prevailing theme is that players were playing on pure potential without modern NFL coaching.
Core fundamental issues
As stated, it is an ugly evaluation of a player and his abilities, or lack thereof. On a positive note, core fundamental issues are some of the best problems to have. Fundamentals can be drilled, reprogrammed, and practiced. It can then leadÂ to the development of good techniques and great habits. If push comes to shove, the Raiders have the option of utilizing the 3rd most remaining cap space ($22.5M) in the NFL.
One of the shortcomings of the previous regime was an over-reliance on their scheme and a failure to teach football. Emphasis was placed on the mechanization of said coaches’ schemes, whereas fundamentals were overlooked in favor of player fit.
In the grand scheme of things, football is a game of inches. The little things are the difference between big plays and losses. As cliche as it may sound, proper attention to the proper fundamentals of basic things like footwork can make or break an offensive lineman. ItÂ can have an equally monumental effect on the defenders, especially those in pass coverage.
New Raiders coaching approach: offensive line
Proper preparation prevents poor performance. How does that factor into the season or figure to make an impact when necessary? Throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks is a great way for a coaching staff to find out what they have when things break down.
Offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo mentioned in his press conference that the Raiders play 21 games this season, including the preseason. Having the same group start wire-to-wire, including playoffs, is not practical.
Alex Leatherwood has practiced here, he has practiced there, he has practiced everywhere on the right side of the line. Meanwhile, every lineman has tried out at every position. This implies a few important things. Coach Bricillo is learning what his team’s best players can do and what they can’t do.
Bricillo has identified some coachable issues with the unit as a whole. For a team that was second in pocket time and 11th in pressure percentage allowed, cleaning up fundamentals in accordance with familiarity should go a long way.
NCA: Patrick Graham’s defense
Patrick Graham’s defense may be complex in study, but yet is simplistic in application. Matchups will be key and, quite frankly, they change based on the opponent.Â Graham is a coverage wizard and a master of disguising his defense. Rob Ryan is perhaps the most underappreciated wild card in the organization. Ryan is from the school of exotic blitzes; pairing him with Graham seems like a match made in football heaven.
Much like Bricillo’s offensive line, Graham has been playing guys in a multitude of positions as well. On defense, attention is being paid to the football being taught. It’s one thing to coach a team up to execute the fundamentals and technique of a scheme. It’s another to teach overall football and further expand the toolboxes of all defenders. It is imperative that all defenders understand the game of football and its complete set of positional techniques, rules, and keys.
Clelin Ferrell, the former fourth overall draft pick, may be playing his third position since being drafted and may be an outside linebacker. Safety Johnathan Abram has practiced in the box at linebacker and flashed playmaking ability. Nate Hobbs has been rumored to be practicing at strong safety as well as out wide.
All eyes on the prize for the Raiders
Every move that has been made by the front office, coaching staff, ownership, and players has all been focused on winning a championship. Gruden turned the culture around and stamped out the losers. The new regime has a real “Super Bowl or Bust!” attitude and prides itself on focus and self-accountability.
The offense has run self-imposed laps for sloppy practice periods. As non-issue as it sounds, having a consequence is that little bit of negative reassurance that silly mistakes won’t be tolerated. Reducing or negating any pre-snap penalties inside the redzone, potentially the goal line, will go a long way towards winning tough games and putting teams away.
The new Raiders coaching staff and front office come from a championship pedigree. Champions don’t accept anything but championships. Playing your best when it matters most, doing your job, holding yourself to a higher level of standard and winningÂ the division. Win the conference. To win the Super Bowl is the standard of excellence that just walked in the door and took over. They will not hesitate to do whatever is necessary to “Just win, baby!”
*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal