Following the Las Vegas Raiders’ 26-20 preseason victory over the Minnesota Vikings, we got another look at the team. Some more information has been revealed, and we now see some areas of concern moving forward.
The good news is that the Raiders haven’t beaten themselves under new head coach Josh McDaniels. The less-than-great news is that most of the issues the Raiders face can be rectified with coaching. Those that cannot, will require an alternative solution. Coaching alone isn’t going to find talent on the inside.
Concern No. 1 For The Raiders: Defensive Interior
To put it rather bluntly, the Raiders’ defensive front got pushed around. Not so much upfield, but more along the lines of out of the way. The Vikings rushed the ball 22 times, acquiring 115 yards while averaging 5.2 yards per carry, mostly right up the gut. The zone blocking scheme exposed some holes in the formation the defense was employing. In the passing game, the Raiders stepped up the pressure this week, hitting the quarterback four times and sacking him twice. Both times by an edge defender.
Comparatively speaking, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the defense only managed one quarterback hit and sack, by Kendal Vickers. On the ground, 16 rushes netted 59 yards. There were only two tackles for a loss, and as a whole, Vickers was the only man capable of getting to the quarterback. Let alone take them down.
Free agent acquisition Bilal Nichols, as well as Johnathan Hankins, have not played a down. Rookies Matthew Butler and Neil Farrell have yet to make an eye-opening aha play. Andrew Billings was solid in his work in the trenches, eating double teams and achieving penetration into the backfield.
Concern No. 2 For The Raiders: Tackling
Football breaks down into three basic things: blocking, tackling, and beating the block. Against Minnesota, the Vikings’ receivers were making catches on third downs, breaking tackles five yards short of the line of gain and picking up an additional 10 yards. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
Last week, the tackling was crisp. Defensively, the Raiders limited second-chance yards and got the ball carrier on the ground. There was gang tackling, and it looked like a much better quality of defense was being forecast. But the main hurdle was definitely special teams.
Concern No. 3 For The Raiders: Special Teams, Punt And Kick Coverage
Football, the game of inches, is broken down into three phases. Offense, defense, and special teams. Special teams are a part of the team that is far too often overlooked and undervalued. No one pays attention to them until a punt is either blocked or returned for a touchdown. On kickoff, either it’s downed and placed on the 25, or you get a return in between the 15 and 30-yard lines. In rare instances, a house call is made, and the return team deposits six points on the scoreboard. Inversely, a poor kick coverage team can make all the difference in a football game. Poor kick and punt coverage leads to exceptional field position, thus creating more pressure on the defense and offense.
The Vikings were officially credited with five kickoff returns for 118 yards, not including the opening 51-yard kick return, called back due to holding. They found themselves with good field position with any kick that wasn’t downed deep. The field position game contributed to nine more points against the Raiders than the 11 points the Jaguars were able to put up last week.
The Jaguars had four kick returns for 77 yards and two punt returns for 13 yards. Once again, not including an 88-yard punt return called back due to holding. Staying in lanes and not breaking containment on the outside is how big returns can be avoided.
A win is a win, and you should never apologize for one. The team the Raiders put on the field was better than the team the Vikings put on the field. Hopefully, these issues can be coached into non-issues.
*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images