Las Vegas Raiders

Raiders Knee-Jerk Reactions: Thank God For Zach Wilson And The Jets

Make that two wins in a row for new Raiders head coach Antonio Pierce. This victory over the Jets was much more nerve-wracking than the previous win over the Giants, but it doesn’t matter. A win is a win, and the Raiders find themselves back at .500 and in second place in the AFC West. Let’s get into this week’s Knee-Jerk Reactions, starting with just how fortunate Las Vegas was to come away with the win.

Thank God For The New York Jets

All of Raider Nation should be praising their preferred deities that the Raiders played a team so willing to shoot themselves in the foot over and over again. That is not to say that the Silver and Black did not play well — they did. Plus, they still look significantly better than they did under Josh McDaniels. That being said, notching a win required some help on Sunday night.

The Jets did not score a single touchdown all game. While that may seem like the Raiders played great defense, which they mostly did, Las Vegas still gave New York plenty of chances. The Jets found themselves driving deep into Raiders territory several times, but on every occasion, they found a way to screw it up. Whether it was giving up a bad sack, an untimely penalty, or a turnover, the Jets managed to blow every chance they had.

Even at the end of the game, the Raiders failed to put it away offensively and handed New York the ball with one timeout left and just under a minute on the clock. All they had to do was score, and Las Vegas seemed poised to let them march down the field. Yet, due to some horrible clock management, the Jets ran just five plays, with the game ending on a failed Hail Mary attempt.

The Raiders won’t always be so lucky with the rest of the schedule. While the defense was solid, it conceded way too many backbreaking plays in Week 10.

The Vegas Defense Is Solid… But It Still Plays Too Soft

It’s hard to critique a unit that has allowed only 18 points in the past two weeks. While that number may speak for itself, other statistics should concern the Silver and Black. The Raiders gave up 365 yards of total offense to the Jets. The defense may have clamped down in the final third of the field, but New York moved the ball at will everywhere else.

That isn’t a new problem for the Raiders, either. We have seen this all year. The team spends so much time in sub packages with undersized linebackers like Luke Masterson and undersized defensive tackles like Jerry Tillery; opponents are able to run all over them. The idea is that having faster players out there allows you to generate more pressure, but that doesn’t work when the cornerbacks are playing five-plus yards off the line while quarterbacks feast on the underneath routes.

This will work to an extent against quarterbacks like Zach Wilson, Tommy DeVito, Mac Jones, Jordan Love, etc., but that isn’t saying much. The Raiders face the Chiefs and Dolphins over the next two weeks. Letting those two high-powered offenses with great quarterbacks march down the field might not be a formula for success.

Alright, we are getting way too negative here. The Raiders won their second straight game after all hope appeared to be lost! A big reason for that turnaround has been increased buy-in from the players.

Empowered Players Play Better — The Raiders Are Proving It

Pierce’s first act as head coach was to give the power back to the players. By allowing the roster to take more ownership of the product on the field, Las Vegas is playing harder and faster than we have seen all year. It seems that player empowerment has been a huge part of the culture change over the last two weeks.

We heard a great example of this on the national broadcast. Josh Jacobs told the NBC crew that he was able to give input on the run-game this week at practice. Apparently, McDaniels did not give him this kind of freedom. It appears to be working, as Jacobs has had his two best games of the campaign, coinciding with the coaching change in Sin City.

We are witnessing in real-time the benefit of having a coach who has actually played in the NFL. Not just some guy that has been coaching forever, usually in the comfort of his New England Patriot garb. 

Pierce seems to understand today’s players better than McDaniels did. Today’s players know that they are generally just as, if not more, valuable than the head coach and need to be treated more like colleagues than subordinates. Now that the Raiders have a coach who gets this, the players can finally reach their true potential.

*Top Photo: JACK DEMPSEY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

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