Imagine going off the grid and coming back to a bunch of text messages, group chats and push alerts saying the unthinkable was done. That’s exactly how I found out Khalil Mack was traded and I still can’t believe it.
Seeing Mack in a Bears uniform felt like a slap in my face each time. It made me long for going off the grid again.
Last night, Raider Nation sat and watched the entire world marvel at Mack in a Bears uniform. Dude got a strip sack and pick six in one half. Sure, the Bears did not win but the nation watched the impact a player like Mack has on a team. This is the impact Raiders fans watched every single week. Yet, somehow we’re supposed to accept this trade?
Trading a generational talent like Mack takes balls. Think back, have the Raiders ever had a player with Mack’s talent on the edge? You would have to go back to Charles Woodson or Tim Brown to find another player that has had Mack’s impact this early, regardless of position. The point is, you work in the draft to find a Khalil Mack. Giving up on that sort of player sends the wrong sort of message to players and fans. You’re supposed to build around your best players. You’re supposed to pay the ones that work hard, are role models off the field and captains every day. That’s the plan Reggie McKenzie has been seeking us since he came into the picture.
At the very least, this proves Gruden has a plan and he’s not afraid to execute it. I’m unsure what McKenzie’s role is in Gruden’s plan but clearly Jon didn’t see Mack in his vision. That’s the sort of balls and arrogance reserved for teams like the Spurs when they traded Kawhi Leonard. How can a team destroy a relationship with their star player who seamlessly fits the culture?
Either way, the Raiders don’t have the championships or the culture to fall on like the Spurs which makes this trade even weirder. Perhaps, Gruden looked at the roster and realized it was a longer rebuild than he anticipated.
Maybe, he and Davis didn’t picture many of these players in Las Vegas and they figured it would be better to start rebuilding soon. Of course, that would make sense if the Raiders didn’t cut most of their Draft Picks from the last few classes and replace them with old vets. Some of that falls on McKenzie for sure as he has reached on guys and not always had a plan for development.
However, I still don’t know why you would trade the best thing RM ever did. Taking a Buffalo player and turning him into a franchise defender who can play any position in the front seven is amazing. I don’t know what the Raiders plans are now that they’ve traded Mack but they exist.
I guess I’m supposed to move forward. I’m supposed to buy into the nostalgia of the Raiders and trust Gruden. I’m supposed to act like this team isn’t abandoning its roots in Oakland. I’m supposed to act like this team is trying to win now when they traded their best player. I’m supposed to be ready and excited for Week One as we take on the Rams in Gruden’s return to MNF.
Nonetheless, part of me hopes the Raiders get their ass kicked. They need that sort of wake up call. You can’t get by just signing veterans over the age of 30 who no one wants. You can’t win by not developing and retaining your talent.
In fact, what would be more Raider than winning without your best talent or by winning with a bunch of rejects? That’s where the rub is.
Plus, I’m tired of losing. I can’t shake my Raider fandom no matter what and honestly my life is better when the Raiders are good. I get tired hearing what happened to your Raiders. I’d rather get compliments on how great the team is.
Still, what gets lost in all of this is the fact that Al Davis would’ve got this deal done. He would’ve re-signed a small school player who defeated the odds to be one of the best defenders in the league. Al understood talent and appreciated those who represented the Raiders best. Mack would’ve been Mr. Davis’ favorite.
Again, that doesn’t really matter because Gruden is the new sheriff in town. His plan clearly involves retooling around those picks from the Bears. Hopefully, you’re not letting this distract you from the fact that the Raiders gave up a second round pick in this trade so they really only got one first rounder for Mack. Chicago should also improve so they might not be as high selections as the Raiders would’ve hoped.
Don’t forget Gruden gave the Cardinals Josh Rosen and didn’t get enough to trade back. Not to mention, they cut Martavis Bryant who cost them what compensation they did get in the move back. The point is, Gruden has already made a lot of questionable decisions. Shoutout to David Sharpe, Mario Edwards Jr. And few other players that had draft capital and playing time invested into them but Gruden cut anyways.
Combine that with the move and losing, it’s no wonder many many Raiders fans including myself are questioning their fandom. What else are we supposed to do? Is Gruden really worth our blind faith? Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side? I guess we’ll find out on Monday night, especially Raiders fans in LA. Regardless, I can’t talk regular season without talking about Mack first.
Here’s a Breakdown of the Rams OC
The Rams don’t have an offensive coordinator since they lost Matt LeFleur to the Tennessee Titans. Aaron Kromer is the run game coordinator after being OL coach last year and tight ends coach Shane Waldron is the passing game coordinator. Sean McVay will still call most of the plays. McVay has roots connected to Gruden’s brother Jay in Washington and he is often credited as part of Jon Gruden’s mentee too.
Expect a lot of what we saw last year from the Rams. They will rely on the running game and the offensive line to open up the passing game. They like to use a lot of deception out of the backfield. Expect them to find creative ways for the backs and tight ends to get mismatches versus linebackers and safeties. Los Angeles should also use Brandin Cooks to stretch the field vertically while attacking with Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp in the medium and short game. This year, I expect McVay to take more shots deep as Goff continues to develop.
The offense didn’t get a ton of action in the preseason so they could come out rusty. Moreover, they’re not very deep on the offensive line outside of their starters. They are waiting for a spell back to emerge behind Gurley too. Tavon Austin was dynamic in that role last year but is there anyone else capable of that on the roster now? Moreover, they could use some more consistency at the tight end position between Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett.
Ultimately, the Raiders gotta find different ways to get pressure and force Goff into some mistakes otherwise this might be a long day with Oakland getting picked apart.
Here’s a breakdown of Wade Phillips
Everyone knows Wade Phillips is a legendary coordinator. Sure, he’s had mixed results as a head coach but defensively he brings a lot to the table. He’s led great defenses even before the Rams including the Super Bowl winning Denver Broncos.
Versatility is huge in Phillips’ scheme. It is a 3-4 defense sure but Phillips uses a wide range of concepts. That should include different fronts since the Rams defensive line is incredibly versatile and the LBs leave much to be desired. The point is, don’t expect all zone blitzes and two-gapping from Wade Phillips. He’s too smart to not like Donald and Suh get upfield and penetrate. He should also get aggressive in coverage because he has a lot of ball hawks across the secondary.
Run defense has plagued the Rams for a while. Part of that is their aggression against the pass and the other part is their younger linebackers. Either way, they’ll hope Suh sures up some of the run game. Either way, their linebackers should get tested versus a rough Raiders running offense.
Expect a battle of wills between the Raiders offensive line and defensive line. Whoever gets more push in that battle should win this game. Oakland’s re commitment to the running game gets a huge first test here.