2021: Back and More Silver than ever

Last season doesn’t really deserve an exit blog post. That is why you won’t find one on this blog. It’s also cause I’ve spent the last year raising teenagers. Thus, this is probably the least I’ve written about the Raiders over the last five years. Time to make up for lost time before the Raiders officially welcome fans to Allegiant for Monday Night Football..

2020’s Conclusion

Insert your favorite failed milk carton challenge and that’s what last year feels like for Raider Nation. The Raiders headed towards the right direction despite us all knowing it was built on a crooked foundation.

They reset the team pretty hard after a 6-3 start resulted in another missed playoff attempt. Many thought that would finally mean a new quarterback. Sike. Derek Carr is still leading the helm. At one point, they were even talking about extending dude. It’s not bad given the Lions got two first-rounders for Matt Stafford. AKA there was a premium even on solid-good quarterbacks.

This time the offensive line took the blame. Gone is staple Gabe Jackson. Trent Brown, once a marquee free agency acquisition, shipped for greener New England Pastures. Rodney Hudson is out of here too. Watch Hudson and Jackson both fill missing pieces for their respective NFC West teams. Davontae Booker and Nelson Agoholor are not returning on offense and that hurt a bit. Both were real bargains turned bright spots. It’s not surprising they left for more money and better opportunities.

Last season, our secondary never came along. The young players like Arnette and Abrams struggled along with many others. At least, Erik Harris and LaMarcus Joyner finally left the Silver and Black behind. Daryl Worley is gone too. Nevin Lawson is finally out as of the preseason. We were tired of seeing them in other team’s highlights.

Jeff Heath surprisingly got his walking papers. Despite getting picks, he was let go. Fellow former Cowboys Maliek Collins was not brought back. Raekwon McMillan, Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley never did much for the Raiders so they are out too. No use crying over spoiled defenders.

Arden Key and Mo Collins joined the 49ers after the Raiders wouldn’t even give them a shot to compete for a job. It’s ok because they underperformed but it was not that long ago we thought they would be still. Sorry to Reggie McKenzie’s draft picks. Derek Carr is the best one left.

Offseason Recap

Jon Gruden went out and hired one of the best defensive coordinators, Gus Bradley, to make this unit competent. He wasted no time putting together a new defense. Yannick Ngakoue joined as the marquee pass rush signing, despite all his previous Raiders trolling. Quinton Jefferson came from the Bills as a cap casualty. Soloman Thomas is a redemption project. The former top-five pick is still trying to stay healthy mentally and physically as he ascends in the league. Johnathan Hankins was brought back as the run stuffer.

Darius Philon was out the league but he is back with Bradley, his DC from the Raiders day. At least, David Irving is gone…

Safeties Trevon Moehring and Tyree Gillespie were added as good values in the draft. Rasul Douglas and Casey Hayward were added as vet corners to compete. Douglas didn’t make the roster. Karl Joseph came back after a really good year in Cleveland. It was surprising how cheap too.

On offense, their best signing was backup running back Kenyan Drake. The Raiders got a lot of flack for the signing since they were already good in the backfield. At least, Drake and Jacobs are good friends and know how to work together.

The team also drafted a right tackle with their first pick. Many people saw Alex Leatherwood as a developmental tackle taken too high. Many people, including me, thought the same thing about Kolton Miller but we were wrong. Either way, the tackles taken above Leatherwood are both banged up right now. Not a bad pick after all?

Otherwise, the team tried to replace Agoholor with John Brown. Brown asked for his releases after not being happy with his role. They also added veteran Willie Snead for some veteran presence and junk work. Zay Jones was brought back. It’s not the huge moves Raiders fans hoped for but they really believe in Hunter Renefrow, Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs III taking the next step. Cough, if you have three, you have no alpha. Either way, I think Snead is a versatile backup who fits the group. Jones and Carr get along well. The young guys hopefully take the next step developing as consistent starters.

Anyways, Denzelle Good is also back. He saved us in many OL crunches. Shoutout Khail Barnes! Andre James is also getting a lot of hype as Hudson’s replacement. Free-agent signee Nick Martin was supposed to push him in camp but I do not think that happened. There’s been a lot of talk about Andre James’ chemistry with Derek Carr this camp. Patrick Omameh and Richie Incognito are back. Incognito is already banged up and Omameh has never been more than depth. Omameh didn’t even make last roster cut. Hopefully, Jon Simpson can take the next step so we don’t rely on them.

Oh, Marcus Mariota also came back. The Raiders may trade him before the year ends or they put in a package just for him. They could use him like Baltimore used RGIII in spots or how the Saints used Hill in gadget formations.

The Draft

Once again, this draft could be defined by who the Raiders did not take. They kept the status quo at receiver and quarterback despite the blog-o-sphere hating it. They drafted more offensive linemen and defensive backs because their track record with developing those players is bad the past decade. Sorry Tanner Muse, another wasted third round pick. Muse should fit in Seattle though. Time will tell how we remember the 2021 class but the Raiders need Leatherwood to dominate instantly if they want to have a shot at the playoffs.

2021 Hope

Speaking of hope, the Raiders have some for the first time in a bit. Allegiant Stadium and the practice facility in Henderson are state-of-the-art. Hopefully, their A.C.s are too with that Vegas heat. LOL.

Right now, tickets in the blackhole are selling like at over $700 each. It’s a few hundred dollars just to get in the seats. Raiders Fans have been to games at Allegiant but imagine the playoffs? Hope we can all afford to make the trip. I’d hate to see the stadium gentrified with corporate betting sponsors and not Raiders fans. Well, I guess it’s better than shit on your feet from overflooded toilets when you’re peeing at halftime.

SoFi Stadium

Speaking of new stadiums, SoFI is everything good and bad that you heard. Yes, there’s traffic and it’s also the best football viewing experience I have ever felt. Corporate sponsorships are everywhere but that place was packed with Raiders fans when I went to watch us play the Rams. It’s definitely worth going to, especially when the Raiders play the Chargers on Monday night. Catch me in section 211.

AFC West

In Kansas City, the Raiders hold confidence as they nearly beat the Chiefs twice last year. However, that team should be just as good. Meanwhile, the rest of the Raiders’ AFC Rivals got better.

As for the rest of the AFC West, the Chargers do actually look good. I caught a few of their practices since I live in L.A. Justin Herbert might be the best quarterback in the AFC West, not named Pat Mahomes. The defense should also get healthy but to to be determined.

The Broncos added Teddy Bridgewater which should make them legit. Their defense also gets Von Miller back. Bridgewater with those weapons will be decent at the least.

Thus, the Raiders can’t just pencil in four division wins. They are going to win. If they don’t it should cost Jon Gruden his head. The coordinators and roster took the fall the past two years. It’s Gruden who should next if the Raiders can’t bring a playoff game to Vegas this year.

Those are high expectations but they come with having the most tenured quarterback and highest-paid coach in the division. If all you need was a defense, Bradley and the new additions should solve that… Right?

Something In the Water

You’ll notice I left Denzel Perryman and Gerald McCoy out of the acquisition segment. Why?

I wanted McCoy five years ago and Perryman two years ago if not when they came in the league. They always had the athleticism and chip on their shoulders to be Raiders.

Unfortunately, McCoy is off an injury. He joined the team late so he must have some juice left if they liked his workout? Or, they have no confidence in all the defensive line help they enlisted in free agency. It just felt weird.

Same for Perryman. They could’ve signed him this year or last. How did he not win a job in Carolina? The Raiders have invested in free agency and drafted the position in the past years. Usually, I go for adding veteran leadership and seeing what a player can bring.

Except for this time it feels like Vegas must not feel like they have enough if they traded for Perryman this late and flirted with K.J. Wright. They brought in Wright after final roster cuts. We will see what these guys have left when they have to chase LaMar and those AFC West Tight Ends.

I get Gus Bradley wants guys he knows, who also know his scheme. However, do you go back to your thing from two or three years ago if you got a better one five years younger? Hell Nah…

Guess we will find out in Week One

The Ravens come to Vegas and it will be a real test for the Raiders. Baltimore and the Raiders usually end in a dramatic fashion. This one shouldn’t be different. Lamar Jackson is a God and they added Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman to give him more weapons. Bateman got hurt but Hollywood Brown should be back. Good tests for the Raiders improved secondary and pass rush.

Baltimore also features veterans across the offensive and defensive line. Our revamped units will have a real tough matchup. The Ravens’ biggest test includes figuring out their own pass rush on the edge.

Oh yeah, Marcus Peters also comes to town. Although it’s not his town, you know he always has extra gear for the team he grew up loving. Let’s see if he can pick off Derek Carr and take one to Vegas’ end zone for Oakland. I’d hate and love to see that for the town. (Tear I wrote this before he got hurt! Prayers for Peters for real.)

The Ravens also had several injuries in their running back room. Their top-two runners both went down with injuries. They signed former Raiders runner Latavius Murray after dude refused to take a paycut in New Orleans. Murray has been solid since leaving the Raiders for shared roles in Minnesota and New Orleans. It looks like the Tay Train will make a stop in Vegas only a few weeks after the Raiders thought about signing him.

As long as the Silver and Black come out flying around and running the ball, they should be able to win Week One. Many bettors are calling Vegas a lot but Raiders fans know better than to get excited about that. The opening game usually comes down to heart, excitement and execution as many teams are far from finished products.

Either way, it could be a nice statement win to show the AFC that the Raiders can take down playoff contenders. All eyes will be on Gruden and the Raiders Monday Night as they start their quest to finally make the playoffs under their legendary coach.

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Raiders Rants: No Let Down Vs K.C., How to Beat the Falcons and more.

Last week’s Sunday Night Football loss to the Chiefs was hardly a setback. The Raiders fought hard, down four starters and limited practice time due to COVID.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not sure Cory Littleton, Clelin Ferrell or any one else prevents the Chiefs from carving up the Raiders on that last drive. Still, they fought hard and competed versus a rival and the reigning champs.

There were some bright spots like the hobbled offensive line not giving up a sack. Las Vegas also spread the ball around through the air. Agholor and Waller continue leading the team as pass catchers.

It would have been nice to see them stick with the running game a bit more. Their defense also got another int versus Mahomes. Shoutout to Trayvon Mullen.

Still, they gave up over 100 rushing yards. Both Tye Hill and Travis Kelce caught over 100 yards. They did not get a sack on Mahomes either. Considering all that, it’s hard to believe the Raiders were a few moments from winning the games.

This week they play an Atlanta Falcons team that is better than their record indicates. They’ve lost a few close ones and blown a few big leads. Gruden called Atlanta the best 3-7 team he has seen. The Falcoons have a win and a loss to Carolina, a loss to the Saints and a win over the Broncos. The Raiders beat all three of those common opponents.

A loss last week was not a setback as the Raiders still hold playoff position in the seventh seed. That could easily change with a loss to the Falcons as their are seven teams at 6-4 or 7-3 with Vegas.

The Silver and Black can’t afford to give the Falcons any rhythm on offense. Atlanta will be down Todd Gurley and could also be without Julio Jones and TE Hayden Hurst. On defense, the Falcons could be down Dante Fowler Jr.

That offense down those pass catchers is good for the Raiders considering last week’s safety play. Erik Harris could also miss this game while Ferrell is expected to return. Cough, sign Earl Thomas.

Either way, the Raiders need to continue establishing their identity as an offense that can pound the ball and convert big plays on third downs and carry that into the red zone. All that starts up front with the offensive line which continues to play at a high level down bodies.

Defensively, they got to find ways to take the ball away and make plays on the QB. It’s good this group is playing physical and fast, especially versus a juggernaut like the Chiefs. However, it does little good if they keep getting carved up in the pass and run.

Swagger is great until you give up a game winning TD. Their hodgepodge secondary of veterans and young players needs to keep working through their lumps. As up and down as they are in the back end, the pass rush could do them more favors this week if Ferrell plays.

This week, the team signed two players on the right side of thirty who know the Falcons. Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley both teetered on draft bust before leaving Atlanta via free agency this offseason and the waiver wire. McKinley heads to injured reserve where they hope they can stash him. Beasley might not be active this week.

Nonetheless, I hope the Raiders got some defensive intel and play calls from the guys who were once supposed to be book ends for the team. The first round picks flashed potential in Atlanta but neither put together the consistency expect. Still, Las Vegas needs that top end athleticism in their front seven. Both guys are scheme versatile and should push for playing time once they are healthy. Beasley was a big part of the Falcons Super Bowl run a few years ago too.

The moves are good for the short term this week as the front seven is not playing well. It is also good for the long term if they redeem their careers. It’s the Raiders efforts to take a chance to get better that excites me. They aren’t just resting on their Chiefs win, overall record or playoff standing. Maxx Crosby needs help on the edge. He is a really good player but he can’t do it alone.

Ultimately, a win this week should be expected but that does not mean it will be easy. Atlanta has little to play for besides blowing up team’s playoff hopes. They can’t exactly do that to Vegas right now. However, the Raiders need to stay full steam ahead as they move through winnable games if they really want to contend. They need this win over Atlanta and next week against the Jets. Both games could be challenges on East Coast time zone alone. Then, they got games versus the Colts and Dolphins which could be important to playoff seeding. Plus, tough division games versus the Chargers and Broncos.

Still, you got to win this week by limiting big plays, stopping the run, rushing the passer and executing the game plan on offense. This is a tune up game but that does not mean we make it a let it down game after a tough loss versus Kansas City. Good teams don’t lose games back-to-back, especially versus teams with worst records.

Just Win Baby!

Playing with The House’s Money on Sunday Night

All division wins feel great but especially a 20+ point victory over the Broncos. It was exactly the dominating win the Raiders need as they rally confidence and winning experience en route to the playoffs. Defensively and offensively, the Raiders looked like a team focused and not distracted by COVID or Denver’s record.

Now, the Raiders will try and stretch their undefeated division record with another game versus the AfC West rivals Chiefs. We now know a lot more about this team since these two last played.

The Raiders proved they did not just get lucky by beating a playoff contending Browns team and two arch rivals. Kansas City continued finding ways to win and add some talent. This matchup is under the Sunday lights.

At this point, the Raiders are playing with the house’s money. The last victory versus Kansas City was the biggest regular season win since the Tay Train on Thursday Night. They proved themselves against the rest of the division. However, every loss counts in the tough AFC Wild Card race. The Chiefs are playing for that solo bye and a chance to redeem their only loss.

Good news, seven of the 10 players from the COVID list this week should play. Many of them starters on defense. The bad news, limited practice time before a game against Mahomes is not advised.

Still, the formula is not changing much. Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker should see a lot of work. The goal is to stay in front of the chains, keep the clock running and control the game away from the Chief’s offense.

Las Vegas continues flashing big play ability but they are still not ready to shoot it out with the Chiefs. They need a strong running performance to open up the play action. Derek Carr continues playing well on third down which should help the Silver and Black maintain long drives. Kolton Miller should return which will help both the run and pass game.

Defensively, the Raiders line looked improved since that first Chiefs game. Nonethless, Crosby can’t be the only threat to get home and sack the quarterback. Maurice Hurst could return this game which gives the Raiders back their best interior rusher.

It also won’t help being down Clelin Ferrell. Ferrell is the Raiders best edge versus the run, he slides inside and played well versus the Chiefs. Carl Nassib and Arden Key will both need to step up. Key doesn’t have a sack this year and Nassib only has 1.5.

The Raiders are also down Cory Littleton. That won’t help them cover the Chiefs dynamic pass catchers at TE or RB. The x-factors are the safeties. Let’s see if the Jeff Heath hype is real.

When the Raiders are good, it’s cause their secondary plays well. The corners get Damon Arnette for this game. He missed the last game and they can use his speed versus the Chiefs.

Ultimately, the Raiders will need 100 rushing yards, a turnover and a big play from their receivers. They can get that and a strong showing from Carr and still lose though. That’s how talented the defensing Champion Chiefs are.

Considering our record and standing in the West, I wouldn’t be mad at a loss. Obviously, another win versus the Chiefs makes a huge statement for the entire league. Either way, playing well on one of the league’s grandest stages is enough given all the adversity this team is facing due to COVID.

PS Takk McKinley is free again. Maybe the Raiders can add him to their defense assuming he passes a physical.

Taking the Chiefs Challenge

The mentor became the teacher last week. Josh Allen and Derek Carr are from the same region of California. Allen mentioned looking up to Carr and his older brother. However, it was Allen who was throwing strikes downfield.

It is Allen who went from laughing stock a few seasons ago to the postseason last year. It is Allen who has his Bills looking like a real playoff contender. The technique, mechanics and accuracy have all changed so much for Allen since coming to the league.

That’s not to say Carr was bad versus the Bills. He mixed his usual efficiency with a few good deep throws. One which got called back due to a penalty. Carr played well enough again but the defense continued to struggle.

We still don’t really know who the Raiders are. For the second week, they dropped a game to an AFC East team. Vegas looked solid in the first half of both games.

Yet, the Bills and Pats both pulled away in the second half. That’s the difference between a playoff team and a young team trying to be a playoff team. The Raiders haven’t been a second half team in decades. They need to find an identity that includes more aggressiveness and adjustments in the second.

Right now, they are resting on two wins versus the NFC South. Vegas’ defense was mediocre even in those contests. The offense is good but it is still leaving points on the board. That is not something you can afford when your team is young and your defense is mediocre on the best days.

The Champs Enter The Chat

Moving on to the Chiefs, the Raiders play their toughest division foe. Yes, you want to win every AFC West game and beat the hell out of your long-time rival.

However, is that really realistic? Are you making bets with your friends and family who are Chiefs faithful? Probably, not.

Our Silver and Black haven’t shown much versus the Chiefs in years past. They haven’t shown much to beat them this year, either. The Raiders pass rush and secondary are still lacking too much to disrupt Mahomes and cover all those weapons.

The Best Chance

Sure, the offense put together flashes. Their best chance is keeping the ball out of Mahomes’ hands by controlling the clock with Josh Jacobs and the run game. The run game should improve if Trent Brown and Henry Ruggs III end up playing. Both practiced this week and are listed as questionable.

What won’t help the Raiders is the Chiefs getting their best pass rusher Chris Jones back. Hopefully, Brown in the mix can help limit Jones. You can read more about the Raiders offensive line here.

The Raiders also need Ruggs to take the top off an aggressive Chiefs secondary. Vegas got some sparks from Zay Jones and Nelson Agholor last week. I want to see what they do with Ruggs back keeping people honest on deep routes and play action.

Carr won’t get any favors playing in Kansas City. We all know Carr does better in the Vegas home setting than in the cold at Arrowhead. The Chiefs are also one of the few teams allowing fans into game as they try and repeat as Champions this year. Carr has got to step up or Justin Herbert will surpass him as the second best quarterback in the AFC West.

A Hope

As for the Raiders defense, it all comes down to the defensive line again. The Raiders defensive scheme really relies on those front four causing disruption. Johnathan Hankins is strong against the run but we need more pressure from our tackles in the middle. Maliek Collins has not been as great as we hoped. It might be time to see Mo Hurst get even more snaps as he is the best interior rusher on the team. Clellin Ferrell moving inside should be causing more havoc too.

Our ends have been hit or miss both in the run and pass game. Ferrell is the most consistent versus both but he still needs to do more to get home to the quarterback. You can read more on the Raiders defensive line grades here.

Either way, it’s not the Raiders defensive line’s fault their backers are not filling. It is not the d-line’s fault the safeties are taking bad angles or if the corners get beat.

Regardless, the Raiders have limitations on their defense. The best way to neutralize this, especially versus a team like the Chiefs, is with your d-line finding another gear.

Keep It Competitive

Sure, the Raiders are over matched. That doesn’t matter. It’s the Chiefs. You got to find a way to win your division games, especially when you hate your rivals as much as we hate Kansas City.

Moreover, a win would really get the Raiders’ confidence on track headed into the Bye Week. It will give them a key win. We will also be one step closer to knowing if this team is a playoff team or just a young team who is competitive for one half a week, again.

Ultimately, we need this game to be competitive. It will catch the attention of every one if the Raiders surprise the Chiefs this week.

Plus, no one wants to get blown out by their division rival. That might happen versus Mahomes and a high powered offense. In that case, the Raiders have a Bye Week and more out of conference games to lick their wounds.

Point is, the Raiders don’t have much to lose. At the very least, I want them to take some chances and make some adjustments in the second half. Show something different. Do something surprising you haven’t done before this season. Bust out all the stops versus the juggernaut contender.

Don’t forget that Raiders swagger and heart. Just Win Baby! Don’t got out like no punks versus the Chiefs. Don’t quit even if the scoreboard isn’t in our favor.

Should we expect them to win? Probably not. But will we be cheering, praying and hoping? Fuck Yes! It’s a new chapter in one of the oldest rivalries written. Vegas Baby!

Lessons from the collapse to the Chiefs

What did we learn from the Raiders collapse versus the Chiefs in a 28-10 loss despite the Raiders early loss?

First, the Chiefs are again the class of the AFC West still. Oakland looked like they could be sneaky good when they were up 10-0 early versus their rivals. Then, the Chiefs turned it on for a quarter and that was it. They coasted their way to the win.

Second, the Raiders are better than Denver but not by much. Sometimes, when something like that 10-0 lead seems too good to be true it probably is. Even if the Raiders aren’t as bad as some thought they were that doesn’t mean they’re as good as the elite Chiefs.

Last, maybe the AFC West isn’t as good as any of us hoped. The Raiders have played a third of their division schedule already and split the results. On one hand, they’re better than Denver but the Broncos at least kept it close. The Chargers on the other hand lost thanks to some kicking yet again. They own the same record as Oakland after a loss in Week Two. To be determined.

Either way, the Raiders got to find a way to build around that 10-0 start and forget the rest. Their pass rush and secondary looked closer to last year than the week before. Carr too.

The schedule is too tough. Oakland needs wins fast or it might get ugly. There’s no one that’s gonna save the Raiders. The guys on the trade block are mostly expensive DBs. Sure, Ramsey might help but he ain’t playing defensive end. Oakland already has too much invested in the secondary. You got Joyner’s fat contract. Conley, Mullen, Abram and Joseph are all high picks. Riley, Worley and Harris are supposed to be good vets. Don’t forget the wasted pick on Obi. Oakland can’t afford trading a high pick or paying a big contract for a DB. They need more pass rush and it’s not clear that is out there on the trading block.

The point is, the Raiders got outclassed by the Chiefs. It won’t be the last time they’re overmatched. I think the game was a reality check for the Raiders after they bullied a sorry Broncos team. Oakland won’t be home for a while which means they got to find a way to put that collapse behind them and Just Win Baby!

The Marcus Peters Effect

Marcus Peters got traded to the Los Angeles Rams which should make them one of the best defenses in the NFL.

For Raiders fans, addition by subtraction is what they say when a three-time pro bowler leaves your division. However, when it is a 25-year-old, Oakland-native traded for a second-rock pick there are some serious questions about why?

The narrative is that Peters was a a cancer in the locker room including his time at Washington. He had an altercation with the Raiders in 2017. He almost got kicked out for throwing a referee flag last season. Still, Peters did not have a problem with the Chiefs. They’re moving in a new direction as a team anyways.

Regardless, Peters is a top talent in the NFL. The 28 teams who passed on Peters did themselves a disservice including the Raiders. Finding a second round player who can instantly impact games likes Peters is a long shot. It’s laughable to think that was the highest comepensation.

Peters is an athlete who changes games with his abilities to create turnovers. Oakland desperately needs that kind of impact in the back end as their consistently ranked towards the bottom in pass defense and turnovers.

As for the Raiders, their trade history is non-existent under Reggie McKenzie. It would have been nice for them to take a chance on a player like Peters for a second round investment. Their history of second round draft picks under Reggie McKenzie like Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr. and Menelik Watson have not had half the impact Peters has had or will have.

Additionally, Oakland will look to add a corner in the draft or free agency. Trading for Peters would’ve fulfilled a need in less time than a rookie and for less money than free agency.

Of course, the Raiders and Chiefs are unlikely to make a trade since their both in the AFC West. Peters’ questionable incidents and upcoming payday also make him a risky investment. Still, the Raiders should’ve considered the Oakland native and proven commodity.

It makes sense that the division rivals couldn’t come to a agreement. However, the Raiders should not have let an all-pro corner in his prime slip from their grips. It was a move  that was unlikely for the Raiders.

Nonetheless, it is disappointing that they officially let this trade happen under their nose. Oh well, I guess we will all watch Peters dominate as a Ram. Hopefully, the Raiders can get their own corner position filled out now.