Raiders must beat the Colts

Vegas needs to beat the Colts. Indianapolis is in their own slump. They just fired their coach and hired former player Jeff Saturday. The former o-linemen was in a special role with the team but not as a coach.

The Raiders lost a close game to Jackcsonville but honestly it should not have been that close. Jacksonville kept giving the Raiders opportunities on offense late. The Jaguars also helped the Raiders out with miscues the team capitalized on early.

Vegas struggled with the Jaguars length and speed upfront. You saw that on the couple of sacks.

They found Davante Adams early and offen but got away from it. We know how Adams feels about it. The Raiders also got away from Josh Jacobs. Again, I’ll put that more on the o-line and play-calling. Jacobs ran hard and made much of nothing.

Defensively, Vegas faced a winnable matchup. Jacksonville has some veteran experience and athleticism but they were not elite. They still found ways to dominate the Raiders with double teams. The Jags also found ways to use the quickness and explosiveness of the Raiders with some fakes. Vegas did not get home to the quarterback and that includes Maxx Crosby.

2-7 with a loss to the 3-6 Colts means the season is even more over. Vegas needs to come ouy and execute. Even in their two wins, they never got all threee assets if the game rolling.

The Raiders face a tougher matchup on offense. This defense features Yannick Ngakoue and DeForest Buckner. They have 9.5 sacks between them. They both play with the hands, length and leverage that can give the Raiders problems. This will be the best inside/outside defensive line combo the Raiders have faced. Yannick knows the line well from his one-year in Silver and Black.

Offensively, the Colts have some size and soeed that can give the Raiders problems. Vegas signed Sidney Jones to give them some size and speed outside. He played solid for the Seahawks last year and he is under 30. It is a low-risk and high-reward signing for the Raiders. They can also play Amik Robertson at safety more with John Abram gone. Same goes for Nate Hobbs whenever he returns.

Vegas also needs to probe theh can stop the run. That gets a bit harder with Blake Martinez announcing his retirement this week. Martinez was solid, despite being thrust into a starting role immediately due to injuries. The Raiders interior linemen needs to play stout and with gap integrity. Denzel Perryman and Jayvon Brown play better when they can run around not have to worry about blockers as much.

We know how tough Jonathan Taylor runs. Vegas needs their safeties and linebackers to make tackles. They can’t have any lapses in coverages or penalties that give the Colts a big play.

Vegas needs to take what they want on offense. Get the ball to Adams and Jacobs. Let Hollins and Moreau find mismatches. Stay in front of the chains with short down and distance.

Again, the defensive line is challenged with trying to disrupt the quarterback. The Colts offensive line and quarterback are their weakest links. That means it’s on the defensive line to get some sacks. This is the kind of game where Chandler Jones and Clelin Ferrell earn those millions. It’s also a game Maxx Crosby can dominate.

Vegas can only unlock their true potential as pass rushers if they stay true to the run. This offense runs through Taylor and they will never get a chance to sack the QB if Taylor keeps moving the sticks.

Every week we talk about how the Raiders need to execute for four quarters. They need to take what they want on offense and make turnovers on defense. It’s simple but the time is now. Vegas is playing for every breathe in their season. Can they find their winning ways versus the only team more underachieving than them?

Raiders vs Jaguars: How Vegas Can Bounce Back

The Raiders need a win. That outing versus the Saints doesn’t merit two articles. That’s a game you watch once and move on from. Vegas showed up for a shootout but got shutout. 

What we learned from the trenches versus New Orleans

Offensively, the Raiders started the same offensive line for a third time. We saw the o-line play well versus a contending Chiefs team that’s a bit light upfront. They looked solid against a competitive but not great front in Houston. This week they got dominated.

Dylan Parham continued showing some of the same issues in pass blocking as far as staying square, bent and keeping his head up. Andre James had his worst game yet, with some of the same issues. Ale Bars wasn’t great either. Collectively, the group gave up three sacks. A couple of those started with inside pressure. However, Edges Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport also brought the length and speed that gave the Raiders tackles some problems.

You saw that with how Derek Carr barely threw for 100 yards, along with an interception and no touchdowns. Josh Jacobs averaged 4.3 yards per carry on only 10 carries. They had to get away from the run game as the score got out of hand.

On defense, it was much of the same as all season. They made some plays but Crosby needs help. Nobody got a sack but a lot of that credit goes to Saints QB Andy Dalton for getting the ball out quick.

Andrew Billings can only do so much. He got upfield and disrupted the interior blocks but the Raiders needed more versus an Alvin Kamara and Taysum Hill rushing attack.

Vegas honestly missed Johnathan Hankins eating up two blockers. Even if he doesn’t push the pocket or play in the backfield much anymore, his size and length allowed him to anchor against double teams and stalemate blockers. The Raiders linebackers missed that.

Chandler Jones looked better but he had the easiest matchup of all the defensive line. The Saints feature a solid offensive line top to bottom and the Raiders looked over matched despite a few plays here and there. Neil Farrall had some moments where he got upfield but there were other times he got ate up by the double-team.

Clelin Ferrell had his worst game as a pass rusher. Bilal Nichols got pushed around as a run defender. I have not seen Kendal Vickers do much. They need help inside besides Billings. They are last in sacks for a reason.

 I’ll admit I sped through most of last week’s tape. I watched it live any ways.

Trade deadline breakdown

If you had Daniel Carlson in any of your fantasy leagues, you probably were sad too as he’s the Raiders most consistent scorer. The only thing more disappointing was the trade deadline.

Vegas did nothing. It was reported they made calls but they had nothing great to sell. They have not shown enough to leverage the future. Nothing to buy or sell multiple outlets reported. 

It would have been great to see the Raiders make some additions and roll the dice. They could’ve used a receiver, some offensive line help, a defensive back and a stout pass rusher in the interior. Unfortunately, good players at those positions don’t get free and if they do it costs a lot.

The Raiders chose to develop from within and let the expiring contracts they have free up some cap space in the offseason. We’ll see what happens but this team lacks talent at some key positions. Players need to take a noticeable jump through bonding or grasping the full schemes. Otherwise, we’ll just get more of what we’ve seen the first part of the season.

What is this team?

Perhaps this team peaked too early. Maybe those close loses early were on the other teams. Can the Raiders get better with what’s on the roster? 

Maybe that whooping is what the Raiders needed to wake them up. There’s no time to figure out how to win. This team is filled with veterans and young players who have something to prove. They aren’t good enough to say we’ll just stay the course. Forget could’ve, would’ve or should’ve. 

Last year, the Raiders stayed the course amid chaos. This is not that team. It might actually be better talent wise but the execution isn’t the same. Mark Davis can say whatever he wants about the Head Coach but it’s the players who will decide. They are all spending time together on the road in Florida as they prepare for Jacksonville. Is it enough for a bounce back road win?

I’m not ready to fully write off Josh McDaniels yet but he has to get out of his own way. Maybe he is not used to forcing the ball to an alpha like Davante Adams but he’s got to get him in the ball. The Raiders also need to rely on Josh Jacobs more early to get them started. 

Moving onto the Jaguars

The Jaguars are also looking for a win. They’re young but they’ve invested in free agency and they have young players they are trying to build around with a winning culture. Jacksonville could easily get hot versus the Raiders defense. They are in the second half of the league as far as passing yards and touchdowns.

Can the Raiders play desperate? Will they play like they know they can win? How does this team bounce back from that loss will tell us a lot about what they think about their leaders, including the coach and quarterback. Ownership and the front office too.

The Raiders can stop the bleeding with a win in Jacksonville. Then they head home to play Indianapolis at home. The Colts have their issues which makes that a winnable game. A couple of wins strung together is what the doctor ordered.

We know the Raiders haven’t traveled great in recent years, so a east coast road win helps the team’s confidence too. However, another loss and the season is virtually over. There’s nothing that this team has showed this season that proves they can go on an extended streak. They haven’t even won back-to-back games this year. 

What are the Jaguars?

Jacksonville is in the bottom ten for passing defense as far as yards and sacks. They have allowed nine rushing touchdowns which puts them in the bottom ten of the league. They are in the twelfth least rushing yards. All that means the Raiders offensive efforts could go either way.

Tackles Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor arerated positively by PFF bu they’re tied for the 44th spot out of 78 tackles. Center Luke Fortner is ranked 30th out of 37 at his position. Guards Ben Bartch, Tyler Shatley and Brandon Scheriff rank from 46-53 out of 81. Again, this could be a winnable matchup for the Raiders or they could get dominated by an under performing but capable group.

The offensive line faces some tough challenges with Travon Walker, Josh Allen and Arden Key. They’re all lengthy, fast and twitchy enough to give the Raiders tackles problems. We saw glimpses of that in the preseason.

Keys to beating the Jaguars

Jacksonville is young and healthy. They lost four straight games by a score or less. A game versus a floundering Raiders team is exactly what they need. The Jaguars could be the definition of mid. They could also be an ascending young team depending on the week and opponent.

Vegas is a team trying to save their season and establish their identity. Davante Adams was added to the injury report for an illness and Carr is apparently battling a back injury. Mack Hollins is on the injury report and we’re waiting for Darren Waller to finally return too. It’s hard to make a prediction because we don’t know what this Raiders team is.

Ultimately, the Raiders need to get the ball to their playmakers. Josh Jacobs is PFF’s top rated back. They need to get him the ball early and often. This allows them to prevent long third downs which hurt Derek Carr and the Raiders limited pass blockers. It also sets up the play action for deep shots down field.

Davante Adams also needs to be a consistent target. Get Adams the ball, whether it’s jet sweeps, deep passes, screens or intermedate routes. Carr also needs to sprinkle in his other weapons. Doesn’t matter if it’s Hunter Renfrow, Foster Moreau, Mack Hollins or Darren Waller. Carr needs to find the mismatch outside of getting the ball to Adams.

Defensively, the Raiders must play discipline. Christian Kirk and Zay Jones can expose the Raiders corners on the outside. Running back Travis Etienne and tight end Evan Engram could give the Raiders linebackers and safeties issues.

The Raiders defensive line needs to stepup and do something. Crosby needs to get home but he needs help from Jones, Ferrell and company. The last thing Vegas wants is Trevor Lawrence standing back without pressure and finding his rhythm.

If the Raiders can play like we think they can, there’s no reason they don’t live Florida with a win. If they play like they did last week, this game could definitely go the other way. Regardless, there’s no room for error. The Raiders need a win and they’ll have to take it from the jaws of a young Jaguars time with the talent to give Vegas problems.

Losing to a younger team that is farther from learning how to win could crush the Raiders. Losing to a team in the rebuilding process with former Raiders like Zay Jones and Arden Key could easily kill the Raiders season. A win keeps the dream and hope alive for a little bit longer. What will the Silver and Black do?

Is everything alright?

The Las Vegas Raiders made headlines as the first team to open camp. And there were no holdouts. Now, it’s zero week in the preseason and the Raiders will look to showcase young talent versus the Jaguars.

Ghosts of seasons past make us feel hesitant go get our hopes up. However, this is the highest expectations the Silver and Black has earned in a minute.

Don’t expect them to win tonight’s game. Josh McDaniels is from the Bill Belichick coaching tree which means he could care less about exhibitions.

Improved Roster

Regardless, this is the first year in recent memory, you can look across the roster and not find a glaring need. At the very least, there appears to be a plan in place for each player slated to make the 53-man roster.

From top to bottom, there is not a player that jumps out as not being ready to contribute in some way. Even on the two playoff teams we have seen in the last decade, there were tragic needs overlooked and underperforming picks on scholarship. This is a credit to the front office overhaul, bringing in Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler from the New England Patriots.

Don’t forget the front office overhaul also includes the appointment of the first ever Black Woman team president in NFL history. Sandra Douglass Morgan is a staple in Vegas Sports and is saying all the right things. I can’t wait to see what the on-field product looks like with front office operations finally moving into this decade.

Some credit also goes to Derek Carr. The Raiders elected for consistency at the quarterback by keeping Carr this offseason. This roster showed their support for the quarterback through offseason workouts and showing up for camp on time and ready to go.

Great Power and Great Responsibility

All the national media is finally noticing the Raiders again. That’s great for Raiders fans finally hearing talk on their favorite national programming.

However, the team has to deliver. They will not get overlooked. Teams will take them seriously.

Still, increased expecations are not surprising since the Raiders got better after coming a few plays short of beating the AFC Championships in the Wild Card game. The Raiders have two elite pass rushers, a solid backfield, plenty of starting experience on both sides of the line of scrimmage and athletic veterans across the skill positions. We have not seen this much hype since the year after Carr’s leg injury or Gruden’s second season. Neither times resulted the way fans hope but this is a different team and regime.

Missing Johnathan Hankins, Denzelle Good and others early in camp hurt. However, that’s more reps for younger players like Malcolm Butler, Johnathan Simpson and rookie guard Dylan Parnham. Cotton Lester has been one surprising team gettkng first team reps. That could be a blessing in disguise, whether or not they get the vets back.

The Big Bad West

Of course, the Raiders’ biggest challenge will come from the AFC West. The Raiders can answer those questions right away with an opening game at the Chargers aka another home game. They will face a familiar for with Khalil Mack now with the Bolts. The last time the Raiders saw Mack he literally beat them and put the Bears on his back.

The Broncos are going through their own renaissance by acquieing Russell Wilson and changing ownership. Kansas City won the division the last seven years. They appear ready for a stepback but you can’t discount them as long as they have QB Patrick Mahomes and HC Andy Reid.

Don’t Outrun the Marathon

If the Raiders can stay healthy and come out the West with a winning record, there is no reason Vegas can’t make a serious run. This does not depend on development or fools gold. Granted, depth and young players competing never hurt a contender.

Yes, the Raiders will still need serious development from John Abrams, Trayvon Mullen, Alex Leatherwood and Clelin Ferrell. However, they will all compete for more limited roles on a much better and well constructed roster.

Carr, Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Kolton Miller and Hunter Renfrow are proven assests. Sprinkle in the best receiver in the game, Davontae Adams. Plus, all that chemistry reuniting Adams and Carr. It is no secret why this team is again becoming everyone’s favorite dark horse.

On Defense, the Raiders add Chandler Jones, Jayvon Brown and Duron Harmon to better compliment the scheme. They added Rock Ya-Sin and Anthony Averrett to compete with starters like Nate Hobbs and Trayvon Mullen. That’s as close to an A as you can get in the offseason.

Champions Aren’t Made in The Offseason

The Rams proved you can win championships taking risks on trades and free agency acquisitions. Of course, that means getting the right mix of veteran leadership and competing young players across the board.

Vegas made some moves that have many people crowning them the winners of the offseason. Not only did the Raiders attack the offseason ready to build on playoff success, but they executed and made it happen.

Sure, you can nitpick and say the Raiders could afford some help on o-line, d-line or receiver. These are the spots to watch during the preseason.

Either way, there are guys out there who can help at that position. However, that kind of feels like a luxury.

Not to mention, the Raiders have the bulk of their draft picks and cap space to leverage for another Superstar acquisition. This is why you have seen them connected to safety Jessie Bates III. Maybe the Raiders get greedy and add one of those receivers dealing with contract issues. Who knows?

The Future is Limitless

Again, credit the organization for putting together a competitve roster without leveraging the future. Add in the fact the Raiders hired a well qualified Black woman as their new President. When was the last time things felt this well and under control?

Onward and upward from past blunders on and off the field. Vegas must be ready to deliver. Carr has no excuses left with the best receiver in the game. The defense can’t go weeks without sacks with those edges. However, this is a totally different conversation than previous offseasons.

For the first time in a while, the Raiders Nation has real reason for excitement. We are not reaching when talking about the postseason. It’s a new feeling for Raiders fans who watched the team struggle for most of the two decades. All the momentum to that point starts today. Just Win Baby!

A Goodbye to Oakland and Beating the Jags

Oakland is an Experience

Everyday for the past four years I’ve woken up and looked at the Oakland Coliseum, Alameda Coliseum. O.co or whatever it is called. A few years back someone bought me a picture of the stadium printed on canvas.

It’s a reminder of the place I feel most at home.

Gruden hit it perfect when talking about the Black Hole via an ESPN article earlier this week:

“There’s something about these people. They’re nuts. They’re the closest thing to me that I’ve ever seen. We have that in common.”

You get that feeling throughout the entire Raiders gameday experience. Some of the best days of my life are the Raiders games I’ve gone to.

Last month, My friend and his wife along with me and my pops traveled to the Bay for Oakland’s final Thursday Night Football game versus the Los Angeles Chargers. It was my first night game in the Coliseum and a very tight turnaround from early Thursday A.M. until Friday the next morning.

The tailgate was as great as ever but we had to prioritize trunk space in my sedan over bringing the full BBQ and meat experience. Luckily, one neighbor from Sacramento, Ron, was a butcher. He hooked us up with a cowboy-cut steak large enough for our part of four. The tender meat possessed all sorts of flavor from the charred bone attached and the carmelized fat. It literally made our day.

I’d be lying if I said this is the only time I got help from generous tailgaters at a Raiders game. I can’t recall all the paper towels, lysol wipes, utensils and helpful hands setting up I’ve acquired from literal strangers. There is no tailgate like a Raiders game. UCLA, USC, Rams and more are cool but they are no Oakland.

Tailgating is an uncertainty headed to the new stadium. However, the Oakland tailgating experience was one of a kind. It is something you had to experience whether you were a Raiders fan or not. Sometimes, just being there feels like a win.

The Legend of Oakland 2.0

All week, there’s been great reporting from across the Bay Area. Scott Bair, Vic Tafur, Jerry Richardson, and Paul Gutierrez all taking their own angles on The East Bay’s final home game for the Raiders. Those

Various fans and legends have all talked about their favorite moments and pieces of Raiders history in the Coliseum. Of course most of them revolve around Oakland and Raiders Nation.

Kirk Morrison, hit it on the head with this quote via Gutierrez:

“The positive I took from those years was the fans, always showing up. Being a Raider and being a Raider fan is not about sports; it’s a lifestyle. One that says, ‘We don’t take nobody’s s—.”

For me, that’s what I’ll always remember. The great fans. I did not grow up to see the Badasses. I missed Madden, Tom Flores, Marcus Allen and most of the Raiders greats. Heck, I barely recall the first Gruden and Gannon days.

I will remember Raiders twitter. That time we got #DJAXtoOakland trending. Or the many free agents we tried to tamper with. All the second guessing of Reggie McKenzie.

I’ll remember the one playoff season. The taste of greatness I never really got to experience got delivered by a QB from Fresno St. and former NFL Linebacker turned head coach from Heyward.

I will remember the draft headaches from Jamarcus Russell all the way to D.J. Hayden.

I will remember the bit of home gamebreakers like Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, Darren McFadden and others gave us. Did we win? Nah, but the only glimpse of hope we had each week came from those guys.

How about standout defensive players like Thomas Howard, Derrick Burgess, Fabian Washington, Stanford Routt or Michael Huff. These alumni might not ever make a Hall of Fame but they’re legends and icons for those of us that never had any.

What about all the veterans that passed through. Maurice Jones-Drew, Justin Tuck, Lamar Woodley, Doug Martin, and the list goes on. Sure, we were a blimp in their career but I won’t forget the excitement we sold ourselves.

Remember Charles Woodson’s return? Or the Goat’s final game versus the Chargers on Christmas Eve. Marshawn Lynch’s addition was crazy too in its own way.

Plus, the hoggies like Jared Veldheer, Stefan Wiśniewski or Jon Feliciano. Lamar Houston, Stacy McGee, Desmond Bryant and others we developed through the years. You have to look fondly at those considering all the times we missed.

All the coaches that passed by. Some too early like Hue Jackson and Lane Kiffin. Others too late like Art Shell and Norv Turner.

The man, the myth and legend that was Al Davis patrolling the sideline in his all white and Raiders gear. The bowl cut infamy from Mark Davis that watches from the box these days. They are the foundation of the story too.

Goodbye to Raiders Nation’s Mecca

Good and bad, we leave an era behind today. No matter what the Raiders become it won’t be the same as Oakland.

A NFL.com article described it pretty well.

A pro football team born in the ebb-and-flow fires of the AFL — tinged initially with threats of bankruptcy — only to morph into a rough-and-tumble underdog puncher predestined to permanently rock the 100-year-long storyline of the NFL.

Whatever it means to be a Vegas Raiders fan it won’t be the same as an Oakland or L.A. Raiders fan. Either way, there is not much we can do but say Goodbye to Oakland.

Goodbye to the place that inspired the colors and names of the Raiders. Goodbye to the City that supported the team through nearly two decades of trash play.

Goodbye to the community this renegade team supports and represents. A place significant to culture. A place important to history whether it is the Black Panthers or Hells Angels.

Goodbye to the place that welcomed the Raiders back when they left. Goodbye to the place that welcomed me and Raiders fans from outside of the area every single week.

That’s why this hurts so much. Oakland has been nothing but great to the Raiders. It is not their fault ownership can not front a stadium like Kroenke and the Rams. This is California in 2020 and no team is getting a stadium built with tax paying dollars with homelessness and everything else on our agenda.

So this blow to Oakland is felt throughout Raiders nation because the team is not relevant. The Raiders need a lot of stuff to happen for them to have a craps chance at the Playoffs. It would have been nice to bid the city farewell with one last playoff role.

Instead, Oakland gets gifted one last mediocre season. They got to watch young talent like Maxx Williams and Josh Jacobs flash only to see them blossom in another city and time down the line. It hurts but might only hurt less if the team leaves on a high note. They got to beat the Jaguars for this to be a true Goodbye.

Either way, it will probably feel far less kumbaya and more like Cleveland, Baltimore, Seattle or any of the times a pro team just up and left the community that berthed them.

Ending On a High Note

Back to the game today. Josh Jacobs is expected to play today. You saw what the team is like without him in the second half last week. They needed a playmaker. Jacobs would’ve worn on the Titans by that point in the game.

Oakland needs better QB play. They need to create more pressure upfront. They need better receiver and DB play. These are all things I’ve been screaming for literally every week. Some weeks it has been enough and others it hasn’t come close.

My bet is that it will come closer to enough this week. The Jaguars are in about the same boat as the Raiders. They have some talent, youth and experience. They lack the QB play to get them anywhere near consistent but they are good for a surprise.

The Raiders can not afford to come out slow. They can not afford to mess around because the Jaguars will surprise them. They matchup well especially with their strong defensive line.

Still, the Silver and Black got to bring it together for a win. They got to come out hot and hyped. They better since it is Oakland’s final week as host. For now, all I’m screaming about. Goodbye to Oakland. But I’d like to toast to one more win in the Easy Bay.

 

Raiders got it right with Del Rio

Call it uninventive, or predicted but the Raiders got it right hiring Jack Del Rio.

The former Jaguars Head Coach wasn’t much of a candidate for any other coaching jobs but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t the perfect fit for the Raiders.

Granted, Interim Head Coach Tony Sparano earned the support of veteran players like James Jones among others. Still, Del Rio’s experience as player and coach combined with his connection to the Bay Area just made a ton of sense. So much sense even Al Davis would have liked this move.

Even if he isn’t the hot, innovative coordinator, Del Rio still had a top ranked defense each of the years he was in Denver. With almost 30 years of experience, Del Rio should net some experienced coordinators. Plus you remember the last bright young minds the Raiders hired? Cough, Lane Kiffin. Cough, Dennis Allen.

Either way, a lot rides on this coming season. It is year four of the Reggie McKenzie era and both he and Owner Mark Davis need a winning season.

The Raiders are amongst the leagues’ worst in attendance and tv ratings. They have been losing for more than a decade. Plus their stadium status is in complete limbo.

Therefore, why not give the coaching reigns to someone who the fans and owner can be excited for?

He and the organization stand with a lot to prove. It took Del Rio a while to net his second head coaching gig. Del Rio understands that he must seize this current opportunity with the Raiders as there might not be a third coaching job.

For the first time in a while, the Raiders have young pieces to be excited for and signing Del Rio is just another reason Raider Nation should be enthralled for the upcoming season.

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