Lessons from the Raiders’ OL/DL versus the Texans

The Raiders started the same consecutive offensive line for the first time all season last week. That only lasted so long since Jermaine Eluemunor went down with an injury.

Munford enters the chat

Thayer Munford looked good in his most extended regular season play. He showcased some of his size, strength and movement. Munford is still figuring out his punch timing but his foot work and pad level have improved. He brought some extra push and energy to the right side.

Miller bounces back

Kolton Miller also looked better. The group as a whole only gave up one sack, despite the Texans having some length and speed off the edge. It could have been a long day but the Raiders tackles stepped up, especially once the bigger Munford stepped in.

Interior stays solid


The Raiders need to test Alex Bars too. He’s not the best at getting downfield. He’s giving them more push on their double teams and he’s solid in pass pro but he’s not consistently getting to the second level, neither is he really sealing the right sise. I still don’t know why John Simpson is not playing. He should at least get a series or two to show what he can do on the right side again.

Parham continues to improve. He played with more balance and hands versus the Texans.

Andre James has seen better games. The Texans size, strength and length upfront gave James some issues. Yet, the group also did better in pass pro and blitz pickup.

Regardless, the group helped Josh Jacobs gash the Texans for over 143 yards and three touchdowns. It was an incredible performance partly because the offensive line played with passion and cohesion. They looked noticeably tougher and more insync after the bye. There are still some things they can clean up on the edges, along with blitz pickup. However, the group is playing hard.

Addition by subtraction

The defensive line also made a change by trading Johnathan Hankins to the Cowboys for some late round picks. Hankins was a solid Raider since joining the team in 2018. He was getting better as the season went on. However, he was a healthy scratch versus the Chiefs a few weeks ago.

It was difficult for the Raiders to play Hankins with Andrew Billings playing so well. They tried to play those two together but it’s tough to play that much size and bulk, especially when the Raider already lack pass rush. 

The Cowboys get a versatile nose tackle with experience in odd and even fronts. He’s a 30-year-old veteran with a tiny bit of playoff experience. Hankins will eat some space and hold the line for Dallas. They have enough playmakers that Hankins can just focus on what he does great.

More speed upfront

Vegas will take the added draft capital. It also let’s them play more fronts with Bilal Nichols. Clelin Ferrell should also get some more looks at tackle. Both got off the rock last week. Nichols is looking a little bit better but he still gets eaten up on run. Ferrell does well holding his gap but he doesn’t do as well with the strength and timing of the guards. One of them must seize the opportunity.\

I was way too happy to see Ferrell and Jones share a sack last week. Hopefully, next time they can get their own sack respectively. I like seeing Ferrell, Nicols, Crosby and Jones out there as that’s a lot of length and versatility to use in stunts and twists.

The Mad Maxx Shoe continues

Otherwise, the defensive line has been only the Maxx Crosby show. We’ve seen him show up in pass rush but he’s also made plays in the passing lanes and he’s improved his presence in the run as the season went on. He still needs help with the pass rush side.

Big Billings holds it down

Andrew Billings continues to be the only other consistently effective player upfront. Billings is strong and uses his hands to make his presence felt in the run game. He also can push the pocket from time to time.

Other notes

No disrespect but I honestly don’t see why Kendall Vickers keeps getting reps. He gets killed in the run game. He’ll get off the ball as a pass rusher but he doesn’t bring much more than Nicols or Ferrell.

Neil Farrell has also started getting more reps the past few weeks. Farrell is a big nose who shows up in the run but not much in the pass. His presence is also probably why they were ready to let Hankins go.

Moving forward to New Orleans

Vegas will have a tougher matchup this week.

On the offensive line, the Saints feature some tough interior players including Erik McCoy, Andrus Peat and Cesar Ruiz. Peat is questionable but he holds down the left spot. Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk is also on the injury report but expected to play. Ramczyk and McCoy are among the top ten graded by PFF. Ruiz was a high draft choice and Peat was a a priority free agent for a reason.

New Orlean’s defensive line has seen better days. Their interior is a hodgepodge of adequate to solid veterans. Cam Jordan and Marcus Daveport are still playing well on the edges. They’re among the top half of their position per PFF. Jordan has 4.5 sacks on the year while Davenport has 4.5. Both are great versus the run. They have the size, length and speed to power conversation to make the Raiders have a long day.

Hopefully, the Raiders can limit some explosiveness off the edge by running the ball and controlling the clock again. This is the game where Munford or Eluemunor can prove themselves as a starter. It is also an opportunity for Miller to shoe he can be elite. It’s also an opportunity for the interior offensive line to perfect their double teams and blitz pickup.

Defensively, this group gets Andy Dalton at QB. Dalton is going to manage the clock and get the ball out quick to defenders. Hopefully, the Raiders secondary can tackle and not blow any coverages. New Orleans is down receivers but even their thrid and fourth options can hit on big plays.

Either way, it will be on the dline to play discipline enough to stop Kamara as well as disruptive enough to impact Dalton. Again, that’s easier to do if the team is playing with a lead on the road.

The last thing the dline wants is long drives with Dalton dinking and dunking his way down field. If both the ol/dl can play well and continue to show improvement, this will be the Raiders game to lose.

Raiders vs Texans: What we learned from the MNF loss, how to beat Houston and more from the Bye

Bye Week Blues

Every bye week comes and it brings ambitious of catching up on a bunch of articles. Instead, I didn’t finish my separate film article. I’m combining both columns into this week’s preview versus the Texans.

The Bye week always brings a great time to pause and rest as well as reevaluate and reassess. It’s the same thing for the players. Was a week off enough for the Raiders to show fresh legs and adjustments after the Bye Week? Or will we again see an inconsistent Raiders team that is still trying to establish an identity?

Here’s what we learned from the Raiders OL and DL before the Bye Week as well as what we need to do to beat the Texans today.

What Raiders team shows up?

The Raiders got five games to show their heart. They received a bye week to recover from underachieving. How will this team bounce back versus a Houston Texans team with the same number of wins and equal amounts of one-point loses? The Texans aren’t the most talented team but they’re filled with veterans who play hard and young players who are not afraid.

Houston has been floundering since they fired Bill O’Brien a few years ago. His Patriots style and influence ring over the Texans. The Raiders have slowly retooled their roster with Patriots influence since hiring Josh McDaniels.

Houston could be a problem

Lovie Smith picked up the Texans after David Culley was fired after a 4-13 season. Smith is a highly respected coach. He was the defensive coordinator of one NFC Champion Rams and the head coach for the last Bears team that lost the Super Bowl to the Colts. Yet, his legacy as the Texans coach might always be as the one who took over after DeShaun Watson was finally traded.

Vegas needs to stop the bleeding with a win. After this game, the Raiders move on to the easiest part of the schedule. They’ve proven they can play with every team in their division, including the Chiefs.

However, they still need to prove they can play a full four quarters of great football through all three phases of the game. That excuse has been stale for Raiders fans who have watched this for the better part of 20 years. Many great players wore Silver and Black but never sniffed postseason success. Don’t let this team continue disappointing with second half collapses or slow starts.

The Raiders should win this game but the Texans have played close in all their games. Vegas holds more talent top to bottom but they have yet to execute a complete four quarters. At home, the Silver and Black must set the tone by dominating from play one.

All eyes on the offensive line

The Raiders offensive line pushed their double teams better versus the Chiefs. That’s also why running back Josh Jacobs found success running between the tackles.

Vegas decided to move Alex Bars from starting left guard to starting right guard. Bars is still playing too high and getting beat with speed but he showed his size and strength in the run game versus the Chiefs.

Dylan Parham showed he could anchor the left side, even though he did take some lumps. Parham has started at three different positions as a rookie drafted in the third round. That’s incredible four the 6-3 interior linemen out of Memphis.

Kolton Miller had his best game of the season versus the Chiefs, according to PFF. Andre James also looked closer to his regular and consistent form.

It feels like the Raiders are finally steadying the ship at the offensive line. They need to improve their blitz pickup and they do take lumps versus speed in the pass and they struggle getting up to good backers. I’d like to see John Simpson back in the guard rotation as well as an upgrade at right tackle so Eleumunor can move inside to guard again.

Building on a big game

Vegas’ offensive line rotation seems to be finally settling down but that could all change after the Bye Week too. I still don’t think Bars is a starting guard on a playoff team, nor do I believe Jermaine Eluemunor is a starting right tackle for a good team. However, both looked competent and could get better as the season goes on. At the very least, this group has gotten better.

Moving onto the Texans, Vegas will need to keep building on their momentum with a solid effort from their offensive tackles. They helped Jacobs crack over 150 rushing yards with a 7 yards-per-carry average. QB Derek Carr was only sacked twice, not including that Chris Jones strip-sack that got reversed due to roughing the passer.

This week they’ll see one-time Raider Maliek Collins as well as run stopper Roy Lopez. Neither are great like Jeffrey Simmons or Chris Jones who the Raiders already faced, but both are formidable vets with defined roles in the defense.

On the edge, the Texans have enough length and athleticism to give the Raiders some problems. Jerry Hughes is having a resurgence with four sacks already this year. Former Seahawks edge Rasheem Green and former Rams edge Ogbonnia Okornokwo have looked good since joining the Texan’s rotation this year. The Silver and Black need a solid outing from their tackles.

The defensive line still needs help

Again, Maxx Crosby carried the front four with two sacks. Clelin Ferrell did some things to help Crosby but he still has not gotten a sack. Chandler Jones keeps finding himself in the play but he does not have the same explosiveness to make the play like a few years ago. The Raiders again find themselves in the bottom of the league for sacks.

Andrew Billings continued to look good in the interior but he’s limited as a pass rusher. The Raiders relied on Bilal Nichols again at defensive tackle. He’s a decent pass rusher but can get pushed in the run game. John Hankins was also missing from the center of the Raiders run defense.

Despite all the close games Vegas has played this year, they have not found a core-four defensive line players to finish games and win big spots. They still have to pick and choose between players who are solid against the run vs players who can rush the passer. Houston is in the middle of the pack for sacks allowed. The Texans are also in the bottom of the league for rushing yards. This is a matchup the defensive line can win in passing and running situations.

Give the ball to Jacobs

Back to the Patriots influence. The Raiders have been cute with their running back rotation all year. New England loves playing multiple backs and packages. It’s time to give Josh Jacobs the ball.

Jacobs has been the Raiders most consistent threat on offense. What the former Alabama running back lacks in size and speed, he makes up for it with effort and elusiveness. We’d all like to see him pull away a little more but he’s not afraid to finish runs. Jacobs’ cuts look way stronger. He is also being smarter about when to go down and protect his body.

Vegas just needs to give him the damn ball. Jacobs carved up the Chiefs and Broncos. The offense is different when they play with short third downs thanks to Jacobs. Darren Waller is not playing so the Raiders need an extra boost from Jacobs, particularly in the red zone.

Houston’s defense is discipline but they are not particularly strong against the run. The Texans allowed the 6th most rushing yard and they rank in the middle of pack for rushing touchdowns allowed. This should be a solid game for Jacobs and the rushing attack to eat again.

Let Davante Adams take out his frustration

We all saw the video where Adams knocked over a college student on his first day working as a freelance photographer. Adams apologized immediately after, but he still caught a misdemeanor charge and civil lawsuit from the individual he pushed.

It’s hard to blame Adams since he always says and does the right thing. Adams has been noticeably frustrated since coming to the Raiders. The team is 1-5 and his targets have gone up and down like the team’s success.

Still, the receiver registered 124 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns on only three receptions. Adams has always been a game changer so that play-making ability should not come as a surprise.

Vegas needs to again find ways to get Adams the ball early and often versus Houston. They are going to need his presence especially in the red zone since Waller is out again. The Silver and Black struggle in the red zone but hopefully Adams can make a few big plays to help them avoid that strife.

Houston is a middle of the pack pass defense. A big game from Adams should help him put the Kansas City situation behind him. It should also help the Raiders bury the Texans in an insurmountable lead.

It’s not about the Texans

The Raiders need to show a sense of urgency if they want to will themselves into the playoffs. Their chances of making the postseason decreased by a few points even though they did not play last week. They can easily blow out this AFC foe at home off talent alone.

A big win should give this team some confidence and momentum headed into an easy part of the schedule. It should also prove this team still believes in their head coach Josh McDaniels and their QB Derek Carr.

Nonetheless, they could also fall into a defensive battle with the Texans. That’s especially true if Vegas struggles stopping the run or allows big plays in the passing game due to miscues. This is the game for the Raiders to really showcase what they’re capable of for four quarters.

Bury the distractions

We’re all excited about Magic Johnson possibly joining the Raiders ownership. He was an L.A. Raiders fan back in the day and he helped the Lakers, Dodgers, Sparks and LAFC win championships in various roles. Johnson would bring diversity, connections and experience to the Raiders if the team sold a minority stake to him.

There’s been trade rumors about the Raiders exploring deals to bring back Nelson Agholor too. Rumors also surfaced that the team was shopping John Abram and Clelin Ferrell. It makes sense given neither lived up to their high draft status. However, what can you actually get for them and who are you going to play that is better?

None of that off-field conversation matters this season. Vegas will always be surrounded by talk and rumors. The Raiders need to forget all that to dig themselves out of a hole in the AFC West. That starts with just winning now, baby!

Raiders vs Chiefs Preview 2022: How Vegas can get their second win of the season

By Tuesday morning, the Raiders will have played each of their AFC West division foes. Vegas also played an NFC playoff team (Arizona Cardinals) and an AFC Playoff team (Tennessee Titans) from a year ago already this season. Neither look as good as last year, but both of those losses came down to the final series.

In scouting, they say it takes about five games to get a good baseline sense of a player. The Raiders will play their fifth game of the season versus the Chiefs. This is the game where the Raiders bring everything together. We should finally have a sense of the Raiders’ identity and expectations after Week 5.

Last year, three playoffs teams started at 1-3. Vegas still has a lot to prove before they can comfortably say they will keep that trend going this year. Regardless, the season isn’t over yet for the Silver and Black.

Familiar faces

Kansas City has been the king of the AFC West and the most consistent AFC contender since they rolled out Pat Mahomes as their starting quarterback. This year is no different as they sit at 3-1 with wins over the Chargers, Cardinals and Buccaneers. Their lone loss came to an underachieving Indianapolis Colts team.

The Chiefs don’t appear as explosive without Tyreek Hill at receiver. However, they’ve still got speed on the outside with Mecole Hardman, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valde-Scanting. Kansas City also still has shifty and versatile running backs with Clyde Edwards-Halaire, Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco. Plus, tight end Travis Kelce always gives the Raiders Problems. Patrick Mahomes also always tears up the Silver and Black.

Retooled Defense

Defensively, this group is led by Chris Jones. They revamped the safeties adding Justin Reid and rolling with Juan Thornhill full-time. The rest of the secondary are a mix of veterans and young guys, per usual. This is an Andy Reid formula the Raiders should know well. Kansas City wants to bend but not break as well as force enough pressure and turnovers to help their offense stay on the field.

A lot riding on Week 5

Vegas enters this game after two poor performances versus the Chiefs last year. They gave up 40 points and failed to score more than 14 points. The Raiders showed some promise the year before, beating the Chiefs in Arrowhead and nearly beating them in Vegas earlier in 2020.

Nonetheless, we already learned through four games this is not the same Raiders team as last year. In this case, that benefits Vegas. Last year’s team made progress by making the playoffs but they made no progress in beating the Chiefs. This year’s team can show it’s not afraid of the AFC West’s big dog.

The point is, we’ll have a good sense of what this Raiders team is capable of after they play the Chiefs. We’ve been waiting for this team to put together four quarters of winning football through all three facets of the game. They’ll need to do that this week versus the Chiefs just to keep themselves from getting blown out.

On one hand, a win puts them right back at 2-1 in the division. Otherwise, a loss puts them at 1-2 in the division and 1-4 overall. That is not a great spot headed into the Bye Week but this team should come out stronger in Week 6.

Either way, the Raiders will have some time to make some adjustments and personnel moves after the Chiefs game via their Bye. This game in Kansas City will really be the difference between the Raiders riding momentum or licking their wounds during the off week.

What do the Raiders need to do to beat the Chiefs? Here’s some keys to walkaway with a huge road upset.

Apply pressure

First off, Vegas has no chance if they let Patrick Mahomes get comfortable. The Raiders need to find ways to pressure, hurry and sack the Chiefs’ QB. They also need to stay discipline with their pass rushing lanes. Mahomes can gash up the Raiders like Wilson and Murray, except for he has a much bigger and more active arm that can make the Raiders pay. That’s d-line 101.

Play disciplined in coverage

Denzel Perryman made his presence felt in the last game versus the run. There’s a chance he plays again Monday. The Raiders will need him to not be a liability in coverage as they have speed throughout the lineup.

Jayvon Brown is solid in coverage, even if he’s not as physical as Perryman. However, Brown is expected to miss the game with a hamstring injury. That puts more pressure on Perryman in coverage. Not to mention, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce already has over 300 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.

The Vegas defensive backs have made plays the past few weeks, even if they’ve been over-matched. Despite injuries, they’ve found big plays from Duron Harmon and Amik Robertson. Nate Hobbs has continued to look great. Rock Ya-Sin made some plays and even Johnathan Abram looks better this season. Tre’von Moehrig came back and looked improved. He gives the group a little more bulk.

This group will get tested by Kelce’s size, the speed on the outside and the shiftiness out of the backfield. The Raiders defensive backs can’t afford any lapses in coverage or huge penalties. They’ve got to be solid with their tackling too. Kansas City’s receivers aren’t playing too well but the Raiders can’t be the group that helps them find their rhythm.

Please send Crosby some help

Vegas’ x-factor is their defensive line. Andrew Billings got a little bit more push in the passing game. Johnathan Hankins looked better too. Some of that could be on the Broncos’ guards. Clelin Ferrell was effective setting everyone up with his stunts. Chandler Jones’ showed up a little bit even if he lost contain a few times. Jones still needs to get home with that big pay check. Hobbs registered a sack as a blitzer.

Obviously, Maxx Crosby was a beast again with two sacks. He’s playing with more control and that shows up with his tackle for losses and impact in the run game. Crosby can’t do it alone and that’s why eyes will be on Ferrell and Jones to find ways to be effective. He might even miss this game due to the birth of his baby. This has to be the week someone else gets a sack. No one besides Hobbs or Crosby has a sack this season.

Kansas City’s offensive line is playing better than year’s past. The Raiders defensive line won’t have an obvious weak link to attack. Yet, we know we can’t beat Mahomes without applying pressure. Vegas defensive line needs someone to step up and make a play. Let’s see Croby even lineup as a DT in obvious passing situations.

This one’s gotta mean more for Carr

Derek Carr lost his first AFC West dual to the Chargers. He threw some picks that cost them. Last week, the team edged out the Broncos but Russell Wilson got the best of him statistically. Carr’s gotta have a marquee performance to show he belongs as a face of a franchise in the AFC West.

It was great to see Carr take off and run last week. It gave the Raiders an added element to their offense. People forget Derek is not slow. The Chiefs are better in the interior than the Broncos, which might make that a harder outlet this week.

Overall, Carr and company need to be better in the red zone. There’s no reason for them to be one of the worst teams in the red zone when they have Davante Adams. They found ways to get Adams the ball last week but this week Carr needs to find him in the red zone. Darren Waller isn’t a bad second red zone target either.

Keep giving it to Jacobs

Josh Jacobs is running as hard as I’ve ever seen him run in Silver and Black. That manifested a career game last week versus the Broncos. Vegas needs to keep him involved early and often.

Again, Jones will be the biggest foe to this strategy. The Raiders guards have been up and down at best so Jones might be in the backfield a lot for the Chiefs. Vegas can try and use that aggressiveness against him by sprinkling in draws and screens for Jacobs. This offense needs to keep Jacobs going so Carr gets easier reads.

A few sprinkles of Zamir White as well as end around to Adams or other gimmicks don’t hurt. Vegas needs to not only feed Jacobs but not look away if he struggles. He got better as the game went on last week. It’s nice to see him, knock on wood, not deal with any lingering injuries through almost a quarter of the season. Jacobs also could be big in helping this team turnaround it’s red zone woes.

Josh is a good receiving threat out of the backfield. His offensive line needs generate some push for him to be effective in red zone though.

Addressing the biggest red flag

The Raiders offensive line improved last week with starting center Andre James returning to the lineup. Dylan Parham continues to prove he can play anywhere in the interior. Both can improve in blitz pickup and double team timing but that will come together as they get more acclimated to playing together.

Vegas still has some liabilities at left guard and right tackle. Jones’ speed, hands and get off worry me against Alex Bars. I hope John Simpson gets another chance to prove himself. Whatever he did to fall out of the rotation, the Raiders may need him this week. He’s a bit quicker than Bars, he does better at getting up to linebacker and he is younger. Simpson looked solid and improved from last year in the first two games when he started.

Chiefs edges Frank Clark and Carlos Dunlap aren’t as great as a few years but they still could give Kolton Miller some competition. Kansas City is also starting rookie defensive end George Karlaftis. None of them have been very good this year but they could be a mismatch versus Jermaine Eluemunor who struggles with speed. His backup Thayer Munford struggles with speed and leverage which might not help either.

This Raiders offensive line has the power to be a liability or a strength versus the Chiefs. They need individual players to step up and win their battles. The Vegas offensive line also needs to come together as a cohesive unit. That should get easier as the rotation settles and they hopefully get another win. Otherwise, some changes could be made in the bye week.

All eyes on Josh

Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels started his press conference by saying the Raiders have a big challenge this week. It’s the truth.

After beating his former team and earning his first win as the Raiders head coach, McDaniels talked about how his team is figuring out how to win after those first three tough losses. That’s a hard pill to swallow for a veteran team. This will be the real test to see if McDaniels can really build a winning culture fast.

McDaniels’ gotta prove his offense can go toe-to-toe with Andy Reid’s explosive offense. The last Raiders coaches weren’t able to make the adjustments to avoid blowouts, can McDaniels? This group has far more weapons so the pressure is on McDaniels to help this offense score some points. He can really make a statement with a win over their toughest division opponent in Week 5.

Raiders vs Broncos: Trench Teachings from Win

A victory is a victory and the Raiders desperately needed one. It helps to beat a division foe they hate like the Broncos too.

Vegas rushed for over 200 yards with the trio of Josh Jacobs, Derek Carr and Zamir White. However, they were far from perfect. The offensive line gave up two sacks and a couple of crucial penalties.

The defense held the Broncos under 100 yards rushing and they did not give up a 100-yard receiver. They finished the day with three sacks, including two for Maxx Crosby. Vegas also walked away with their first defensive TD since 2019, despite having significant injuries in the secondary. Shout out to Amik Robertson for the scoop and score. However, Broncos QB Russell Wilson was still efficient completing 17-of-25 passes for two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

The game came down to the final series so the defensive TD was really the difference. Jacobs also helped the Raiders keep their lead.

Here’s more questions and lessons from the Raiders’ first victory this season.

Is Kolton Miller elite?

This is the question Raiders fans asked themselves the day Kolton Miller was selected in the first round. Since, he’s been a consistent on the left side. However, he’s yet to make the jump into the elite tackle conversation with zero All-Pros.

Miller faced tougher edges with more tools and he looked closer to his poor Week One performance versus the Chargers, than his last two games. Versus the Broncos, Miller killed the Raiders with a big penalty and gave up more pressures than any other game.

He can dominate good and solid players but the elite players get to him in the pass. Millers always been better at pass blocking than the the run game.

This week Miller faces a combination of Frank Clark, rookie George Karlaftis and Carlos Dunlap at defensive end. Kansas City is top-10 in sacks, although some of it comes from a blitz. Chiefs DT Chris Jones disrupts the interior consistently, which makes every players’ job easy. Miller needs to dominate whoever lines up on him. They need hm to be an anchor again.

Ferrell keeps improving

Clelin Ferrell hasn’t lived up to his bill as a No. 4 pick. Most people had questions he ever would, including myself. He’s said all the right things, which has made it easier to root for him.

Ferrell looks as good as ever in spots. He still makes mistakes but he deserves credit for improving and playing hard. It won’t show up in the stat sheet but his stunts helped setup Crosby. He also has one more tackle than Chandler Jones in less playing time.

Someone needs to help Crosby on the other side. It might just be Ferrell. Vegas should stop dropping him and Jones, neither look fluid or comfortable in coverage.

Parham adjusting

Rookie guard Dylan Parham moved back to his natural position at guard with Andre James back in the lineup. Parham had his best game yet at right guard. He was solid in pass pro and his quick feet really helped in the run game.

Parham still has some technique to improve but he’s ranked as one of the top players at his position by PFF. The rookie still needs to add some strength and do better with biltz pickup. He’s played all along the interior line and gets better every week. The strength and refinment will come but you can’t ask for more out of a mid-round pick.

Vegas still needs to solidify the left guard and right tackle spot but Parham gives them some hope next to James. Perhaps the Raiders should experiment with James at left guard, Parham at center and Jermaine Eluemundor at right guard. James is bigger than Parham and slates in better at guard. That scenario would require signing a healthy and competent right tackle, which is something the Raiders have not done.

James looks rusty

Speaking of James, his return made a huge difference with the run game this week. Not only is he an upgrade at center but he gives them a boost with Parham moving back to guard. James was far from perfect but he helped the Raiders on their double teams and in blitz pickup. The Raiders really missed him and this week they will need to him even more facing a tough interior presence like Jones.

James should continue to improve as he gets back into rhythm. Two weeks away from regular practice and game action threw him off. Not to mention, the Raiders offensive line around him keeps getting reshuffled. Hopefully, this group is that much closer to play as a cohesive unit with James back in the lineup.

Big plays made the difference

Amik Robertson stepped up and made a play that captured the game. Denzel Perryman made his presence felt throughout. Perryman can flow and fill much better than the other Raiders linebackers, especially when the big defensive tackles are in there eating up space. They will miss him if he does not play again and the Raiders also need to put Robertson on the field more.

The Raiders have defensive ends who can get to the quarterback and defensive tackles who can eat blocks. None of that matters if guys don’t cover and make tackles. Vegas’ defensive line can plays better when they have a lead. Players around them must make plays too.

Josh Jacobs ran hard in the last three games, but this time he finally got some blocking. He was able to find seems, lanes, alleys and the outside. Jacobs played hard all year and it was only a matter of time until he had a breakout game. Credit to the offense line getting a little bit more healthy but Jacobs deserves the bulk of the praise because he ran this hard all season.

Still Waiting

Every week we find ourselves asking the same questions. Can someone besides Crosby get to the quarterback? The Raiders are waiting for the same guys to step up on both the offensive and defensive lines. Right now, it appears they’re rolling with experience over youth.

Ferrell, Jones and Andrew Billings did a better job but Crosby could still use more help. Vegas got some help from their linebackers and DBs but they need more off the edge. They also can’t let Mahomes move around and scramble like they did Wilson.

Can this offensive line figure it out? The offensive line needs help at left guard. I still don’t really know where John Simpson is but he looked way better than Alex Bars. No disrespect to Bars but he’s a converted guard who has never been more than a spot starter. Bars’ base gets narrow, his pads get high, his feet get stopped and his hands aren’t elite. He can hold his own as a pass blocker. However, he can beat by speed and explosive hands. Jones could be a tough matchup for him.

Simpson is much better in the run game and getting up to the second level. Bars is bigger but Simpson is younger. Simpson looked better than any of his other seasons. Either way, someone needs to step up and solidify the guard position between Miller and James.

They need a secondary pass rusher who can stay on the field all three downs. Vegas is getting closer to figuring out their offensive line shuffle but they still have two key positions they need to iron out.

Headed into the bye week, some changes could be made if guys don’t step up and make plays. The answer to the Raiders questions might not walk through that door. If they get exposed versus a good Chiefs team maybe the organization will finally seek change from outside the locker room. Maybe they will finally use some of that cap space to sign a veteran tackle, guard, pass rusher or defensive tackle.

Six lessons from the trenches moving to the Titans: Raiders versus Cardinals film breakdown

The Raiders loss to the Cardinals was even harder to relive in film on the all-22. We all know the game told a story of two teams. Vegas dominated the first half before the Cardinals willed their way to a comeback win.

However, there wasn’t too much difference in how the lines played in the first or second half. The defensive line looked out of gas and the offensive line looked even more out of rhythm in the second. Both showed cracks even with the team putting up a big lead in the first quarter.

The defensive line showed up in the box score by holding the Cardinals to 3-of-13 on third down attempts. They contributed with a sack and pressures. The Raiders defense walked away with one interception but should have had more.

That was all negated by the Cardinals converting two different two-point conversions. Arizona was also successful on 3-of-5 fourth downs.

Offensively, Josh Jacobs found seems and lanes to cut back but he did not get much push from the offensive line. Jacobs ran his hardest but still only registered 69 yards on 19 carries.

Quarterback Derek Carr was only sacked once, an improvement over Week One. However, Carr deserves some credit for getting the ball out quicker. It still felt like he forced the ball but at least he helped his line by getting the ball out a quicker, particularly in the first half when the offense was scoring. Here’s what else we learned from the tape.

What’s up with Chandler Jones?

Time to address the $51 million dollar question in the room. Chandler Jones, age 32, played 90% of the Raiders defensive snaps but came up with zero sacks through two weeks. Players like Jerry Hughes, Justin Houston, Khalil Mack, and Von Miller are all over the age of 30 with more than two sacks.

Watching the tape, Jones finds his way to the ball and into the play. Yet, he hasn’t shown the same consistent explosion rushing the passer or setting the edge. Jones is still a solid player. He won some reps but Jones has not shown the same elite abilities many hoped he would bring opposite Maxx Crosby. It’s hard to tell if it’s just rust bouncing back from last year’s injuries or if father time has caught up to him.

Jones was limited in practice this week due to rest. Hopefully, he can get his legs under him and show the consistent disruption the Raiders need. There’s too much pressure on Crosby as the team’s only respectable pass rusher.

Last year, Jones registered five sacks versus the Titans in Week One with the Cardinals. This time, Tennessee is expected to be without three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan. Lewan went down with a knee injury versus the Bills. Let’s see if Jones and company can take advantage of their matchups.

More on Maxx Crosby

It’s hard to fault Maxx Crosby for much because he’s the team’s only consistent pass rusher. Keeping contain was a bigger priority versus Kyler Murray anyways.

Crosby did break into the box score with a sack and he continued to bring the heat via QB hurries and pressures. However, he could’ve walked away with at least a couple more sacks if he got his pads down and played with a little more control. Of course, tackling Murray is easier said than done. Plus, Crosby’s fire might make him whiff a few times but it also keeps him impacting plays.

Crosby found ways to consistently keep the right tackle on his heels with a barrage of power moves and lower techniques. Arizona had no answer for Crosby in pass rush situations. Thus, the great third down performance by this defense.

The Cardinals had no problem running right at Crosby. He also got beat on the option and almost got killed on a couple of read fakes.It’s not all on Crosby and the plays he made makes up for the plays he does not. He needs help.

Yet, for all the fire that Crosby brings, the Raiders need it on the big downs. They also need him to show a little more discipline in the run game, especially with more mobile QBs in the Raiders’ forecast. That’s how Crosby takes the next step as one of the greatest edge players in the league.

Where’s the defensive tackles?

We all saw the TikToks and Reels showing the Raiders tackles outran by Kyler Murray. They say the average play is about eight seconds but that infamous Murray run was twice as long. I don’t fault the group for that play. That was the wrong package for that moment in the game, even if they were prepping to stop an inside run.

The Raiders defensive line as a whole did solid at keeping Murray contained in the first half. They could have had a similar result if their offense converted some long drives or their secondary held onto an interception. Instead, they looked out of gas and got picked apart by Murray.

Arizona got away from the run game due to the big lead. However, the Raiders run defense was nothing to brag about. Upfront, the Raiders created a lot of seems and cutback lanes not playing discipline. They also missed some tackles and looked tired coming off the ball.

Johnathan Hankins and Andrew Billings were stout again but neither brings much as a pass rusher. Billings gets off the ball but his motor and athleticism is limited. It’s hard to keep Billings out there on pass downs but Hankins brings even less as a pass rusher.

Most of the big gains in the run were to the outside or due to missed tackles. Bilal Nichols looked solid in moments again. Him, Kendal Vickers and Clelin Ferrell can look disruptive one play and pedestrian the next. Vegas really needs someone to step up from the interior. They need constant disruption from the interior, other than Billings.

Vegas is not always going to be able to pick the best package versus the run and pass. They need the four best motors on the field in those big games.

James was missed

The Raiders offensive line struggled for the second straight week. They were down starting center Andre James. Unsurprisingly, the group struggled getting up to the second level and in blitz pickup.

The Left Side improved

They did a better job getting a body on body, specifically on the left side. Kolton Miller had a bounce back game, shaking off last week’s poor performance. He looked much more in control, using his feet and punch versus a group of pass rushers that weren’t as talented as the Chargers’ dynamic duo.

John Simpson got off the ball, got down field on screens and did better using his feet in pass pro. Simpson still got caught off balance and high a few times. He stopped his hands and his feet a few times in the run and pass. It was a better game for him but we still need more strength and power from him in the run game, both at the line of scrimmage and second-level.

Another rough outing for the collective

Rookie Dylan Parham struggled starting at center. His lack in size and anchor showed as bigger nose tackles pushed him around. Parham’s athleticism allowed him to get in front of people and he did his best to maneuver penetrating defenders. He did not do great getting push on double-teams. In fairness, he looked better at guard last week. Parham is learning trial by fire. It’s all about his response moving forward.

Tackles Jermaine Eluemunor and Thayer Munford continued to show their limitations. Munford is still really raw, evident by his three penalties. Eluemunor gave up two sacks. He is limited by length, size and strength. If you have two tackles splitting time, it’s cause you lack a good one.

Arizona relied on blitzes for pressure and the Raiders did a better job identifying those even if they didn’t win their individual assignments. This could have been a much worse performance if Arizona’s defensive line was better. The Cardinals lack an elite edge rusher. It could have been much worse.

Help is on the way?

That’s why they traded a sixth round pick for tackle Justin Herron and a seventh round pick. Herron started a few games with Josh McDaniels as the offensive coordinator. There’s hope he will compete for the starting right tackle spot or slide into the slide tackle role. Herron can’t be any worse than what the Raiders had the past few weeks.

Moving forward to the Titans

I wouldn’t rule Eluemunor out at right guard if Herron slides into the ride tackle role. Eluemunor won’t have to worry about as much speed at guard. It can work but he will have to worry about leverage versus more power players. He will bring more size inside to the Raiders offensive line if Parham keeps playing center. Lester Cotton Sr. is solid in pass protection but he does not give them much push in the run game.

If the Raiders get Andre James back, that will be a big boost for the Raiders offensive line. They will need him versus Jeffrey Simmons, one of the best nose tackles in the league. Simmons can also rush the passer.

All three Raiders running backs ran hard and effectively, despite uninspired blocking. Hopefully, the Raiders can establish the run versus the Titans. That starts with keeping Simmons on the other side of the line of scrimmage. The Raiders have struggled getting push and Simmons is fast off the ball and plays with strong hands.

Titans edge Bud Dupree isn’t the same elite player from a few years ago with the Steelers. He might not even play due to a hip injury. However, Dupree can still rush the passer and he has the speed and length to the give the Raiders right tackles problems.

What we learned from the trenches in Week One

Under 100 yards rushing and six sacks will not cut it for the Raiders.

The offensive line and defensive line played better than the box score indicated. It doesnt take all-22 to see a lot of the sacks were due to the quarterback holding the ball. The offense was able to convert some big plays.

The d-line was effective enough to force four punts and a failed fourth down. Los Angeles was under 50% on third down conversations. They impacted Chargers QB Justin Herbert more than the zero sacks indicate. Here’s what else we learned from the trenches in Week One.

The offensive line was beat from the jump

Los Angeles came out with much more swagger. Vegas was cheating in their stances before the snap on pass plays. Kahlil Mack’s leverage and strength was a problem from the jump. Joey Bosa’s length and hands also put fear in the Raiders tackles.

Kolton Miller didn’t regress

Miller finished with his worst PFF grade in years. He took a big shot in the back in the first that probably hurt him. His feet looked better than initially thought. Miller did well in blitz pickup. He got thrown to the ground and beat a few times because he stopped his hands or his feet. His poor outing was more of an indication of the entire group.

Guard play was not good

The guards didn’t get push on their double teams and struggled in blitz pickup. That is why this team did not run the ball effectively. Poor guard play also did the tackles no favors in pass pro.

John Simpson got caught leaning. Dylan Parham brought some extra juice when he came in. His speed was as advertised but he also got caught stopping his feet. Cotton Lester wasn’t much better. None were consistent with their pulling efforts. The Chargers tackles seemed unphased most of the day.

Andre James continues growimg

James looked more comfortable in blitz pickup and presnap. He made a few key blocks that helped spring Josh Jacobs. The second-year starter had a noticible spark off the ball. James used his hands and head placement well. A noticeable performance despite the chaos from the rest of his colleagues.

Right tackles are who we thought they were

Jermaine Eluemunor is a solid or adequate tackle but he is honestly better at guard. He doesn’t have the length or strength to really matchup with elite edges every play. Mack and Bosa both gave him problems. Eluemunor took his lumps but he kept fighting. That’s more competitive toughness than some other recent Raiders tackles.

Thayer Munford came in. He showed his youth jumping offsides. Munford got beat but he did show some potential. He has the length and feet to play tackle. It’s still unclear if he can develop fast enough to do it everyday this year. Punch timing was a little off and he gave up a little too much ground. He can fix that with some reps.

D-Line solid but not great

Andrew Billings continued to be a problem. His hands and anchor showed up in the run defense.

Maxx Crosby was also a problem. He did a lot to pressure and hurry Herbert.

Chandler Jones was solid. Both ends missed some tackles. Nobody got home.

They are paying Jones and Crosby a lot of money to sack the quarterback and create turnovers. Both stars failed to return that investment versus the Chargers. That can’t continue much more.

Still, the d-line did enough to keep the team in the game. Unfortunately, they just did not do enough to win the game. The group overall lacked cohession and consistent aggression needed to control the line.

Bilal Nichols made a couple plays. Clelin Ferrell showed a little resurgent energy getting off the rock. Johnathan Hankins was stout. They just needed more versus Justin Herbert’s combination of pocket presence and mobility.

What worries me is their conditioning. They used a deep rotation and guys still looked they were low on gas. Some added pressure from the inside could also help the ends finally get home.

It also worries me seeing the ends get too far upfield. They have Kyler Murray this week and four games versus Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes. Those issues got to get fixed or this d-line is in for some tough outs.

Don’t like Ferrell as a standup end

He looked better with his hand in the ground. The blitzes were effective and disguised well. Ferrell did not look comfortable in coverage either. It would be great to see him in the defensive tackle rotation. Perhaps he can create some pressure to help out Crosby and Jones. Ferrell just has to prove he can handle those double teams in the run.

All up from here

Ultimately, the Raiders showed good and bad upfront in Week One. The good news is they have 17 weeks to get better. The bad news is they have a lot to improve on.

Well these groups appear deeper than years past, they could still use some help. Another week in the yellow or red could mean some changes upfront.

Hence, why you saw guard Kelechi Osemele brought in for a visit and why they added center Billie Price to the practice squad. on defense, they’ve been connected to defensive Ndamukong Suh.

Hopefully, the trench play gets better this week at home versus the Arizona Cardinals. The no-preseason rust and excuses should be gone. Nobody wants to start the season 0-2. We could see some big changes on both sides of the trenches if there is not improvement versus the Cardinals.

Keys For Battling The Mack Attack And More From A Weird Week For Raider Nation

Forget about the Raiders and Chargers on Monday Night. It is not worth remembering the poor line play, ineffective running game and our QB falling into old ways.

Vegas got 21-0 skunked in the first half after the lightning delay. They came out and made plays but they never really got the offense rolling on full cylinders. Former Raiders TE Jared Cook also cooked em. One more reminder the Raiders have a long history of not covering tight ends. 

Truth be told, I won’t remember much about the game thanks to the food poisoning I got from that SoFi hotdog. What I will remember is all the Silver and Black surrounding the stadium in rain and shine. I will remember Hunter Renfrow looking like a safety making a play on fourth down. There were also notable highlights from Henry Ruggs, Darren Waller and Derek Carr. 

Still, the defense was not horrible. They kept getting in bad spots thanks to poor offense. Their secondary was also banged up. The offense took too long to wake up and they did not capitalize on a few big plays.

Either way, the Raiders find themselves looking up to the first place Chargers. The Raiders, Chargers and Broncos are all tied for the division’s lead now. It’s early in Justin Herbert’s career but it feels like he already has our number. It is his second time beating us in his young career.

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More Chaos From The Week

Our week got even weirder as Mercury continued in retrograde. First, it was Derek Carr talking about Joey Bosa’s reaction to the win. Carr felt disrespected by Bosa saying he falters under pressure and after big hits. Carr said he did not know why he said that?

C’mon Derek, you don’t know why he said that? Bosa has played and studied Carr as much as anyone as they are only a season apart and played their careers in the AFC West. Carr’s whining just made him sound weak after he got outplayed by a second year QB. It wasn’t all Carr’s fault but he did not sound like a competitor with the Mamba Mentality. There was no need for him to even respond.  

Then, the week got even weirder as the NFLPA director tried to get elected for another term. A report leaked Jon Gruden using a racial trope when describing NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith in 2011. 

Obviously, it is not a good look for the Raiders who have always stood for diversity and inclusion. However, let’s not act surprised.  Our bosses probably say the same shit in their emails. What he said was stupid and offensive but firing someone for an email sent a decade ago sets a bad precedent. 

Regardless, the Raiders shouldn’t get punished because Gruden was not even with the organization at the time. To be determined if anything bad happens.

Moving Onto the Bears This Week

Moving forward, the Raiders face a familiar face with Khalil Mack coming to town. Good teams find ways to bounce back after disappointing losses.

Mack comes into the game with four sacks for the season and he could double that if the Raiders offensive line does not improve from last week. Robert Quinn is also having a renaissance season with 4.5 sacks this year. That’s already more than double his sack total from last year. He is a big part this team leads the league in sacks.

On the other hand, the Bears will be down defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. Hicks really disrupts the middle of the offensive line which makes it easier for the edges and linebackers to make plays. The Raiders will happily take all the help they can get after their front five looked terrible last week. Linebacker Roquan Smith will still be roaming the middle. 

This Bears defense has played together for a while but they are not dominating like before partly due to bad spots caused by poor offense. 

Rookie QB Justin Fields turned in his best game in his second start. However, he has thrown two interceptions and only completed 49 percent of his passes across his two starts and four times playing. The only time he found the end zone was by rushing in Week One. The Bears should intro more QB running with Fields as the full-time starter and the Raiders aggressive defensive line. Fields also brings arm strength to stretch the field which is something the team missed with Andy Dalton. Allen Robinson, Marquise Goodwin and Darnell Mooney offer big play threats. Jimmy Graham could also have an awakening much like Mike G. and Jared Cook found ways to carve up the Raiders the past couple weeks. 

Starting running back David Montgomery is on IR so former Chiefs starter Damien Williams gets the start. It will be his most significant role since he left KC and opted out of last season due to COVID. 

Further, the defense allowed the 11th most passing touchdowns and the 13th most rushing yards. Chicago beat Detroit and Cincinnati but lost to the Browns and Rams. They sit at 2-2. 

How Can the Raiders beat the Bears?

This game could get ugly if the Raiders offensive line does not improve this week. They made a move by starting Brandon Parker and moving Alex Leatherwood to guard. Parker has been up and down his career but he has developed since coming into the league from a smaller school. Parker’s presence should help as long as he doesn’t lose confidence like he did last year versus ATL.

Hopefully all that size and athleticism will help the Raiders maul the Bears defensive line in on the right side. We’ve seen KO, Khalif Barnes and Denzelle Good all hold down the guard spot after playing right tackle so Leatherwood could follow that lineage. That still won’t answer questions at center or the other guard spot. 

This starting offensive line rounded out by Andre James, John Simpson and Kolton Miller is really a cast of homegrown and drafted players. Miller is the only proven starter. The rest of the group must step up to keep the Raiders postseason hopes alive and validate this front office’s questionable draft history. 

Either way, the Raiders should have the edge in the run game with Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake. They need to pound the rock to neutralize the Bears pass rushers and get this offensive line some confidence. 

Otherwise, Derek Carr gets an instance chance to redeem himself versus a great pass rush and a defense that wants to create turnovers. Again, it’s a careful balance between managing the game and knowing when it is time to make a big strike. Carr walks that line between keeping his team in the game and making the play that will help them win.

The running game will help Carr get that balance. It will keep the pass rushers off him and allow him to setup the play action. 

Defensively, the Raiders gotta limit lapses versus the tight end. They will also be down two of their top four corners with Damon Arnette and Trayvon Mullen both set to sit with an injury. This week’s receivers won’t test the Raiders like the Chargers last week. However, they’ve got speed and size to make the Raiders pay if Justin Fields is given too much time in the pocket. Allen Robinson is still one of the best receivers in the game and we can not let him get back on track versus us. 

Raiders Please Make This One Easy

When Was The Raiders Last Blow Out?

Thus, the Raiders must double down and establish their identity at home this week. Let’s see them get an early lead and force the Bears sputtering offense to force big plays. Vegas should run the ball, take deep shots and don’t turn the ball over. Pressure the young quarterback, don’t get beat deep and stop this running game from getting established on your way to a decisive win.

The Silver and Black must show their identity versus a middle of the road Bears team if they want to stay in playoff consideration. Impose your will, dominate this team or whatever cliche you need to eliminate any questions about the Raiders’ legitimacy.

Don’t let Chicago stay in the game by giving up sacks, getting beat for big plays or letting this running game get established. All eyes will be on our corners. Yes, we’re short-handed but everybody got to step up. Great teams don’t lose to so-so or good teams. We will have a better idea where the Raiders fall on the ok to great team scale by how they come out after a loss.

Can Carr and Gruden make the necessary adjustments to help this team avoid another midseason collapse? Prove this ain’t last year with a decisive win over a Bears team that is trying to find themselves. Carr and Gruden need conversations focused on their performances again, rather than the off field stuff too. Just get back on the winning track this week.

Oh, and please stop comparing Mack and Madd Maxx. Totally different players.

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