What kind of team cuts all their guards? The Raiders do. This is the same team that loses to a hobbled Super Bowl Champion led by a QB fresh off another team. Don’t forget it was a defacto home game packed with Raiders fans, yet Vegas still lost.
Many Rams fans left before their team’s game-winning drive. Most sat quiet as they got heckled by Raiders fans. Until, chants of “Bakkkeeerrr…” hit the concourse on the route out.
Anyways, the Raiders playoff prospects are basically dead. They sit in a three-way tie for 10th place. A win over the Patriots could keep them treading water but a loss helps their draft pick. Depends how you look at it but Josh McDaniels should want to beat his old team. It’s also a home game and the fans deserve better than the collapse we got at SoFi.
Not scoring 20 points again will not cut it. McDaniels is supposed to be an offensive mind and he has every tool he could want. He might even get Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller back which gives the offense even less excuses.
The Guard Situation
Back to the offensive line. Seeing John Simpson get cut was surprising. Simpson started the last two seasons and started this season at left guard. He didn’t play bad in his limited action but quickly fell out of the offensive line rotation. He came back into the fold at right guard after Alex Bars got hurt. Bars isn’t great but he was getting better as the season went on.
Simpson did not look good against the Rams. He got caught leaning, turning his shoulder, playing high and not punching well. Simpson did do some solid things in the run game as far as pulling and getting to the next level. He did not get enough push though.
Rams DL Greg Gaines is an underrated defensive lineman though. He gave he entire group problems. Simpson also plays better on the left side.
Vegas also cut guard Lester Cotton. Cotton took many first team reps in the offseason. He entered the season starting at right guard. Cotton was hurt and he hasn’t played in weeks so it was also a bit surprising. Bars went on IR so he will probably miss the rest of the season.
The Raiders also added guard Netane Muti. Muti did not play much in Denver and he was mid in previous seasons per PFF. We’ll see how much time the Raiders give him but he is big and strong. He should add some push to the unit at the very least.
Questions facing both lines the rest of the season
Jermaine Eluemunor probably moves inside to guard and the Raiders start Thayer Munford at tackle. Eluemunor has been limited in practice due to injuries but he should actually play better at guard. He won’t be as limited by his speed and feet. He will have to play with more leverage.
Munford looked solid when he made his last start. He will need to keep showing consistency with extended playing time.
On the defensive line, there s a chance Andrew Billings returns. That should help the Raiders run defense. Chandler Jones finally broke the sack seal and hopefully he keeps that going versus the team he won a Championship with earlier in his career. Clelin Ferrell is looking solid as the defacto sixth man. Bilal Nichols is finally getting home. Jerry Tillery is getting upfield. All of them could be a little more consistent, especially as they play for roles in Vegas or elsewhere next year.
Overall, the Raiders have some questions to answer along both lines. Is Nichols worth his price tag next year? Can Tillery and Ferrell stay on the field? Can Jones keep getting to the quarterback in his 30s? Will Billings keep progressing to earn himself a payday?
What will the offensive line look like after this season? Can Andre James keep progressing? Can Kolton Miller make the jump to elite? Will Dylan Parham improve his technique? Are either of the players on the right side in plans beyond this season?
Rebounding versus the Pats
Nobody wants to lose to the Pats. We know the history between these teams. New England has been smoking the Raiders every time they play since the tuck rule. Vegas hired an apprentice at the head coach and head personnel roles to scale that winning culture to the Raiders. Results have been mixed to say the least.
Either way, Josh McDaniels wants to win this game whether he admits it or not. The Patriots defense is tough and highly ranked. Their pass rush, led by Matthew Judon, could give the banged up Raiders problem. This game should obviously start and stop with Josh Jacobs. They also need to find ways to keep Davante Adams in the gameplan. That means more quick passes to let Tae create after the catch.
The Raiders defense has been improving. A lot of that is improved play from the role players along the defensive line. Maxx Crosby also continues to look like one of the best players in the game.
Vegas needs to stop the run and play discipline in coverage. The Raiders are good in spurts but they can struggle getting off the field. They can get beat deep or give up a bad penalty that keeps an offense on the field. Their own offense can also be streaky. They don’t always capitalize on big plays or good field position. The Raiders offense is not great in the zone so that puts the defense in tough spots.
If the Raiders can get pressure and protect their own quarterback it should be a close game. If they can do that and control the game with their run game they should walk away with a victory. A turnover or two created by the defense should also help. Some big plays from the offense will help too.
Hopefully, Vegas asserts their will and identity. Otherwise, it could get ugly if the Raiders offensive line is shake and struggles to create lanes. It could also get bad if they don’t stop the run and let the Pats offense pick them apart.
A win here proves the Raiders are willing to fight for their season and their head coach. I get tired of asking the team to play for pride every year but often times that is all we have to play for. This team isn’t quite at that point yet but they are not far. Many of these guys are playing for contracts here or to prove they can stay in this league.
Obviously a win over his old boss should give McDaniels some confidence. It would also be nice if the Raiders could finally Just Win Baby over the Patriots again.