Raiders offseason 2018: More questions than answers

It’s impossible to predict what Jon Gruden and the Raiders will do this offseason. Insiders or anyone else is claiming they know is fooling themselves.

I don’t think Gruden even knows what he’s gonna do. Gruden hasn’t coached a game in nearly a decade. The game has changed exponentially since then. He wouldn’t be smart to think within his own constraints. Good coaches adjust and adapt. Gruden will need to do that no matter what plans are already on his drawing board.

Beyond that, he’s gotta adapt to the Reggie McKenzie Raiders. This time around, Oakland has a semi-regular organization and structure. However, McKenzie has built the organization in his way. How will Reggie’s roster mesh with Gruden’s vision? What parts of Gruden’s vision are worth compromise? Can the two egos operate in cohesion? How long will that take?

Sure, Gruden is getting a $10 million bag not to get the guys who he wants but the Raiders have made progress under McKenzie. How much does Gruden respect that? My bet is they will go with the path of least resistance immediately. At least while they’re trying to stir the trip towards Las Vegas.

That’s another issue. Relocation is hanging over the Raiders in the next year or two. We can’t act like that isn’t an issue. Players and administration uprooting their lives in a year or two. Some might buy in but others might struggle to adapt. That’s a variable when recruiting free agents, even if money talks.

Plus, Gruden doesn’t have the legendary Al Davis lingering over him anymore. That could very well be a relief but Chuckie doesn’t have a legendary football mind to lean on anymore. He doesn’t have a scapegoat at the top.

How will Gruden handle Mark Davis being his new boss? Even if the two are friends, how will their relationship handle the new dynamics? Can Mark Davis effectively push and motivate Gruden?

Gruden isn’t coaching the same game he coached a decade ago. This isn’t the same roster. This isn’t the same organization. These aren’t the same fans either.

Sure, the Black Hole raised Gruden. They will just as easily spit him out. Not because they don’t care about him. They will do it because they deserve a winner. Gruden is taking the savior title and Oakland will be on him to deliver. If he fails, he will fail the black hole and the entire city.

Thus, anyone expecting the same old Gruden is kidding themselves. He went to Tampa and did broadcasting. He better be different.

The Oakland Raiders don’t need that same Gruden, they need a better one. They need someone who can handle coaching and navigating all these different variables.

Gruden’s got a long way to go. He’s gotta adapt to new rules in a new game. New organization structure too. It isn’t going to be as easy as him picking up where he left off.

The only thing we should expect from Gruden is something totally different. We got to wait and see. Wait and watch as we see the new Gruden style and scheme develop in a new context.

That’s the exciting thing about this new era. No one really knows what will happen. No one knows if this will be a success or failure. We can’t rely on Gruden’s past data because that was a long time ago. We can’t rely on the Raiders most recent history because they’ve never had a coach like Gruden.

Gruden will shake up the entire organization and the entire process. That begins this offseason. We will see how he adapts his scheme and style to the new game. We will see how this roster adapts to him.

I, for one, can not wait to see this all unfold. I can’t wait to see Gruden handle all these variables. I can’t wait for the offseason to really unfold so we will have a better idea of how Gruden and the Raiders will adapt in the new era.

 

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Gruden Era Can’t Trust the Process

The Oakland Raiders blew up the process by firing Jack Del Rio and hiring Jon Gruden. You don’t hire Gruden from the booth, assemble of group of experienced and expensive assistants and pay Del Rio off to win a Division title. The expectations for Gruden and company is a Super Bowl ASAP.

Of course, that means the Raiders will need to fill their roster with Super Bowl level talent. They have glaring needs for elite talent and depth across the roster. They could wait for some draft picks from the previous regime to develop but that was the process that failed them in 2017.

The Raiders need to get top level talent in the draft, obviously, but they need to do that in free agency as well. Gruden has been out of coaching for a while so he doesn’t have a pipeline of active players ready to go. He’s got to get a new generation of players to buy into his legends of the 2000s.

Del Rio needed to attract free agents too. He did to some extent. They found budget guys like Perry Riley Jr., Reggie Nelson, David Amerson, Michael Crabtree, Marshawn Lynch and Navarro Bowman. They got top guys like Keleci Osemele and Rodney Hudson. They capitalized on second tier free agents like Sean Smith, Dan Williams, Donald Penn and Bruce Irvin.

Now, Gruden has got to take it a step further. In the past, general manager Reggie McKenzie has been hesitant to pay older free agents or handover big contracts. That will have to change in the Gruden era. They will need take some short cuts and that means signing the top free agents.

We’re seeing it in Jacksonville. The Jaguars spent dollars on elite free agents. They also drafted well and developed those players. Now, they’ve got a deep roster with veterans and young players. Oakland needs to follow a similar format.

On the other hand, we’ve seen teams like Giants sign free agents and take steps backwards. That proves the Raiders need a balance of draft picks and free agents to improve their depth.


When Reggie McKenzie took over this organization, he tore down the roster by releasing underperforming players. He hired Dennis Allen to lead the rebuild.

A few years later, McKenzie started reconstruction. He hired an experienced coach like Del Rio. He started attracting under the radar free agents that offered the most return on their investment. He found veterans willing to buy-in and prove themselves.

Now, the Raiders will enter the re-tool part of the process. They have cornerstone players like Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson and Amari Cooper to build around. They have veterans who have proved themselves like Osemele, Irvin, Hudson and others. Gruden will need to take this nucleus and mold into a true contender.

Gruden is tasked with getting this team an identity. He’s got some talent that he needs to get to buy into his vision. However, he’s going to need to get some more talent around them that fits his image. This is how the team takes the next step.

It means getting rid of players who don’t fit the character or play style that Gruden needs. Those who don’t buy in or fit in will need to be replaced.

That means bringing in talent that elevates the quality of the roster and is willing to fill specific needs. They need elite talented players willing to buy into Gruden’s image of the Raiders. Oakland will need to spend on elite players that compliment the nucleus they already have and will fit Gruden’s identity.

The Raiders can’t waste anymore time waiting for players to develop. They can’t keep players on scholarship. They can’t squeeze round pegs into Gruden’s image.

Hiring Gruden didn’t just speed up the process. Combine that with the Raiders moving to Las Vegas in two years and the entire process is blown up.

Oakland is taking a huge gamble on Gruden. They’re taking a huge gamble moving to Las Vegas. Oakland needs a Super Bowl ASAP.

The Jaguars and Titans both won a playoff game before the Silver and Black. If that is not an indicator that the team needs to speed up the process, what is?

The Raiders can’t stop gambling now. They got to gamble by spending money on specific, elite free agents. Sorry McKenzie, but your entire process is blown up. Oakland can’t wait for you draft picks to develop. You gotta open up that checkbook and take some shortcuts to help Gruden build his identity.

$100 million later, Jon Gruden is officially official head coach of the Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders officially got their white whale. They gave Jon Gruden $100 million over 10 years so the ESPN commentator would return to the sideline. ruden’s assistants are expected to be heavily compensated as well.

It is rumored they’re hiring Rams QB coach Greg Olsen as offensive coordinator and Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will hold the same positions in Oakland.

Why Gruden’s return is good

Every Raiders fan remembers the last time Gruden wore Raiders colors as a coach. It was the infamous Tuck Rule game. If his return reverses that curse, then I’m all for it.Other fans, look forward to the nostalgia of Gruden getting the offense back in shape and making plenty of great sound bites. If the coordinator rumors are true that is great too. Guenther is a true 4-3 guy who will finally give this defense an identity. They won’t hide behind a hybrid scheme. They won’t get pushed around either. Gruden is also a proclaimed offensive guru. That means it will be on him to get Amari Cooper and Derek Carr back on track after both regressed in 2017.Ultimately, the move is a signal from Raiders owner Mark Davis. You don’t give that kind of money to Gruden and eat Jack Del Rio’s contract if you aren’t committed to winning a championship as soon as possible. The Raiders have up to two years left in Oakland and it is clear they want to make a playoff push before that. Having an organization committed to a winning culture is always a good thing. It’s a move that should lift the morale of fans too.

Why Gruden part two could get bad

Remember the last time Mark Davis made a move that fans loved but everyone else questioned. That was the addition of Marshawn Lynch a year after retirement. The jury is still out on that move.Don’t forget it was also Davis who hired Del Rio. Del Rio was a great hire at the time but that turned sour quick.Gruden will have even higher expectations. Ownership will expect a significant playoff push before they leave Oakland. If not, Reggie McKenzie could get his pink slip next. Speaking of that, it is rumored that Gruden may want to make some additions to the personnel department too. McKenzie will stay onboard for the interim. However, it remains to be seen if he will stay with Gruden long term. Then there’s the whole matter of Las Vegas. The Raiders are taking on a lot of debt to make the move happen. They’ll need Gruden to make the team into a winner before, during and after the move. The success of the relocation to a smaller city and new sports town depends on the Raiders on-field-product.Additionally, there’s a huge elephant in the room. Gruden hasn’t called a game in nearly a decade. Certainly, he’s analyzed the game and become aware of new trends as an outsider. However, that’s completely different than leading men and putting together a game plan.On top of that, he’ll lead on Greg Olsen as offensive coordinator. Olsen held the same title with the Raiders during Carr’s rookie year. That’s good for continuity but let’s remember that is the year Carr earned his check down Derek nickname. It also reminds me of the time we rehashed Gregg Knapp. It can’t be much worse than that. Olsen did help Jared Goff develop this year. He probably learned some modern west coast offense from Sean McVay too. But Olsen didn’t do anything in his second stint with Jacksonville. Olsen’s offenses have been average throughout his career. Don’t forget that. Otherwise, John DeFillipo was the QB coach that year and the year before. He’s the real attributed mastermind behind Carr’s rookie year and the year that brought us Terelle Pryor. Except DeFillipo will probably get a head coaching job and not return to Oakland with Olsen. Hopefully, Gruden and Olsen don’t expect to dink and dunk their way to a title in 2018. If that’s the case, expect Raiders fans to turn their morale real quick. On both sides of the ball, the Raiders are going to have to add some guys to help the transition to Gruden’s regime? If it works, is to be determined…

The verdict

Applaud the Raiders for doing what they had to do and gambling on Gruden seems like the sexy bet. It won’t come without challenges because all coaching changes result in growing pains. Nonetheless, it was clear they had to move on from Jack Del Rio. Del Rio looked old and tired as the season went on. He never could find the answers during the games or in post game press conferences. There was a ton of weird drama from Lynch, Carr, the defense and the offensive line. Del Rio couldn’t keep it under control. Reports also said Del Rio wasn’t staying as late as much either. It seems like Del Rio always found someone to blame besides himself. He could never build a defensive culture or limit penalties during his entire tenure. He couldn’t maximize his talent in 2017. Del Rio wasn’t going to persuade any free agents moving forward either.Further, all this offseason lockerrrom snitching proves the Raiders lost their camaraderie. It proves that they weren’t responding to Del Rio. Raiders fans saw that as the team lacked motivation and often looked beaten during games. This prestigious franchise seemed like they were losing the physical battle each week. It was time to move on. Props to Del Rio though. He took getting fired from his dream job in stride. Del Rio got the news directly after a road game but still delivered his post game pressed. I can only imagine the emotions of losing your dream job. As fans, we all dream of doing the job that Del Rio worked his way into. He probably had the same dreams as a kid in the bay. His family and him also did a ton for the community. Del Rio built a foundation and moved the culture forward. Hopefully, Gruden can get the Raiders to the next step. This would be like the Warriors firing Marc Jackson and hiring Steve Kerr. In that same comparison, Gruden has got to win and win fast. He’s got to get this team contending for serious titles each year. He’s got to get a couple of Super Bowls over the next ten years. He’s got to get one with this core group, preferably before the team leaves its home. At the very least, Gruden needs to win a Super Bowl in four years or this could be a huge embarrassment for every one involved.Gruden has got to be more than just an upgrade over Del Rio. Gruden has got to turn the offense around and get the defense playing hard again. He’s got to sell tickets in Oakland and Las Vegas. He’s gotta coexist with Davis and McKenzie to get quality draft picks and feee agents. Can Gruden do all that? That is to be determined.

Raider Nation Rise

If you’re anything like me, than you’re a Los Angeles Raiders fan disappointed you’re not attending the game that is the closest your team has ever been to you in your lifetime.

Nonetheless, the Raiders need a win today. It doesn’t matter that a win will earn them a less important draft pick or another year with a mediocre coaching staff. Oakland needs this win for its fans.

The Raider Nation paying three times regular ticket value to black out the StubHub center deserve a win. The Raiders fans in Oakland facing the fact that they have one more season with their team deserve a win. Those of us who expected a Super Bowl battle deserve a win too.

Sure, all wins matter. This one matters a little more since the Raiders are returning to their second home. The Silver and Black won Lombardi trophies as the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders in LA. Raider Nation usually packs out Chargers games but this one means more since it’s on our home court.

It also means more cause the Raiders season is basically over. They have nothing to play for but their jobs and coaches jobs. Oh yeah, they have to play for those Raiders and fans who wear the emblem and colors with pride 365 days a year. Those of us wearing our gear in Week 17 with nothing to play for deserve this win. It’s time for the Raiders to play for their fans and it’s time for RaiderNation to rise.

Are the Raiders’ Decision Makers Bold?

The Oakland Raiders suffered an embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last week. A seemingly defeated head coach Jack Del Rio didn’t seem like he knew the answers. He insisted that the offense needed to play “Bold.”

Silver and Black QB Derek Carr later said he was going to let it rip because that is what the coaches want. However, I’d push back on Jack Del Rio. How has he or this organization been bold? What example is the team following?

Outside of a few 4th and 1 gambles, when has the coaching staff been bold? Was it bold to fire Ken Norton Jr. after 11 games? He was the sacrificial lamb but he had already had his power compromised by Del Rio and John Pagano. Before Pagano took over, the defense played anything but bold. They were one of the least blitzing teams in the league.

It might have been bold for the Raiders to replace OC Bill Musgrave after he his contract expired. They promoted Todd Downing who never held the title. Downing changed the scheme with more zone blocking and pocket concepts. Is that a bold move or a dumb move?

Was it bold to bring in Marshawn Lynch? Lynch was the hometown heroes of fans. He filled a need at running back.

How about holding onto underperforming players like Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith on defense? Both were supposed to help change the culture of the defense. It is amazing they both find themselves as significant contributors. However, it is an indicator of the talent level on defense. There are hardly any bold playmakers outside of Khalil Mack.

Speaking of the draft, the Raiders have taken some bold gambles. They drafted a corner with off-field incidents and he played well in only two games. Now he is on IR along with our second round pick who needs massive development.

Factor that in with our third round pick in this year’s draft as well as our second and third picks from 2016 and we have a bunch of developmental defensive linemen who might not last in the league. They’ve gotten some flashes from Mario Edwards Jr., Justin Ellis and Denico Autry but they haven’t been dominating enough collectively. Or maybe their coaching hasn’t been bold enough to put them into positions to succeed?

Otherwise, signing Navarro Bowman was a bold move. Except the Raiders were depleted at linebacker which was already the worst position group on the team. Bowman was another no-brainer since he came from a Bay Area native anyways.

The Raiders boldest moves were giving extensions to Gabe Jackson, Jack Del Rio, Derek Carr and Donald Penn. Penn is aging and appears to be on the decline but he is still a solid player. Carr and Jackson have both proven to be franchise building blocks but both have struggled this year. Del Rio had a great year last year but so did this entire team. It actually appears like the team hasn’t rallied around JDR like they have in the previous years.

Ultimately, the amount of money the Raiders dished out to the aforementioned stakeholders was bold. It was bold because it was largely based off one year of elite play and good play the year before.  It’s hard to say it was a worthy gamble considering those stakeholders’ performance this year. Oakland will stick with their investments and that’s pretty bold too.

Thus, the Raiders coaching staff wants the Raiders to play bolder this week but have they been bold? Have they taken risks and let it ripped? It’s arguable that they played it safe by keeping the core of the team together.

Nonetheless, when Oakland did make bold investments and decisions it has rarely paid off. Therefore, don’t blame the players if they play it safe too. Don’t blame them for reinforcing the safe culture established by the coaches.

Don’t get mad at the players for not being bold when you’ve rarely been bold. The coaches need to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if they’ve been bold? Because maybe the players are being safe to negative the reckless personnel decisions and safe play calling that has infected the Raiders.

 

 

 

Raiders Vs. Patriots: Josh McDaniels Scouting Report

When talking about the offensive scheme and coordinators of the Patriots defense, you have to begin by talking about Bill Belichick. The offense is lead by coordinator Josh McDaniels but Belichick gets just as much credit for using his offense to find mismatches versus any opposing defense. New England’s offense utilizes a versatile number of players to keep their offense unpredictable and this year is no different.  

Background

McDaniels returned to the Patriots for his second stint as offensive coordinator in 2012. He was the head coach of the Denver Broncos for the 2009-10 seasons before becoming the Rams offensive coordinator in 2011. From 2001-2008 he was held the titles of defensive assistant, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. McDaniels spent one season as a graduate assistant at Michigan State. He played quarterback at John Carroll University from 1995-98.

Strengths

The Patriots are  No. 1 in total offense and passing offense. The offensive line doesn’t receive a lot of recognition but the Patriots quietly have a strong group. Football Outsiders has them as the No. 2 ranked run blocking unit based on adjusted line yards. They’re only 16th in rushing yards but that is not because of the offensive line. Still, the Patriots and McDaniels are experts at exploiting mismatches. Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time due to his poise in the clutch and pocket. They can get the ball out fast and allow their skilled players to make plays in the open field. New England has four receivers with at least 374 yards receiving and two rushers with over 300 yards gained on the ground. That means Oakland can expect a balanced attack that utilizes a versatile set of personnel. Expect New England to utilize RB James White as a pass catcher out of the backfield. The Pats utilize passing plays to RBs as ways to giving their RBs touches in space over traditional handoffs. They’re also Brady’s favorite safety blanket. White leads the team in receptions and the Raiders linebackers are inconsistent in coverage. TE Rob Gronkowski is one of the best players at his position ever and the Raiders are notoriously bad at covering the TE. Thus, the Patriots will use this to their advantage especially in the redzone. Martellus Bennett recently rejoined the team and he could see some targets versus the Raiders too. Speaking of mismatches in the middle of the field, the shift Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan (if he plays) are the agile receivers that Oakland can have trouble tackling. Brandin Cooks is the speedy receiver with the highest yards per reception on the Patriots. Last season, Cooks beat the Raiders for a huge gain when he was with the Saints. He can use the same speed against the bigger Raiders DBs who have been liabilities in coverage. They should push the ball up the field and take some deep shots since the Silver and Black have given up a ton of big plays in the passing game this year. New England is also plus six in turnover differential so don’t expect them to make a lot of mistakes.

Weaknesses

The Patriots are far from the perfect unit. Despite their strong offensive line, they’re in the middle of the pack for the running game. They could also be without RB Mike Gillislee and OT Marcus Cannon which could take away some leverage of the running game. Gillislee is their best between the tackles runner and leads the team in rushing touchdowns. That may make New England lean heavier on the pass in goal line situations. Speaking of the pass, the Patriots are only 12th in pass protection and have allowed 12 sacks, per Football Outsiders. Without Cannon, Brady will be on an even shorter pass clock. Oakland must exploit this small weakness to pressure Brady into some mistakes. He’s only thrown two interceptions this year so it’s unlikely the first defense to not score an interception through nine games will convert an int on Brady. Thus, their best hope is to rattle Brady into becoming inaccurate. The Raiders defensive line will need to create pressure to keep the New England offense from exploiting the deficiencies in pass coverage. If Brady is given a ton of time in the pocket, it is only a matter of time until he, McDaniels and Belichick find a mismatch in the coverage. Oakland’s only hope is to make Brady uncomfortable. The Patriots have too many talented pass catchers across the board for the Raiders secondary to cover so they will need some help from their defensive line.

Ravens versus Raiders: How Oakland wins again

The Silver and Black have the privilege of beating the Baltimore Ravens the past two seasons. That means both teams have plenty of tape on each other. There won’t be a ton of surprises but the Ravens are hungry to avenge the past two narrow defeats. Here is how Oakland can win another close one at home.

Tailor the offense to E.J. Manuel 

Let’s get one thing straight, E.J. Manuel came into a hostile situation and played well last week. This week he should be more mentally and physically prepared to play. Hopefully, his receivers and offensive line won’t live him out to dry this week. 

Still, it would still be a mistake to call the same game plan with Manuel as we would with Derek Carr.

We always here how offensive coordinators tailor their game plans to the personel, but now is the time to see it. I’d love to see Oakland experiment with some zone reads to neutralize their inconsistent tackle play as well as the over aggressive edges on the Ravens. The Raiders should sprinkle in some reverses, shovel screens and jet sweeps to keep Baltimore’s run game on its heals. They probably load the box so it would be awesome to hit on a big play that they do not expect. 

In the passing game, the Raiders should start with some screen passes to Amari Cooper. Cooper desperately needs some confidence and this might help the Raiders take the top off the defense later. Oakland should also call their backs out for routes a lot too. Between Jamize Olawale, Marshawn Lynch, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, the Raiders have plenty of good pass catchers out of the backfield. Manuel should throw to these guys early so he can gain some confidence. Let’s see what they can do in space.

Give the TEs the ball

Baltimore’s biggest liability is their safeties. Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are known playmakers but they’ll fail on gambles too. Oakland should rely on their tight ends as big targets with the catch radius to make plays for Manuel’s passes. 

Clive Walford should get a bigger opportunity with some three and four tight end sets. These sets are good for establishing the run, protecting the QB and getting mismatched with the plat action pass. Don’t forget Manuel has a rapport with Lee Smith from Buffalo. He should see some opportunities to move the chains. 

Create turnovers 

If your defense is creating turnovers, they’re not giving up points. Our defense reminded us of that last week by keeping the Broncos from putting up points in the second half. They found ways to keep the game close. Oakland needs to do that again this week.

Last season, Bruce Irvin came up with the strip-sack fumble that turned the game for the Raiders. Who will do it in Oaklan this year? 

Jor Flacco will take chances as he’s shown over his career. Even if their offense is more run focused with a back by committee situation, Baltimore is able to hit big plays with their receivers. This could be the game Jeremy Maclin or Mike Wallace gets off this season. Both players have burnt the Raiders at times. 

The defense needs to bend and not bold. Find ways to make plays and get off the field. You know the stereotypical things defenses do. That gives Manuel and the offense a chance to win the game.

Raiders Versus Broncos: How to win Week Four

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure why the Raiders and Redskins were in prime time. I didn’t think it would be a competitive game other than it pitting the Racists versus the Renegades (I’m talking team images of course).

Either way, the country watched as our Silver and Black got smoked mostly due to Derek Carr deflating our team’s offense from the get-go. A fact that Carr has even admitted.

Nonetheless, the Raiders must rebound versus a division opponent. Here is how the Raiders can beat Denver on the road.

Forget last week’s loss

All season long, I’ve talked about the Raiders building a championship winning attitude. Part of that attitude includes responding to the adversity that comes with a big loss. Not to get all football cliche, but Oakland needs to move on from last week’s loss. The worst thing they can do is have a hangover from the blowout loss last week.

Oakland’s receivers especially need to have a bounce back game. It is no secret that the Raiders receivers struggle with physical corners. Josh Norman proved that last week and the Denver Broncos proved that twice last year. Now, the Silver and Black get another physical test versus the best corners group in the league.

The great thing about playing receiver, it only takes one big play to re-gain your confidence. If Carr can connect with Cooper or Crabtree for a big gain, that could be the confidence booster to put this team back in rythme.

Otherwise, the offensive line had their worst game in a few seasons. The Raiders got exposed on national TV and they haven’t been all that great at tackle this year. Some of that falls on the team adapting to Donald Penn holding out. However, the offensive line will continue getting better as the season goes on, especially in the run game. Still, the line has to get it together since they’re facing Von Miller this week.

Khalil Mack’s breakout game

Don’t get me wrong, Khalil Mack has done his thing this season. He’s impacted games even if his stats aren’t stuffed.

Nonetheless, the Raiders defensive line is incredibly mediocre. They’ll rely on Mack to take over the game versus former Raiders tackle Menelik Watson. Expect the reigning defensive player of the year to get a couple of sacks and a turnover. Hopefully, Mack’s presense trickles to the rest of the defensive line. Oakland desperately needs a Bruce Irvin sighting. Ideally, one of the defensive tackles should break out if our Edge players can make some plays too.

Stick to the formula

I’ve already touched on this, but it is that important. The Raiders do not need to change their gameplan. It is simple. Take some shots to get a lead. Run the ball to kill the clock. Give your defense a lead so they can take some chances and get some turnovers. That plan should not change after a fat L last week.

Ultimately, we will learn a lot about our Raiders this week. It is our first AFC West opponent and the Broncos are playing better than people expected. This physical divisional game should let us know if the Raiders are a real contender. Can they beat a tough opponent that their familiar with on the road?

Moreover, how will the Raiders answer after a big loss. This team is more experienced and has more swagger than they have in almost a decade. Will that be lost after one big loss? The answer better be no. The Silver and Black must stay swaggy and confident if they want to beat Denver and continue on their Super Bowl quest.

 

How the Raiders can scrape the Jets

As someone who has written a lot of sports headlines, I usually reserve scraps for the worst of the beatings. The Raiders have a good chance at applying that sort of beating on the Jets today. New York is clearly tanking and rebuilding while the Raiders have Super Bowl aspirations. Still, Oakland has to take care of business. How can the Silver and Black give their home crowd a victory? 

Apply pressure 

Can you name a Jets offensive lineman? Exactly.

The Raiders defensive line looked good against a great Titans offensive line. This young group did a good job of holding the line of scrimmage and getting off the ball. 

However, they need to finish on the quarterback this week. The Jets have the offensive line and quarterback that should give Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack a chance at multiple sacks. I’d love to see one of the defensive tackles cement themselves as the starter. The Raiders kept a steady rotation last week but that should tight up as the season moves along. 

Eddie Vanderdoes looked good but he still has a lot to work on in terms of his pad level, hands and play recognition. Jelly Bean Ellis also played well. It looks like he’s finally in shape. Mario Edwards Jr. seemed like he’s fully recovered from last year’s injury. Either way, the starting DTs will be critical moving forward. Hopefully, they can get some pressure,

Protect Derek Carr

For all the things that the Jets lack, they don’t lack a strong defensive line. Between Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams, the Raiders offensive line faces a great test in run and pass assignments.

Last week, the Raiders offensive line played really well in the run game. They held double teams well and got up to backer which helped out Marshawn Lynch a lot. 

Still, Oakland had a few lapses in pass protection. Overall, they played well in blitz pickup but there were some stunts that caught the Raiders slipping.

This week, I expect New York to revisit some of this stunt and twists. The Jets use a 3-4 defense like the Titans so New York will also try to create some confusing blitzes. Additionally, the Jets should use their safeties in run support as well as blitzes. Oakland can’t let these safety looks confuse them. They’ve got to protect the QB no matter where the blitzes come from.

Winning mentality

Again, the Raiders Xs and Os aren’t going to change much from week to week. Nonetheless, the Raiders need to enter this game the same way as if the Jets were relevant. It’s the home opener and Oakland deserves to see an ass whooping considering the team will leave in plus or minus three years.

Hence, Oakland can’t come out slow or soft cause the Jets are sorry. This is the type of game that can help the Silver and Black build momentum. It is the type of game that will haunt them in playoff positioning if they are upset. This is the biggest favorite the Raiders have had in a long time. It’s up to them to have that winning mentality that exceeds those high expectations.

Raiders versus Titans: What you need to know

For months, I’ve circled this as a trap game on the Raiders schedule. The Titans are trending in the same direction that the Raiders were a year ago. Tennessee is a young team on the rise and their looking for a statement win early. Meanwhile, the Raiders have a ton of pressure on them from an offseason filled with hype.

As a matter of fact, I actually picked against my favorite team. It should come as a surprise given that Oakland barely beat the TItans in 2015 and 2016. Not to mention, the Raiders still have the same questions, at all levels of their defense, as they did in each of those seasons. Obi Melifonwu was expected to help with some of the liability in the secondary but he is headed to IR. Gareon Conley could make his debut but it is unclear how effective he will be after missing most of the offseason.

All that pessimism aside, let’s see how Raider Nation can come home with a win. Here are the Raiders keys to a victory in Tennessee.

Defensive Tackle Play

Once again, the Raiders defense will be determined by their inside interior linemen. Especially for this game, the Raiders DTs, NTs, and DEs will need to push the pocket to create pressure on Marcus Mariota. If they can do this, Mariota will be forced to the outside which will allow Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin to finish the young stud QB. This also keeps the Raiders from having to blitz every play. Oakland will need extra help in coverage as the Titans employ Delanie Walker as one of the best TEs in the league. The Raiders are notoriously bad at covering the tight end so hopefully you have Walker in your DFS this week.

Otherwise, Mariota can step into the pocket and create himself running and passing lanes. Added time means the Raiders secondaries and corners could get beat by the likes of Corey Davis.

Moreover, the Raiders DTs will also be critical for protecting the inside backers. Derrick Henry and DeMarcco Murray might combine for the scariest backfield in the NFL. Their offensive line is just as scary and dominate as any other group in the league. Thus, the defensive line is in for a physical battle.

Depending who you ask, this defensive tackle group is either young or unproven. Between Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr. Denico Autry, Treyvon Hester, Jihad Ward, Jelly Ellis, Darius Latham and Eddie Vanderdoes it is unclear if any player is ready to dominate. It remains to be seen if any of those players will ever become consistent NFL starters. Either way, they have a big opportunity this week.

Pound the Football

Much of the talk is about Murray and Henry. However, the Raiders have their own slate of backs. We finally get to see Marshawn Lynch in full Beast Mode. Much of the offseason talked about him returning home. Raiders fans finally get to see their hometown hero full speed versus another team.

Added, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington should see some run too. They will be critical to spelling Lynch and keeping the defense on their toes. Both men are great pass catchers, they’re hard to tackle and they can take it to the endzone on any touch. Washington and Richard should keep Lynch fresh. We should see a heavy dose of both until one man runs away with the second RB job.

Ultimately, expect the Raiders to pound the football. Their offensive line and running backs are too good not to run the ball 60 percent of the time in this game. This will be critical to neutralizing the Titans plethora of zone blitzes and edge rushers.

Live up to the Moment

The Raiders are in a new position. Oakland is many people’s Super Bowl pick. They have a Pro Bowl quarterback and a bunch of skills players on people’s fantasy teams. The Silver and Black will have the entire mainstream watching them as they start a quest for a Lombardi Trophy with the cloud of relocation hanging over the great city of Oakland. Can the Raiders live up to the hype?

Oakland can not run from the big moments in this game or the rest of the season. Things will go wrong in this game but the Raiders have been their before. They must play like they are a Super Bowl contender from the opening kick off versus Tennessee. The Raiders need to set the tone by playing full speed even when adversity hits on the road versus the Titans.

I don’t expect this will be a problem for them. Oakland has Jack Del Rio at head coach and Derek Carr at QB. Players will run through walls for either of those great leaders. Not to mention, that duo has already lead some great comebacks over the past two seasons. Now, they must dominate games as the favorite. They got to beat the Titans like it is no competition.

The Raiders will always be underdogs, yes. Just last week CBS Sports ranked the Chargers over the Raiders. Either way, we embrace the underdog image as Raiders fans. However, this year the Silver and Black must learn to function in the spot light. This game against the playoff contending Titans is the first step in that process.