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NFL Draft

Raiders Poised For Strong 2nd Half If They Do These 3 Things

  • The Draft Network
  • November 2, 2020
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Raider Nation, welcome back to the win column. In what was undoubtedly the Las Vegas Raiders' biggest game of the season, the team found a way to win and beat the Cleveland Browns 16-6. Make no mistake about it, this was a must-win game for the Raiders and I came out of this game really impressed with what I saw.

The Raiders suffered a beating last week at home against Tampa Bay, and with the team firmly in contention for a wild-card spot, they knew they had to get back on the right track. What made this game even more important was the fact that their opponent, the Cleveland Browns, were sitting at 5-2 heading into this game and were ahead of the Raiders in the wild-card race. These are the types of games that for years the Raiders would lose.

In a must-win game, on the road, in bad weather conditions, and missing one of their best offensive linemen, the Raiders overcame the adversity and got the job done. That's what playoff teams do.

Second-year running back Josh Jacobs was sensational in the game, toting the rock 31 times for 128 yards. Quarterback Derek Carr had a solid outing, and even though he didn’t get much done through the air in the wind, he proved to be effective with his legs, rushing for 41 yards and moving the chains in key situations. The defense had a solid day as well, limiting the Browns offense to just two field goals. All in all, this was a strong team win, and one that I think has the potential to be the launching pad for a big second half of the season.

With games against the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, and Atlanta Falcons coming up on the schedule, the Raiders could put themselves in a strong position to be in the lead for one of the last remaining wild-card spots. Below are three things the Raiders must do in order to ensure they remain competitive and in the playoff picture as the season progresses. 

Continue to Establish the Run

Jacobs, in my opinion, is the Raiders' best player. He is everything you want in a bell-cow running back and is a nightmare for opposing defenses to bring down. Statistically speaking, Jacobs' season hasn’t been as productive as many expected headed into the year. Jacobs has rushed for 525 yards on 147 carries, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Injuries along the offensive line have certainly played a factor in the lack of rushing success, and the tape shows that Jacobs is still as good as ever. With his unique blend of quickness, vision, and contact balance, Jacobs is a true mismatch with the ball in his hands and the Raiders need to continue to feature their star runner.

As the season progresses, and the weather gets colder, teams that can run the ball will always be better off. The Raiders have one of the game's true three-down ball-carriers and getting Jacobs rolling would set the Raiders up for success in the second half of this season. 

Find a Pass Rush

Far and away the team’s biggest weakness is the lack of pass rush. So far this season, the Raiders have just seven sacks, which ranks 31st in the NFL. Second-year defensive end Maxx Crosby leads the team with four sacks and is the only edge player to generate consistent pressure. The Raiders have to figure this out, and they must do it in a hurry if they hope to make the postseason.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther runs a pretty vanilla scheme and is conservative when it comes to dialing up blitzes. With the lack of pressure the team is generating with their front four, it is time for Guenther to get creative and scheme up some pressure. 

Feed Henry Ruggs III

The Raiders drafted Henry Ruggs III in the first round of the most recent draft, and so far, they haven’t seen the return that they were hoping for. With the success other rookie receivers are showing in 2020, it is a fair question to ask why hasn’t Ruggs, who was the first receiver taken in the draft, experiencing similar success? Well, the easy answer to that question is health. Ruggs has battled a lingering hamstring injury this season and is just now fully healthy.

When on the field, Ruggs flashes the outstanding talent that made him such a high draft pick. Of course, we know Ruggs can fly, but his ability to make contested catches, run crisp routes, and adjust his body to bring in difficult catches has been really impressive. One thing I have noticed is that whenever the Raiders try to scheme him up a play, it is normally an attempt to hit him on a deep shot. Now, I get why this makes sense, as Ruggs should be able to outrun any defensive back trying to cover him, but unfortunately Carr has seemingly found a way to consistently overthrow a receiver who runs a 4.28 40.

Moving forward, I think the Raiders should target Ruggs more in the short and intermediate areas of the field and allow him to utilize his athleticism with yards after the catch. Coach Jon Gruden should get the ball in Ruggs' hands with bubbles, jet sweeps, and wide receiver screens, just to get him in a groove early, and then attempt a deep bomb if they want.

Bottomline is this: when Ruggs is healthy, he is a difference-maker, and the Raiders need to keep him involved if this offense is going to be able to compete with the league’s best in the weeks to come. 

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