Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders look primed to start spreading the field and send Carr’s average depth of target (ADOT) to the moon. As a result, opposing safeties become a major factor in the team’s gameplan.
Last season, Carr logged a 6.9-yard ADOT, third lowest in the league. But, his main targets tended to be tight ends and running backs, which will make things difficult for any quarterback to post an average ADOT. Now, with Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards, Carr has to be prepared to let some deep passes fly, which should not be too much of a problem due to Carr ranking third in deep pass accuracy. Carr and the Raiders’ receiving corps have the talent to be an exciting deep threat team, but Carr’s success can hinge on the abilities of the opposing team’s safeties.
While all teams have safeties, this does not necessarily mean the Raiders must gameplan around avoiding them, but there are a few safeties the Raiders may want to throw away from when their paths cross this season.
The Raiders will kick off their season against Tre Boston and the Carolina Panthers. Boston entered the league in 2014 and, despite teetering on veteran status, has not lost a step or an ounce of production. In 2019, Boston would record three interceptions and 11 passes broken up. Although the Raiders’ offensive onslaught could potentially rattle any safety this season, Boston’s calm approach could prove problematic.
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While some may say the worst part of playing in the AFC West is playing the Kansas City Chiefs twice a year, the elite safety talent ranks near the top. The Raiders will catch a break. Chargers safety Derwin James will miss the season with an injury.
The Denver Broncos’ safety Justin Simmons seems the least recognized safety of the Raiders’ divisional foes. Meanwhile, that could change quite soon. Last season, Simmons led the league in passes broken up (16). Additionally, he held opposing quarterbacks to around a 53 percent completion rate when targeted. Statistically, Simmons will force an incompletion every other time his receiver is targeted.
The Raiders will also face the Chiefs’ Tyrann Mathieu twice this season. Many credit Mathieu as the primary reason the Chiefs’ defense improved down the line, en route to a Super Bowl. Formerly known as “The Honey Badger”, Mathieu flies to the ball and has a knack for causing chaos. However, it will be incredibly interesting to watch how he defends Ruggs and Edwards.
Facing these elite safeties twice a year is the official “make or break” matchup to watch this season. Should the Raiders be able best these safeties, they should be able to conquer any other talents thrown their way.