One can separate the contenders and pretenders of a team by watching how they play with nothing on the line. As the Raiders entered into Week 17, eliminated from the postseason many expected the team to flop in their final game. Las Vegas’ matchup against the then 5-10 Broncos had all the markings of a “throw in the towel” game. Instead, the Raiders showed up to fight, even with a win negatively affecting their draft position. A lot can be learned from the game on Sunday, but there were some major takeaways.
For starters, Derek Carr is the reason the Raiders are 8-8 instead of 3-13. In throwing three interceptions, Carr did not look sharp, but still posted 371 passing yards and two touchdowns. Once again, Carr came up huge when the team trailed late in the fourth quarter.
Prior to the game, the Raiders announced they would stay with Carr, and rightfully so. Sure, Carr and the offense could do better, but he does enough to garner enough respect from the organization. However, you can still question many things.
Secondly, the Raiders need more than a little help on defense. Admirably, the team drafted the “high character” players in the first few years of the Gruden/Mayock tenure. Plus, while employing a roster full of potential future captains can lead to great camaraderie and team chemistry, it may be time to reconsider the priorities of the Raiders drafting strategy.
Sure, Gruden/Mayock have passed over incredibly strong talents to get their guy, but now with a good base of high-character players, the Raiders need to be able to look past potential captains to get the best players at their position. Having a good leader is what brings a good team together to make them great, but if everyone on a pirate ship were to be deemed a captain, the ship would never reach its destination.
Finally, fans should be upset at this season. Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards were treated as afterthoughts for a vast majority of the season, but in Week 17, the Raiders decided to finally get Ruggs more involved in the Raiders’ target share and finally put Edwards in a position to score, which he did. The Raiders red zone offense also looked slightly acceptable against Denver.
The part of this season deserving the most rage is that Ruggs and Edwards have both shown talent, even with their minimal target share, yet rarely got to work with plays appearing designed for them. Edwards would be an incredible red zone target to give Waller some space to work with, while Ruggs is a faster version of Nelson Agholor yet is relatively ignored throughout the season.
Long Way Off
Las Vegas took major strides through the first half of the season, but still, very clearly have an impressive amount of work to do in order to reach the postseason in 2021.