Watching 14 teams compete for a spot in their respective conference championship games gives one time to nitpick a non-playoff team. Seeing Andy Reid call a chess-like game leaves the Raiders craving creativity in the redzone. In 2020, the Raiders scored 32 red zone touchdowns on 59 attempts (54 percent) and frankly, a team’s redzone chances essentially being a coin flip does not sit right in the slightest. For reference, Green Bay led the league in redzone percentage by scoring on 78 percent of their redzone tries.
Now, the Raiders got to the red zone more than almost any other team in the league, so a near-80 percent efficiency will not be necessary, but it would be calming to see the Raiders get up to a 65 percent efficiency at least.
Young WR Emergence
Witnessing Diontae Johnson go for over 100 receiving yards instills hope in a young wide receiver experiencing a breakout season in their second year. In his rookie season, Johnson recorded 680 receiving yards before recording 923 in his second year. In contrast, Raiders rookie Henry Ruggs recorded 452 receiving yards in his first season, and it quickly became apparent that he can certainly be asked to do more. This year, an 800-yard season would show massive improvement not only from Ruggs but from the coaching staff as well for getting him more involved. Almost doubling his receiving yards in one season may seem like a tall ask, but Ruggs’ former teammate at Alabama Jerry Jeudy recorded 856 yards this season, despite losing quarterback Dak Prescott early in the season. Ruggs has incredible talent but is currently being wasted.
Defensively, new defensive coordinator or not, the Raiders need core improvement. The things the Raiders struggle to do are things any defensive coordinator would teach. Interceptions, tackles, and sacks are all things any self-respecting team should be able to do, yet the Raiders struggle. Las Vegas recorded 10 interceptions and 21 sacks in 2020, improving their 2019 total interceptions by one. Yet, decreasing their 2019 sack total by 11. The Raiders’ interception total ranks them 27th in the league while their sacks place them at 29th.
Ideally, just getting into the top-20 in both categories should be enough to create success. Statistically, that is how close the Raiders are to being a playoff team at the very least. Obviously, more work must continue in the physical sense, as even the most incremental statistic change requires effort.
These goals are not otherworldly or even all that difficult. However, the Raiders are on a verge of breaking through, and completing these goals should begin to establish the Las Vegas Raiders as a playoff team. Playing games this deep into January could become an option.