The New York Jets host the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday in a renewal of a long simmering rivalry stretching back to the AFL days. Previewing this matchup, Cam Mellor of Silver And Black Pride was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2020 Raiders.
1. This is the third year of Jon Gruden’s historic 10 year contract to come back and coach the Raiders for a second go around. The Raiders have made slow, steady progress under Gruden, but have yet to make the playoffs, and they are currently on the outside looking in for a playoff spot in 2020. How much patience do Raiders fans have here? If the Raiders fail to make the playoffs in 2020, will Raiders fans be calling for a change in 2021 or 2022 (if they still haven’t made the playoffs by then)? Is replacing Gruden at any point in the next few years feasible, given his 10-year contract?
The fans’ patience is waning, to put it lightly, but they also seem to understand that the length of contract and money given to Gruden from the Davis family means he’s here to stay. There are signs of promise with recent draft picks exceeding their ‘poor draft grades’ by some and Mike Mayock has certainly become nationally known for his first-round selections over the past few seasons. That being said, fans knew it would take some time to get things back to a working order and with the length of the contract as mentioned, they’re much more prepared to point the fingers elsewhere than looking Gruden’s way it seems right now. Case in point: Derek Carr on offense and Paul Guenther on defense.
2. Quarterback Derek Carr always seemed to me to be one of those guys who was good enough to win with if surrounded by talent, but not good enough to carry a team. However, the last two years Carr has seemingly made a leap into the upper tier of NFL quarterbacks, at least statistically. How do Raiders fans feel about Carr? Is he the future at quarterback for the Raiders? Is he elite, whatever that means? Is there any sentiment to draft a quarterback early any time in the near future?
See above, he’s not quite elite and he makes too many boneheaded decisions at times that leave you wanting much more. The fans are hot and cold with Carr but as of late, been colder. I think his solid seasons of play have set his bar higher not just to be in the upper tier of quarterbacks but to continue ascending in the upper tier until he’s just a shade below Patrick Mahomes. Being placed firmly in the division with the ‘new GOAT’ is always going to be a tough ask for any quarterback but now that Justin Herbert may have passed him in his own division for second-best quarterback, the fans are going to more and more be ready to move on from Carr if they don’t make the playoffs this season.
3. If you were game planning to beat the Raiders, how would you go about things as an opponent on offense and on defense?
On offense, it’s really quite simple: attack the boundary and throw all over the secondary. There have been major lapses in coverage this season that have led many to question the hiring of Guenther as the defensive coordinator. We’ve also seen free agents come in and underperform and second-year players not play up to the level they played in either their first season or their college careers, thus all leading fingers to point to the coaching staff. On defense, it’s as simple as taking away the deep pass early in the scripted offense and then focusing on shutting down Darren Waller over the middle of the field and then shutting down the inside zone rushing attack. If one gets working, however, that’s when the other facets feed off of one another.
Then there’s the obvious: Pressure Derek Carr and all will go awry for the Raiders.
4. Many draftniks thought the Raiders did great in 2020 at wide receiver, drafting Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. So far the tandem has been a bit underwhelming, combining for just 42 targets and 25 catches through 11 games. What are your thoughts about these two? Have you liked what you’ve seen? What are your expectations for these two over the next few years?
To me personally, drafting Ruggs that high was a reach. We’ve all seen what ‘fast receivers’ who rocket up draft boards due to their fast 40-yard dash times do in the NFL. I’m not saying Ruggs is John Ross, but I’m not saying Ruggs is Tyreek Hill either. I think Ruggs and Edwards for that matter were two players who needed a full set of offseason workouts and preseason games to adjust their speed and their style of play to the NFL as well as get more valuable reps against NFL coverage schemes and with NFL quarterbacks throwing to them. As fast as Ruggs is, there have been multiple times that Carr hasn’t been able to find him deep and his injury history is already starting to stack up. Edwards is going to be a solid performer in my opinion, maybe even more so than Ruggs, if the latter can’t stay healthy. They can ultimately form a great, complimentary 1-2 punch at receiver for years to come if they get their timing down sooner than later.
5. Can you tell us about a player (or players) on offense and on defense that Raiders fans appreciate, but casual fans of other teams might not be too familiar with?
Rodney Hudson definitely deserves more love than he gets nationally. All he does is consistently win pass-protection snaps and dominate in the run game. In all honesty, Hudson is a Hall of Fame player in my opinion that has been stuck on a poor team in his career. Raiders fans appreciate him and the fact that he’s played every snap at center for the Raiders this season as well as over 800 snaps in every season of his career with the Raiders to date.
On defense, it has to be linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, the lone free-agent acquisition that has been worth a darn this season. He’s been a sure tackler and patrols the middle of the field beautifully in coverage. He may not be flashy, but he gets the job done.