The Las Vegas Raiders started the season very promising; at one point of the season, they were 6-3. Las Vegas ended up collapsing down the stretch and finishing 8-8. Raiders coach Jon Gruden will be entering the third year of his ten year contract, and it is time for the Raiders to make the playoffs. Here is what this Raiders team needs to do to make the playoffs.
On offense, the Raiders made tremendous strides from the prior season. Vegas’ offense scored 27.1 points per game, and quarterback Derek Carr threw for 4,103 passing yards and 27 touchdowns and a lot of it was tight end Darren Waller, who caught a Raider record 107 passes.
Running back Josh Jacobs added 1,065 yards on the ground, where the Raiders’ offense struggled was in the red zone, too many times, they settled for three points instead of getting six.
As for the Raiders’ defense… it was a complete disaster. They gave up 29 points per game and struggled in every area. Las Vegas struggled with putting pressure on the quarterback; they only had 28 sacks on the season. There were too many blown coverages in the secondary and way too many missed tackles. The Raiders hired former Jaguars coach Gus Bradley as their new defensive coordinator, and he will try to fix the Raiders’ defensive problems. The Raiders team needs do span both sides of the ball, however, so let’s take a look at how they might go about making this team better.
Raiders Team Needs: Offense
Cut or Restructure Trent Brown’s Contract
To get top-tier defensive players, the Raiders maybe have to move on from right tackle Trent Brown or restructure his contract. In 2019, Brown signed a four-year, $66 million contract with the Raiders, including $35 million guaranteed. In 2021, Brown will earn a base salary of $13,750,000 and a workout bonus of $250,000 while carrying a cap hit of $14,000,000. Brown has missed 16 games the past two seasons due to injuries and COVID, and all of his guaranteed money has been paid. It would cost the Raiders nothing to cut him.
It will probably be worth it to save the money and explore what’s out there on the right tackle market. Two of the top names are Taylor Moton, who played for the Carolina Panthers, and Cameron Fleming of the New York Giants. It will be interesting to see how Las Vegas will handle the Brown situation.
Bring Back Nelson Agholor
Nelson Agholor had a surprisingly good season for the Raiders as he was the most legitimate deep threat for Las Vegas all year. Agholor caught 48 passes for 896 yards and eight touchdowns. He also averaged 18.7 yards per catch. Agholor earned a new contract, and if Henry Ruggs III can continue to develop, the Raiders would have two viable deep threat receivers.
Raiders Team Needs: Defense
On defense, the first thing on the Raiders team needs list is to improve their pass rush. The Raiders have had pass-rush problems for a couple of years now. It is time for them to finally land a disruptive pass rush force and many edge rushers on the market that could help Las Vegas.
Players like Shaquil Barrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Bud Dupree, and Yannick Ngakoue, just to name a few. In Gus Bradley’s defense, pass rush is a crucial part because they will be playing a lot of cover three. So look for the Raiders to be active in the defensive line market. Also, the Raiders could draft some defensive line help in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Sign a Top-Tier Safety
One of the other problems on the Raiders’ defense is the safety position. Las Vegas will need to get a top tier safety to play along with Johnathan Abram. Last season the Raiders used Erik Harris and Jeff Heath at free safety; they were both serviceable but not the game changers the Raiders need on defense. Heath led the Raiders in interceptions with three and was effective when he was on the field. This team needs a safety that can make plays in the secondary and that player is probably not on the roster.
Lucky for the Raiders their a lot of targets available for free safety in free agency. John Johnson, Anthony Harris, and Justin Simmons, and a few more. Johnson and Harris would be ideal for the Raiders; it would help improve their defense with a top tier safety. The Raiders may draft a safety, as well; regardless, they need to get a veteran safety in there as they already have a ton of young players.
Sign a Linebacker
The Raiders brought in linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton in free agency last year. Kwiatkoski was decent in the middle; Littleton struggled but played better once the Raiders fired defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Nicholas Morrow has also played well when given the opportunity but is a free agent. The Raiders will try to bring him back but will need reinforcements if he leaves.
The top four linebackers on the market are Lavonte David, Matt Milano, Jayon Brown, and K.J. Wright. Also, Las Vegas could look at the draft to add a linebacker. Dylan Mosses, Micah parson, and Zaven Collins could be possibilities.
In the end, defense–especially pass rush and linebacker–has become the Achilles heel that this Las Vegas Raiders team needs to overcome. Judging by the aforementioned available talent at these positions, this could be the perfect offseason to solve that problem.
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