Year 1 In Las Vegas For The Raiders
In many ways this season was very weird for the Raiders.
They opened up a brand new beautiful building but weren’t able to have fans enjoy their new digs. By all accounts the people of Las Vegas were excited to have a professional football team in town but Covid 19 took the year one excitement away.
The first year in Las Vegas was definitely up and down for the silver and black.
It started with impressive wins to begin the season at (2-0). Opening on the road in Carolina with a “W” and backing that up with a Monday night win against the Saints in the first ever game in Las Vegas had many believing the Raiders were on to something special.
After dropping the next two games to New England and Buffalo left some doubt but the hope was rekindled with an impressive win at Arrowhead against the defending Super Bowl Champion Chiefs. One more loss to the Tom Brady led Buccaneers and the Raiders found themselves at (3-3) after 6 games.
The next four game chunk is when many thought the Raiders found a groove and the playoffs could become a reality.
Wins over the Browns, Chargers, and Broncos followed by a close loss on Sunday Night to Kansas City and this team had that look of one of the better teams in the AFC. The team finished the last 6 games with a 2-4 mark and ultimately ended the season at (8-8). Not good, not bad, just somewhere right in the middle.
So, what did the season teach us?
The Raiders have an offense that can be very productive in this league. Derek Carr threw for over 4,000 yards. Josh Jacobs rushed for over 1,000 yards. Darren Waller had one of the better seasons in Raiders history as he caught 107 passes, for almost 1200 yards and 9 touchdowns. Those are core pieces that can be effective in a “playoff offense.” The Raiders still need more on that side of the ball, but they building blocks are there.
The defense on the other hand needs a lot of work.
The Raiders fired their defensive coordinator Paul Gunther late in the season. Rod Marinelli replaced him with just a couple of games to go but will he keep that job or will Jon Gurden look for a new face/voice in that position? They need some play makers on defense and some difference makers.
The Raiders shouldn’t feel bad about losing to playoff teams like Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Indianapolis.
They will regret the losses to the Patriots, the blowout to the Falcons, and giving away the Dolphins and Chargers games. They were on the right side of the first Chargers game, week 17 against Denver and the Miracle against the Jets.
Add on to the productive offense, focus the entire off-season on revamping the defense and clean up some of those late game mishaps and this team could be there next season.
Next year they get the benefit of playing against the NFC East that had just one playoff team but draw the misfortune of playing the AFC North that will feature three playoff teams this season.
This team can make a jump next year like other AFC teams did this year. Miami and Cleveland won 5 more games this year and the Colts and Steelers won 4 more games this season than they did last season. So it can be done, but the Raiders have to lock in on improving a defense that was bottom ten in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed.
The draft, free agency, trades and current player development will be critical in the growth of the Las Vegas Raiders from year 1 to year 2.