If the Raiders are going to take the AFC West, they are not only going to have to dethrone the Super Bowl Champions, Broncos, they also have to beat out the Chiefs. Both teams play suffocating man to man coverage, which gave the Raiders offense a lot of trouble last year.
The Raiders have a talented receiving corps but against the quality of cover corners that they play in the AFC West, they will have to find other match-ups to pick on. That's not to say that the Raiders wide receivers can't beat the likes of Marcus Peters or Chris Harris Jr., but to count on them to consistently beat them is unwise and unrealistic. The Raiders receivers could use help carrying the load with winning matches ups from tight ends and running backs who could be matched-up with athletes that don't specialize in coverage.
Clive Walford should take another step up in his game if he could recover fully from his offseason injury, but the Raiders need more production from their running backs in the passing game. Getting a back that could catch against slower, less athletic linebackers coverage is an excellent strategy that could discourage teams from playing man to man. The Patriots have had a lot of success with this strategy by drafting and acquiring backs that could catch like Shane Vereen and Dion Lewis.
The Raiders run game is expected to be much better this year with the addition of guard, Kelechi Osemele. If it improves, opposing teams will be forced to keep linebackers in the game and that could open up opportunities for Raider running backs to become real weapons in the passing game. Latavius Murray might improve as a runner, but usually backs that aren't good receivers don't develop that skill later in their careers.
Fifth-round pick, DeAndre Washington, is a more than capable receiver. He finished his career at Texas Tech with 1,091 receiving yards including an 81-yard receiving game against a very talented LSU defense. He is a smooth, hands-catcher who could effortlessly snag the ball and turn up the field quickly. He could add a dimension that the Raiders offense sorely lacked last year by playing a Darren Sproles-like role by running option routes or being a check down with the ability to make plays in space.
The Raiders screen game was far less effective towards the end of the year, which I talked about in this here. Washington could help improve the screen game because he is a reliable target. It is a lot easier to call a screen to running backs that you could trust to catch the ball.
He has the speed to get open against defenders running routes, but Texas Tech wasn't very creative using their running backs in downfield routes. A lot of his catches came on quick screens and broken plays, but I believe he has the ability to run a larger route tree because of his smooth change of direction skills and ease catching the ball.
In this play, he gets open against safety, Jamal Adams, who is considered to be a high first round pick in next year's draft. He gets a lot of help with good play design, as Adams is aligned on the opposite side of Washington and a receiver comes and chips Adams, but Washington was slowed because he had to maneuver out of the line of scrimmage but looked to have about four to five steps of separation on Adams. The flat angle of Washington's route created space between him and the defender and gave the receiver a good angle for the chip block.
How Washington gets a lot of his receiving yards are off of broken plays in which the quarterback scrambles and Washington finds open space. Texas Tech has an escape-artist in quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, and when he scrambles Washington displays excellent feel for where open space is.
Mahomes scrambles to the left and Washington sees him scramble. He slowly creeps off of the line of scrimmage, but checks to see if there are any receivers running to the sideline. He sees one on the sideline so he runs up the seam where he is wide open, but Mahomes is unable to get the ball to him at the time. Mahomes reverses field and Washington goes with him. Mahomes sees him and they connect for a nice gain. This sort of play shows that Washington has a good feel for finding unoccupied areas of the field. Texas Tech undoubtedly work on their scramble rules and drills relentlessly, but a natural feel is unteachable. It is not a common trait for running backs but Washington has it.
Carr isn't quite the scrambler or madman that Mahomes is but Washington's feel for open space can still be utilized in option routes and check downs. Washington gives Carr a chess piece that the hasn't had a career in the NFL. One of the things that Carr has to work on is playing good situational football, which includes knowing when to check the ball down. Having a back that is going to be at the right place and then be a weapon in the open field could help out the offense tremendously.
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